Reel Geek Review- Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going on now for 9 years and 18 movies counting this one.  We’ve seen our fair share of standard superhero movies, some political thrillers and sci fi epics thrown in the mix, but after so many years and so many movies, how many times can you keep the superhero movie genre as a whole fresh and fun?  Well, going on this movie, you can keep this train going quite a bit longer.

Let me preface what I’m going to say next that while I’ve always liked the character of Thor, and the movies thus far, they’ve never been my favorites, nor ones that I’ll watch multiple times in theaters or even on a regular basis once I own them.   They were just merely okay movies compared to the rest of what Marvel has brought to the table.   And I’m sure that on some level, Marvel realized that too because of what they did here with this one.

With Thor: Ragnarok they took Thor and made him more relatable, more fun, and a bit actually more like the mythological version of the character, in which he’s not the brightest hammer in the shed, even if that hammer is Mjolnir and can pull him off into the sky when he swings it really fast.    They took a step out of the Thor and Darryl shorts from the Blu Ray releases of Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange and tapped into Chris Hemsworth’s natural comedic talent.

 

They’ve also enlisted the help of New Zealand director Taiki Waititi (The Things We Do In The Dark)  and writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, who have experience in writing the Marvel characters both in the comics and in the cartoon series as well, and have crafted together an epic, comedic, fun, ride of a movie that you almost don’t expect to see happening (unless you’ve seen the trailers).

So, in Thor: Ragnarok Thor, after having spent the past few years searching for Infinity Stones since Age of Ultron (spoiler alert, he hasn’t found any)  he returns home to find his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has replaced their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and they go to get him back, only to find Hela (Cate Blanchett) waiting for them who wishes to unleash Ragnarok and destroy Asgard forever.

To keep Thor and Loki out of her way she pushes them out into space in mid rainbow bridge transport sending them to Sakaar, a junk planet ruled over by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who runs the Contest of Champions, a gladiatorial match presided over by the reigning, defending, undisputed Universal Champion…Bruuucccee Bannnerr!  Well, in his Hulk form at least, where he’s been since the end of Age of Ultron.

What happens from here on out is a buddy/sci fi/action/comedy/farce that is the most fun I’ve ever had with a Marvel movie.    I mean, I really, really loved this movie.   There were parts that are a bit rushed I felt, but it’s a pretty big story, and a lot happens, so some stuff is bound to get brushed over, so I get that.   They wrap up the plotlines left over from the last movie in fairly quick fashion with a great cameo appearance by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) which we knew we would get after the post credits scene in his movie (which is why you never leave during the credits of a Marvel movie, kids)

I don’t think the people I was in the theater with knew what to expect when this picture started, because I was laughing from the beginning and it took the rest of the audience I was with a bit to catch on that this is supposed to be a comedy I think.   Thor’s current characterization really works, and it really shines to Hemsworth’s comedic talents, which some of us saw in Ghostbusters last year.

Also, Jeff Goldblum in this movie is just amazing.  He’s Goldblum at his most Goldbloomiest.    It totally worked for me.  This is the most Goldbloomiest he’s been in years, and it’s so whacked out and awesome it works.  I just wish they would have had a cameo appearance from The Grandmaster’s brother, The Collector (Benecio Del Toro) it would have been perfection.

In addition to the Ragnarok stuff, we also got a very brief version of the Planet Hulk storyline here, and we get our most Hulk like Hulk yet, which is to say, talking, but dumb and not just a roaring monster as he’s been for most of his movie incarnations thus far.  I loved his interactions with Thor, and even when he’s back in Banner form Mark Ruffalo is fantastic in this movie.

I immensely appreciated the fact also that after two movies of a love story thrown in for Thor we have a strong female character in Tessa Thompson (Creed) playing Valkyrie, a lost Asgardian who had given up hope about redeeming herself after a battle with her sisters against Hela in the past, but who joins up with Thor and Hulk to try to save Asgard from destruction.   Also, we have, in this movie 1/2 of the characters who make up one of the comic book incarnations of The Defenders, (Hulk, Dr. Strange, Valkyrie) so that’s pretty awesome for long time Marvel fans as well.

Defenders_Vol_1_10 (1)
It’s okay, he’s a friend from work!

 

Karl Urban (Star Trek) does a fine job with his supporting role as Skurge, The Executioner.  He has a real arc throughout the movie that really pays off I felt.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Cate Blanchett’s Hela.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been plagued with great heroes but lame villains for most of it’s existence, but here is a villain that stands out on her own, and is played compellingly brilliant by the great Cate Blanchett.  She chews the scenery without going over the top and you buy into her motivations and reasons for being why she is the way she is.

I’d talk about Loki but we all know that Tom Hiddleston is the best villain (or antihero by this point) that we have in the MCU, he’s great and has great comedic timing in this movie as well.

The visuals in this movie are as fun as the movie is,  there’s a lot of Jack Kirby influence, and homages on Sakaar, from the mini Celestial costumes The Grandmaster’s people wear to the architecture of the buildings, it’s what I imagine his work on Argo would have looked like were that a real movie (not the Affleck one but the sci fi story that the CIA had Kirby work on art for).    I also liked the homage to Beta Ray Bill in the tower as well as d list Hulk villain The Bi-Beast, who isn’t Hank McCoy after coming to some personal revelations about himself, but a two headed monster with one head stacked on top of the other.

There are some flaws with the movie, as certain plot elements get brushed over and long term characters get killed off with little to no fanfare or dialogue, so that was kind of a bummer, did make me glad that Jamie Alexander was too busy shooting her NBC show to reprise her role as Sif in this one as she would have likely met with a similar fate.

The synth score from Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo, Rugrats) really sets the tone for the movie as well, and there are musical call backs to the other movies that are mentioned in this movie as well which work so well.  In fact you really should brush up on the other two Thor movies as the first two Avengers movies to really appreciate the movie for it’s place in the MCU.   And this movie has also dethroned Jack Black in School of Rock for my go-to image when I think of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” from here on out.  It gets used quite epically in this picture.

One more thing I really appreciated in the movie as it went on was, despite seeing some of the footage in the trailer, because it looked cool, like Mjolnir getting destroyed and Thor showing off his Raiden from Mortal Kombat like powers off now, in the movie itself the background is different then in the trailer and there are elements that are different because of plot related things that would have been spoiled in the trailer otherwise but are not because of clever editing and cgi, so props to them for that.

Despite the flaws though Thor: Ragnarok is a blast at the movies that you must see in IMAX 3D if you can to really soak in all the awesome visuals and to just have a great time at the movies.  It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a while, go see it today.

Thor: Ragnarok – A

 

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