Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Bryden Smith

More stories from Bryden Smith

Marvel seems to have everything going for them: a top-of-the-line production design and a solid cast of heroes, access to Disney’s bottomless pockets, etc. Why is it, then, that I haven’t really liked any of their films since “Guardians of the Galaxy?”

Perhaps it’s just because I’m getting older, or because after “The Avengers” was established, it doesn’t make sense why Tony Stark has to save the world on his own with his squad on speed dial. But I don’t think that’s it; superhero movies aren’t as fun if you over-analyze them, so I try not to. It’s just that recent movies like “Civil War” have taken themselves too seriously (sorry, Marvel, you’ll never have your own “Dark Knight” movies).

Image via Disney Video.

That’s why “Thor: Ragnarok” was a breath of fresh air. The title prophesizes the end of Asgard, Thor’s home planet, but thanks to New Zealand director Taika Waititi, the third Thor installment is less of an attempt at a think-piece and more of a pleasantly deadpan comedy. Stopping Ragnarok is Thor’s mission, but his powerful, gothic sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) isn’t going to make it easy for him. She shatters his hammer and then makes conquering Asgard look easy.

The story feels outlined at that point, and I couldn’t help but yawn. Then, in a welcome diversion, Thor’s apocalypse-prevention is interrupted when he becomes stranded on a trash-covered, colorful world of misfit toys. It’s there he meets Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), an alcoholic and fellow Asgardian, and the planet’s head-honcho, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). They force Thor into cosmic gladiatorial combat with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and he has no choice but to fight his way out and make it back home before it’s too late.

Image via Cinema Blend.

There’s plenty to remind you that you’re watching a Thor movie—half a minute of shirtless Hemsworth, plenty of Bifrost transports, Loki-shenanigans and Idris Elba swinging a claymore—but make no mistake, this is an all-new Thunder-God. He’s hammerless and humbled, with a new haircut and an easygoing demeanor. This better suits Hemsworth, who executes the new Thor perfectly with persistent enjoyment. Tom Hiddleston takes a step back to allow Jeff Goldblum to manage most of the mischief and the rest of the ensemble is generally hilarious; I found myself wishing the action scenes would be cut short to make room for the jokes. After all, seeing the indestructible heroes repeatedly beaten into the ground only to get up again only sustains attention for so long.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is certain to entertain; it’s funny, it’s exciting and cinematically it looks great. For Marvel, it’s a step in the right direction. Just don’t try and dig past the surface level—that’s the only level there is.

Check out the trailer below.