Third Time’s the Charm for Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel took a gamble when they bet on director Taika Waititi’s creative vision to take Thor in a new direction. However, it paid off in Thor: Ragnarok. As a superhero franchise, Thor has generally gotten the short end of the stick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was apparent in Thor: The Dark World that the Marvel team wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the character but, based off of the changes that had been made, I would say that the team has found its mark in terms of tone, color, and characterization.
The movie had the audience laughing almost from the very start, but the humor we had come to expect was different. With trailers full of bright colors and jokes, I will admit that I was concerned that this film would go the route of Guardians of the Galaxy. The humor in that franchise, more specifically in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is a lot less friendly and, in some ways, is more vindictive when utilized between characters in the film. In comparison, the humor in Thor: Ragnarok was light and playful. Seeing Chris Hemsworth (Thor) explore the more humorous side of Thor was a treat, especially since we had seen fragments of this part of him in the previous two films.
At its core, the plot of Thor: Ragnarok focuses on Thor trying to prevent the destruction of Asgard. This thread is what propels Thor forward, even when all hope appears to be lost. Of course, this road to preventing Ragnarok isn’t allowed to be easy. After meeting Hela (Cate Blanchett) and forced to endure the destruction of his hammer, he finds himself briefly distracted from his goals when he crash lands onto Sakaar and is forced to fight for his life in a gladiatorial ring against The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) after being sold to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). While Thor spends his time trying to find a way off the planet and back to Asgard, Hela is focusing on building power with the Asgardian warrior Skurge (Karl Urban) in tow. Eventually, all come together to battle it out in an epic conclusion, which has become par for the course of any superhero film. This is about as spoiler-free as I can go with the plot, so I’ll leave the details of this as is.
There might be some people who will complain about the splitting of the storyline into two paths, but I felt that it worked to keep things less muddled between the much larger cast of characters. Having Thor reunite with The Hulk and then team up in order to escape from Sakaar gave the audience the opportunity to see the kinship between the two, but also the character arc that had been set in place by Ruffalo and Kevin Feige to explore in The Hulk. Then, when we move on over to Hela and Skurge, we get a greater insight into both of the characters. We see the depths of Hela’s ruthlessness and ambition in pursuit of conquest, but we also see how Skurge is not a one-note villain. He’s a begrudging opportunist focusing on his survival, but also wanting to be something greater than he actually is. Without splitting the paths into two, there might have been less dedication in exploring each individual character, which would have greatly lessened the film.
It is hard to watch this film and not comment on Waititi’s usage of color throughout the film. The best way I can describe it would be as if a colorful 80’s heavy metal album threw up onto a coming of age tale. The ’80s heavy metal influence can definitely be felt throughout every section of Sakaar’s overall design. Everything is bright and slick, even when we are shown the villainous Hela’s cool black tones fighting against her enemies. Whether it’s facing off against a flaming, Satanic looking foe, traveling through Sakaar, or running around the forested outskirts of Asgard, it was hard not to stare at the beautiful tableau of colors and light onscreen.
The characterization in Thor: Ragnarok was definitely one of the best parts of the film. Being the third film in the franchise, I had a concern that returning characters would feel stale. However, largely in part due to the character arcs written out for the returning folk, it was hard not to see the growth play out onscreen. What was even better was seeing the further bantering chemistry between Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), which has definitely strengthened over the course of the three films. Another concern I had going in was how the film was going to integrate the new characters in with the old without it being too blatant or obvious. With previous MCU villains sinking (here’s looking at you, Ultron, and Mandarin) and side characters not adding any value to the plot or character development (Sorry, Jane Foster), this was a legitimate concern. However, I thought that each new character that had been introduced to the film blended into the world seamlessly while also managing to stand out and make themselves memorable to audiences.
This really doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll mention it anyway just to play it safe. You must stay and sit through the credits for scenes that will lead up to the following film. One scene in particular potentially sets up Thor’s involvement in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. So, I highly implore everyone to stay and sit through the credits. It’ll be worth it.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok was by far the best film in the Thor franchise for multiple reasons. The script was fun and the humor was enjoyable. The colors and score throughout the film were utilized to perfection and set a distinct tone for audiences to follow. The new characters melded well enough into the cast that they synced up, but were also distinct enough that they didn’t fade away to the background. And seeing the character growth in the returning characters, which is something that the MCU has struggled with in the past, was refreshing to experience. All in all, a great film that will definitely entertain you and keep a smile on your face. Thor: Ragnarok will be out in theaters on November 3, 2017.