The standalone Thor films have been the weak spots of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but were always able to coast by because of the fantastic cast led by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. No longer is the Norse demigod the weak link in the MCU with Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi’s wildly entertaining sequel that is unlike anything that Marvel has brought to the screen. Boasting, once again, a phenomenal cast working at the top of their game, Thor: Ragnarok features some of the most stunning visuals in the Marvel world and is overflowing with humor in what is some of the most fun that you could find in a movie theater this year. Simply, Thor: Ragnarok is a thunderous good time.
When we first see Thor (Hemsworth) he’s far away from his home in Asgard, fighting the fiery demon Surtur who threatens to destroy Asgard and bring about Ragnarok, the end of the world. The God of Thunder vanquishes his foes with his mighty hammer Mjolnir as Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blasts with its pulsating beat. It’s the perfect table setter for what’s to follow. However, Asgard isn’t running as it should and Thor is dismayed to return to his home in disarray. Heimdall (Idris Elba) is no longer running the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge between realms, and has been replaced by Skurge (Karl Urban). Also amiss within Asgard is Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who seems more concerned with opulence than guarding the Nine Realms from the dangers of the universe. It’s quickly revealed that Loki (Hiddleston) has been posing as the King of Asgard and the two contentious brothers travel to Earth to find their father. The elderly Odin knows that his life is nearing its end and warns his two sons that Hela (Cate Blanchett), a powerful force kept under wraps Odin’s power, will be unleashed when he eventually passes, presenting them with a foe unlike anything they’ve encountered before.
Hela appears as Odin’s life fades and in an ensuing battle the Goddess of Death banishes Thor and Loki to the planet Sakaar, a distant land that is the dumping grounds of the galaxy, as Hela returns to Asgard to rule with an iron fist. On Sakaar, Thor is quickly captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a warrior whose glory days are in the past and who spends the present drinking to excess. Sakaar is run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and he appeases his citizens with a brutal gladiator-like battle known as the Contest of Champions. It’s during that contest that Thor is reunited with his fellow Avenger the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who has been living as a celebrity on the junkyard planet and has been big and green for two years straight. Thor must figure out a way to leave Sakaar and the twisted world run by the Grandmaster in order to get back to Asgard and save his people from Hela and the impending Ragnarok.
What makes Thor: Ragnarok so much damn fun is the personality of its director Taika Waititi, whose madcap instincts have not been quashed by the immense scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The sensibilities that were present in such films as Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows are present in Waititi’s turn in the MCU, leading to the funniest and wildest Marvel movie since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s just such a relief that a personality as distinct as Waititi’s wasn’t compromised because of the skittish concerns from the corporate level. The director also makes an amusing appearance as Korg, a rock creature that is a quiet help to the Norse god trapped on Sakaar. Waititi pushes the limits of the MCU in terms of humor and action, presenting a true marvel of design with amazing costumes and sets that are as vibrant and colorful as the performances of its stars. There are moments of Ragnarok that look like a blend of Jack Kirby most wildly cosmic drawing infused with the craziest prog rock and metal album covers of yesteryear.
The screenplay credited to Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Eric Pearson draws once again on the fractured family dynamic between Thor and Loki, adding new wrinkles to the uneasy sibling relationship. But the script is also adept at introducing new characters and giving us a reason to care about these new faces. Hela is a menacing character that brings untold levels of death and destruction wherever she goes but there’s also a motivation that is fleshed out underneath the Goth façade of villainess. The real breakout character of Ragnarok is Valkyrie, who has complicated past involving both Asgard and Hela. Tessa Thompson is geared for a major breakout with her performance to this badass character filled with internal conflict and nuance. The story and new characters of Thor: Ragnarok keep the film full of new surprises and plenty of wiggle room for Taika Waititi to bring extra layers of fun to the blockbuster.
Thor: Ragnarok is the perfect example of why Marvel is on top of the comic book movie world. They’ve brought in an exciting director in Taika Waititi and let him loose in his own corner of the Marvel world. You can just tell that the cast was having a blast on the set of the film and that sense of fun is simply infectious, with plenty of laughs, plot twists and turns, an original score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, and some genuinely surprising cameos. My only hope is that Thor: Ragnarok isn’t Taika Waititi’s only turn in the MCU; but if it is, he’s made one of the most wildly entertaining installments in the sprawling franchise of superheroics.