Thor: Ragnarok is a Flash Gordon flavored blast from beginning to end. It’s not the best Marvel movie, but it’s the most “Marvel” movie to date.
We’ve had nearly a decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and Thor: Ragnarok plays like a graduate thesis on how to make a movie that’s fun, has plenty of humor, isn’t too heavy at any moment, and basically functions as complete escapist fare. Whatever it is that has brought audiences back to the theater for ten years is wrapped in a nice bow and presented in a little over two hours.
Thor: Ragnarok begins with a great opening sequence that demonstrates how Thor has been roaming the galaxy righting-wrongs. When he defeats an enemy who wanted to destroy Asgard, Thor decides to return home, just in time to see that his brother Loki has been up to his old tricks.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of director . Marvel continues its streak of hiring television creators to direct their big screen blockbusters, and you can’t fault them, they have an impressive track record. While Thor: Ragnarok is not a brilliant tour de force, Waititi’s direction is exceptionally effective with dialogue, particularly humorous bits.
I don’t want to take anything away from the action though, there’s plenty of it, and it’s all pure joy. When Thor gets his mojo going you’ll be on the edge of your seat, and most-likely rooting. Also, there’s a flashback with Valkyrie that’s beautiful and quite clever, and another shot with a mirrored floor that’s particularly inspired.
He’s borrowing some visually from , and the center-weighted shots of , but if you’re going to steal, you should steal from the best.
You can expect Waititi to get more big films soon.
Flash Gordon (the 1980 movie) was mentioned intentionally. From the beginning of this film to the very end, it felt like an homage to that film. The settings, the tone, the soundtrack—everything screamed Flash Gordon to me. That’s certainly not a knock from this fan. I have no idea why we haven’t seen a joyous space opera in a long time, and Thor: Ragnarok unquestionably a tribute to that film.
The writing team of Eric Pearson (who’s been penning Agent Carter episodes), Craig Kyle , and Christopher Yost (who have both been writing Marvel comic series, seriously!) are a good demonstration of how deep (and good) the Marvel bench is. Much of the success of Thor: Ragnarok is due to the combination of knowing these characters, and simply letting them play off of each other in a satisfying way.
Gone is the stuffy Asgardian delivery from the first Thor film. Chris Hemsworth plays Thor with such aplomb and genuine enthusiasm that he’s taken a stick-in-the-mud character and made him one of my favorites.
Tom Hiddleston, again as Loki, is always a scene-stealer, and we get to see a nice character arc with him too. Tessa Thompson, as Valkyrie is suitably rough around the edges, and an ass-kicker to boot. Even director Taika Waititi gets his share of laughs as Korg.
Cate Blanchett’s Hela knocks down two of Marvel’s longstanding weaknesses, which is a dearth of female villains, and a lack of quality villains in general. Not only is Blanchett absolutely wonderful in the role, mesmerizing even, but she’s a serious threat to everyone, and even a nuanced sympathetic villain to boot! And let’s just say that goth look is working for her.
Maybe Marvel should give their scripts to their cartoon department more often.
Mark Ruffalo gets to show his own comedy chops, both as Bruce Banner, and as Hulk. If you’re a Hulk fan, you’ve never seen him quite like this.
The Score and The Creative Team
Thor: Ragnarok also tackles another one of Marvels’ frequent missteps. Unlike most of Marvel’s forgettable scores, this music is catchy, sets the mood perfectly, and actually makes me want to pick up the soundtrack.
So, when the credits rolled I sought out the composer, and it was none other than Devo alum Mark Mothersbaugh. Crack that whip! This score is a winner.
The ads for Thor: Ragnarok proudly proclaim that this is the best Marvel film to date. It’s very good, but it’s not the best. It lacks the heart and poignancy of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s not as big a movie as The Avengers. It’s not as smart and exciting as the Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
But, what Thor: Ragnarok gives us is two wonderful hours, where we can sit down with some friends, have Hulk-sized belly laughs, and cheer for the good guys (and girls), and honestly forget about all the other terrible stuff that’s happening in the real world.
That’s well worth the price of a movie ticket, and that’s also the reason why it’s the most “Marvel” film so far.
All images are copyright Marvel Studios.