I’ve been doing some catching up on Marvel movies during my vacation, and Thor: Ragnarok is one of the movies I watched. Here’s my thoughts.
Thor was about battling Loki, Thor 2 was about battling Elves, and Thor: Ragnarok is about a new family feud.
At the start of the movie, Thor — played by Chris Hemsworth — is fighting Surtur, a being prophesized to destroy Asgard. Thor beats him, then returns to Asgard to find that his brother Loki – whom he thought dead – has taken Odin’s place. Thor strongarms Loki into retrieving Odin, only to find him dying.
With Odin’s death, his eldest child Hela, bent on conquering the galaxy, suddenly returns from her prison. Thor never knew he had an older sister. Things devolve into violence quickly, and Thor must find a way to take back Asgard from his powerful sister.
Well, we all know Chris Hemsworth as Thor by now. Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, is naturally in the movie.
More interesting additions to the movie are the Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo, and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.
We know the Hulk from the first two Avengers movies, and in this movie we learn where he ended up after Avengers II. The Hulk has evolved over the course of the movies, and now we see more. Mostly, he just bashes heads, but we do learn he hasn’t changed back to Banner since the end of Avengers II, roughly two years earlier.
Valkyrie is a Valkyrie, one of the mythical woman soldiers that fought for Odin. We learn that they were all killed by Thor’s older sister Hela, except for one. She has devolved to drinking and kidnapping people to be used in arena fights.
Finally, there’s Hela. Cate Blanchett is perhaps the most iconic character of the six Tolkien movies, alongside Christopher Lee as Saruman and Ian McKellen as Gandalf. She’s done far more movies, but I haven’t seen her in a role like this before. I find the idea of her character very good, but her actual role in the movie not so much. More on that later.
The movie’s tone
Ragnarok is very different from the previous two movies. Those might best be described as epic fantasy tales of elves and gods with moral lessons entwined in them.
The third Thor movie leans more on comedy and jest. Loki was the comic relief of the movies, but now he’s overshadowed by (slapstick) jokes from the Hulk, Thor, and others. Even Karl Urban cracks wise and wields his two — named — machine guns for comedic effect.
As a result, my wife hated the movie. I’m more ambivalent. The way the movie is structured is okay, but I found Hela to be a very uninspiring villain, and the tone of her storyline clashing very much with the rest of Ragnarok.
The problem of Sakaar
Part of the problem is that much of the movie — the whole of act two, in fact– is about thor running around a place called Sakaar. This place has nothing to do with Asgard, or Hela. The movie devolves into neon-scifi slapstick for most of this part, seguing back into a serious battle with Hela for the climax.
Thor’s character growth in this is fine. As prescribed by the hero’s journey, Thor leaves the mundane world for a magical one to give him the tools to win the day. Sakaar is a place that teaches him some humility, because he isn’t the big-shot God there, and shows him what Asgard is truly about. However, Sakaar is so out-of-touch with Asgard it makes for some jarring disconnects with Hela’s tale.
As far as I’m concerned, Hela doesn’t make for a very good villain. She was imprisoned by her father Odin because she was a megalomaniac. Odin wanted to appear a benevolent ruler and erased her from history. She returns, and seeks to become a megalomaniac again. The story would have been much stronger if she had not been the megalomaniac Odin made her out to be.
Now we have an evil woman, doing evil things, who needs to be defeated. It would have been much more interesting had she been trying to be good except for a grudge against her younger brother Thor, and she’d slowly devolved back to cruelty and fighting because it was all she’d known. But no, she’s evil, and she has to be defeated.
Anyway, I liked the epic fantasy parts of Thor, and would have liked slightly less slapstick and a better villain in Ragnarok.
All in all, though, I found Thor to be a fun movie, and this rendering of Thor still miles ahead of the one in The Hulk Returns.