I don’t think that many people are surprised with how well Thor: Ragnarok is doing at the box office. The trailer for the movie broke records when it hit the internet this year, and critics around the globe have been raving about it for weeks. This is a marked departure from the two previous Thor movies. Critics and audiences didn’t love Thor and were even less enthused about Thor: The Dark World, but it would seem that the Norse god has learned from his outings with the Avengers.
Ragnarok adopts a more lighthearted and fun loving version of Thor, which helps turn the tone of the movie from space odyssey to space comedy. Chris Hemsworth credits his cameo appearance in Ghostbusters with helping shape his performance this time around. Director Taika Waititi’s influence is also widely felt. Waititi, a New Zealand born director best known for the indie comedies What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, brings a very specific comedy style to the film. Along with directing, Waiti played numerous small roles, including as the show-stealing rock man Korg (note to self: don’t be a scissor man).
And then there’s the green elephant in the room. The Incredible Hulk, as played by Mark Ruffalo, hasn’t been seen or heard from in 2 years, and it turns out that he’s been earning a living as a gladiator on another planet. It’s a pretty sweet gig for an angry radioactive muscle man. From the outset the Hulk is less excited to see Thor than Thor is to see him. This version of the Hulk has the most deliberate separation of Bruce Banner and The Other Guy that we’ve seen, which is interesting but on the whole underwhelming. There isn’t really a character arc for the Hulk which is disappointing but that screen time is effectively used elsewhere.
The emotional weight of the movie is carried by Thor and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Anyone familiar with the characters knows that Loki has betrayed Thor upwards of ten times at this point, on screen alone. Over the course of the movie Loki’s trust is tested again and again, but his deep bond with his brother is shown (the brothers both reminisce on the past, and have a playbook of battle techniques). This movie finally resolves their storyline in a satisfying way without being too heavy-handed. Odin also plays a large role in bringing the brothers together again. The scenes with Odin helped slow down the pace of the movie, which had been pretty jarring up to that point, and let the audience absorb what had happened thus far.
The other cast members also bring terrific performances to the table. Cate Blanchett, best known to me as Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings, is absolutely terrifying as Hela the God of Death. Similarly Tessa Thompson gives an excellent performance as the former Asgardian special forces agent Valkyrie. Thompson has some pretty solid platonic chemistry with The Hulk (both CGI dude and Mark Ruffalo). Anthony Hopkins is as good as always in his turn as Odin, and Jeff Goldblum adds another awesome role to his legendary portfolio as the Grandmaster. On a totally unrelated note I watched a clip of Jeff Goldblum rating tattoos of himself, which was terrific.
I think that Ragnarnok is a great turning point for the Thor series, and the character in general. If you haven’t seen it already I recommend grabbing a ticket.