In short… yes it does!
It could be argued that the Thor franchise is one of the weaker MCU films. And that’s not to say that they are bad films. I thought Thor was fantastic, although I’ll admit that The Dark World wasn’t amazing. Thor: Ragnarok promised to be a bit of a shift in tone to the previous films, adding more humour to it. And whilst some might say that it’s getting tiresome with the whole “serious moments ruined by comedy” stick that Marvel does, I have to say I love that style of writing. It’s always good when a fantasy/superhero show doesn’t take itself too seriously. But I digress.
So in Ragnarok, (based on the comic series and also with bits of the Planet Hulk storyline) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been searching for Infinity Stones, haunted by the events in Age of Ultron. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), under the disguise of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is ruling Asgard and Thor is a prisoner of the fire demon Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown). Beating Surtur and returning to Asgard, they search for Odin on Earth, with a little help from Doctor Strange (resolving the after credits scene from Doctor Strange). Odin reveals he is dying and his death will bring forth Hela – the Goddess of Death. Here we learn that (gasp!) she is Thor’s sister and apparently she and Odin (in his more vicious days) were responsible for the dominion of the nine realms, before Odin got scared of Hela and locked her away. But now he’s about to die and Hela will be free. Maybe you should have thought of a better security measure, mate!
Anyway, Hela (Cate Blanchett) returns, curbstomps Thor and destroys Mjolnir and then, in the insuring battle, Thor and Loki is transported to the planet Sakaar, where he (Thor) is captured by a former Asgardian Valkyrie to fight for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldlum) against his champion. Who just happens to be our old friend Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who is now in full on Hulk mode. Thor has to find his way back home and stop Hela and Ragnarok. Or does he?
As mentioned the tone here is very different to the first two. Whereas the first two were generally quite serious (with maybe odd bits of humour added in here and there), this one goes to full on comedy. There are many laugh a minute sections here, mostly due to Chris Hemsworth portrayal of Thor. Some might suggest that this could be a bit out of character for Thor, but considering he’s spent some time on Earth, I’d say this isn’t too much of a stretch. Plus Chris has proven himself to be a very funny guy with great comic timing (a particular bit where Thor begs for his hair not to be cut was a highlight), so this is what makes the film watchable. His reactions with Hulk are really funny and pretty much amount to a “my c***s bigger than your c***!” Although Thor does know when to get serious when it counts.
It’s also great to see Hulk back again. Here Hulk has been dealing with some serious anger issues and seems to be full on Hulk now. Banner has taken a step back and has seemed to wanted to escape after Age of Ultron. Can’t blame him really, but it was great seeing him and Thor interact with one another. Anthony Hopkins is always great to watch as Odin, and though his role is heavily downplayed in this, he still manages to get some great scenes in.
And then there’s Jeff Goldlum as the Grandmaster – a role he takes with aplomb. Jeff Goldblum pretty much plays him like every other Jeff Goldblum role, but unlike with Independence Day: Resurgence, you can tell he’s loving every second. The Grandmaster is a libertine that revels in the best things – even blood and Goldblum just exudes malevolence and hedonism with every second. He may not be the main villain of the piece, but he’s the most entertaining to watch.
And then there’s Loki. Do I even need to continue? You guys all know how much I love Loki and once again, he is in danger of stealing every scene from his brother Thor. For those of you who were worried Loki may have softened, don’t worry – he’s still the mischievous devil we’ve come to love. Wielding his tricks at every possibly, Loki nonetheless does prove there is more to his character than full on villainy and he does get his moments of heroism as well. He and Thor had some very good scenes that expanded on their relationship. It’s always fun to see Loki, whether he’s being evil or not.
But it’s not just the guys that have all the fun. There are some very strong females in their cast! First of which is Hela. If you were disappointed at how the Enchantress from Suicide Squad turned out, then Hela easily undoes all that. She isn’t your typical “fan service” villain – she is full on rage! She isn’t afraid to fight and she even manages to own Thor in ways no one else has! There’s an awesome scene where she takes out an entire Asgardian army on her own; how’s that for girl power? Hela is just what the MCU needed – a strong villainess and Blanchett (much like Goldblum) relished every single second of this role. It’s a shame that she died at the end though, I honestly would love it if she was brought back.
We also have Valkyrie (Tess Thompson) who is equally as strong a female lead. A former warrior who saw her family and friends destroyed by Hela, she is a tough, drunken bounty hunter that also owns Thor for much of the movie, deciding to join forces with him. And she isn’t your typical damsel in distress either – far from it! She is a badass warrior that kicks ass and takes names! She filled the gap left by another female character that was missing from the film. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Other roles to mention were Heimdall (Idris Alba) who had lot more action orientated role this time – which was good. Skurge (Kurl Urban), aka the Executioner, is a tough but somewhat naive Asgardian that becomes a reluctant servant to Hela, but gets his moment of redemption. And then of course there is Korg (voiced by the director Taika Waititi), who despite his rocky appearance is one of the most soft spoken and thoughtful characters in the MCU. A lot of the funniest moments come from him, especially when he describes his “revolution”.
I really liked the idea of having some comedy in this. Maybe it was a bit OTT at times, but it worked wonders. But don’t worry, there was plenty of action to go around! The fight scenes (especially the gladiatorial battle featuring Hulk and Thor) were great to watch and looked quite savage at times. The world of Asgard was as beautiful as always, and even Sakaar with it’s rubbish dump looked strangely colourful. The aliens did look a little bit like something you’d get out of Halo, but they were great. And the fire realm at the beginning of the film was just awesome! You could really feel the heat coming from the screen when Thor fought the demons. So all in all, there was very few things I disliked about this.
Well, ok, there were SOME flaws in the plot that I had to call out. And they are as follows.
Where the hell was Sif? She was completely absent from this film. I guess she was expelled by Loki when he was Odin, but there was no mention of her at all! That was a bit harsh considering I thought she was a strong support character in the previous films. Oh and if you’re a fan of the Warriors Three (Hogun, Volstagg and Fandral), don’t get too excited. They get killed off within five seconds of their appearance. Lame!
Next, how did Hulk get to Sakaar? The log on his ship seems to suggest he crashed into the planet – but the specifics of how he got there was never explained. Did his quinjet fly though a portal? Did he go into space? Can quinjet even get that far? It’s a minor headscratcher – but a headscratcher nonetheless.
Finally, couldn’t Odin have come up with a better way of keeping Hela locked up than a whole “she stays there until I die” kinda thing? Considering how powerful she is, you think he could have come up with a bit more powerful security measure. But then I guess we wouldn’t have a strong villainess in our midst.
So, those points aside, Thor: Ragnarok is a highly enjoyable film. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the humour is on the nose, making it fun to watch. It’s classic escapism that you’ve come to expect from Marvel. Even if you don’t like the story, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride here – and what a ride you’re in for. Oh and as always, stay for the end credits – as you get a nice treat with the Grandmaster at the end! Thor: Ragnarok continues the trend of great superhero movies in 2017. Can Justice League complete it? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Thor: Ragnarok gets a Ragna-rocking 5 out of 5!