Thor: Ragnarok 2017
Surprisingly, as much as I enjoy the MCU, over the past year and a half I hadn’t been keeping up with every release like I might have expected to despite all the rave reviews I had heard for this one as well as Ant-Man and the Wasp. The MCU has always been about making action comedies, though most of them have been heavy on the action and light on the comedy. This time director Taika Waititi turns things on its head and gives practically a full blown comedy with some action elements. It might initially seem like an odd choice for Thor to be the property to transition from a more Shakespearean action/fantasy to an action comedy, but it really works. Especially with Chris Hemsworth’s charisma and the addition of Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster. The more dramatic stuff still works, but through and through it’s a comedy with plenty of laugh out loud moments.
One interesting thing this movie did was slightly change the dynamic of the Banner/Hulk relationship that was introduced in the first Avengers movie where Banner was “always angry”. Here we find out that Banner has been the Hulk for the past two years as he somehow made his way to the gladiator planet of Sakaar. The relationship between the two of them changed here and continued that change in Infinity War. Instead of them being more or less two halves of the same whole, this splits them more into two separate entities within the same body. It’s not exactly explored too deeply here, but it’s an interesting concept to introduce especially when compared to Planet Hulk which also does something similar and increases Hulk’s intelligence quite a bit. At least in the animated version. Here, his intelligence is still pretty low, but workable with some good moments like when he feels himself reverting to Banner and frantically tries to keep up his anger.
Another nice touch here is the relationship between Thor and Loki that really accentuates how much Thor has changed from how he appeared in his first movie until now while Loki has actually stayed quite stagnant. While Loki is still the same trickster that he always was, and continues to try the same tricks, he has also fallen to become slightly complacent as he has posed as Odin to rule Asgard. Meanwhile, Thor has become much more savvy and doesn’t fall for Loki’s tricks quite so easily and plays his own here and there against Valkyrie as well as Loki himself in fine fashion. Even though he is more savvy, Thor still gets his share of knocks throughout the movie and through defeat has some fun moments like a Willy Wonka homage before he is introduced to the Grandmaster.
Cate Blanchett’s villain Hela was actually an instance of a good villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which tends to be hit and miss. She’s extremely powerful and while she ends up trying to eliminate the entire population of Asgard, she doesn’t do that as her goal, instead she does it because they choose to deny her supposedly rightful place on the throne. She has a history with Odin and while her lust for power has corrupted her, she does make a few legitimate points and reveals a darker history for what we’ve known through the movies as a benevolent ruler. There’s also a sense of poetic justice to how she’s ultimately defeated. And while she creates an army of undead to help her, there’s also the sympathetic traitor played by Karl Urban named Skurge. It’s a small role, but he has a nice character arc as the douchey Asgardian who doesn’t realize the impact his decision makes until he sees the destruction unfold in front of him. Urban does a great job giving a lot of sympathy to a character that really could have just been a random henchman.
What really makes the comedy great here is the cast of side characters. An early scene with Doctor Strange is wonderfully hilarious and disorienting. The rock alien Korg is another great source of comedy along with his silent partner Meek, the insectoid with knives for hands. There’s just something inherently funny about such a large and imposing character with a relatively soft-spoken voice. Jeff Goldblum as already mentioned is an absolute treasure with all of his scenes, especially with the addition of his straight-woman with a little too much bloodlust for her own good. The one character that wasn’t comedic but finally got something interesting to do besides take down a dark elf ship was Heimdall. It was really great to see that character take on an actual leadership role as he tries to usher the civilian Asgardians to safety.
When this movie came out, there was some ado about the 80’s aesthetic with the logo and some of the music. But while it generally fit within the context of the film, it was a fairly minimal aspect of the movie. The best use of the retro music wasn’t even 80’s at all with the occasional use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song especially during the climactic battle. All in all, the movie was a lot of fun from start to finish. The MCU does tend to be similar action/comedy movies along a certain spectrum, but Taika Waititi really pushes things to the far end of the comedy spectrum to good results. Not only that, but he still manages to make some very distinct changes to the state of the characters in this movie that could have a longer reaching impact. I am curious to see if there will be any MCU movie in the near future go to the other end of the comedy spectrum and be a much more serious action drama with little to no comedy beats. I’d say the closest at the moment would be Civil War and Infinity War but they still have plenty of comedy to keep things from getting too dark, but time will tell. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.