Thor: Ragnarok is a change in tone from previous Thor movies, and Thor’s role in The Avengers. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is now a sarcastic wiseass in an irreverent adventure. This is a positive development. Earnest Thor wasn’t working so he can afford to get sarcastic.
The film itself undercuts the genre, both hero moments for Thor and villain speeches for Hela (Cate Blanchett), Goddess of Death. Thor is more bumbling. Animated characters like Korg (Taika Waititi) add a New Zealand style of side comments. Mark Mothersbaugh’s ‘80s style synth score matches the campy tone.
This makes all the CGI action and green screen scenework more engaging. You can’t get around doing a Space God movie with visual effects, but it becomes less important to engage with the action. You can invest in the comic dissection of it. Ragnarok seems more self-aware than even Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the opening scene Thor fights an animated army with an animated weapon. It’s good art, but it can’t simulate watching real martial artists make contact. At least you can see the action clearly, and it’s colorful, not dreary, so that puts it above any Bourne movie. Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum and Tessa Thompson navigate the CGI worlds and Hemsworth steps up too. He’s already done four CGI Marvel movies, but he’s present in the new energy, not just going through the motions.
The Thor movies never did quite figure out stakes. I mean, it’s hard enough when the main characters are gods. Now they’re gods on other planets. What do godlike powers matter in space? When they’re on Earth it’s an advantage, but when they’re already on a planet full of aliens and advanced technology, what does it matter if they can jump extra high? Best to just let the artists draw the splash pages and enjoy the jokes.
There’s a really fun Doctor Strange short, paying off Thor’s cameo in that movie. Since I loved Doctor Strange I welcomed it. Hela sort of just waits for Thor’s arrival. We check in with her periodically and she is so fun to see I wish she had more to do. But there are a lot of worlds to cover and characters to meet. I’m grateful they managed to keep it all balanced, moving along and still fun. We’ve all scene Marvel movies where the needs of the plot overtook the promise of fun.
Thor: Ragnarok is the best Marvel movie of the year. That’s faint praise given my disappointment with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spiderman: Homecoming but I would praise Thor: Ragnarok any year.