The movie is funnier, and the story is better crafted—barring the staccato transition at times. The fun, action-packed Ragnarok makes amends for the second Thor flick, a dry and hollow affair with a messy storyline. The presence of Hulk by our hero's side makes it all the more engaging
It seems like ages since we last saw the “Lord of Thunder” on the big screen. But, actually, it has been only two years. Thor was last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but such has been the pace of expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The story has progressed much since Ultron emerged the latest supervillain on a rampage—more characters have been introduced, and numerous movies have since flitted in and out. But, in Thor: Ragnarok, the 17th MCU movie, the Asgardian parallel of the universe has developed a life of its own.
Chris Hemsworth finally got what he wanted. The actor was tired of playing a stony-faced Norse god over and over again, and wanted a lighter, less stereotypical role. After all, humour is the unique selling proposition of the MCU, so why not? And thus emerged Ragnarok, the third instalment of the Thor series, in which the eponymous hero, his allies, and his foes all get to contribute to the schticks on screen.
The movie is funnier, and the story is better crafted—barring the staccato transition at times. The fun, action-packed Ragnarok makes amends for the second Thor flick, a dry and hollow affair with a messy storyline. The presence of Hulk by our hero's side makes it all the more engaging. Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, used generously throughout, is the icing on the cake.
After the battle of Sokovia, in the Age of Ultron, Thor leaves Earth to find the Infinity Stones. But it proves to an unsuccessful expedition, and he is instead thrown headlong into a war to save his kingdom of Asgard from an usurper (no, thankfully it's not Loki again). Thor must help the Asgardians survive the prophesied 'Ragnarok' (Norse for 'fate of the gods'). He is exiled for most parts of the story; desperate to save his people, he convinces allies from outside his home realm to help him in the rescue mission.
Ragnarok's plot remains unaffected by the MCU events post Age of Ultron, and barring one cameo and a few references, it keeps its distance from the massive web of the wider universe. This is where the makers have succeeded—continuing (and pruning) the Thor narrative, and at the same time providing substance for the next Avengers outing. The movie also answers why Thor and Hulk were missing from Captain America: Civil War, which featured nearly every Avenger.
On the flip side, it does seem like director Taika Waititi's main intention was to permanently alter the tone of the series. Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the goofiness of the characters prevents the story from being taken too seriously—a spurned opportunity.
On the character front, Chris Hemsworth, in his new avatar, lets loose all his pent-up wackiness. Thor shows that his power goes beyond his hammer and even sheds his flowing hair before a major fight. His brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), with whom Thor shares a love-hate relationship, plays a crucial role, although his betraying of Thor has become more of a cliche now.
Cate Blanchett does brilliantly as Hela, the goddess of death. Her chilling demeanour makes for a terrifying villain. Mark Ruffalo plays a perplexed Bruce Banner/ Hulk, whose bromance with Thor eclipses that of Loki's. With Natalie Portman's Jane Foster being dropped from the franchise, Tessa Thompson's tough Valkyrie replaces the emotionally flimsy physicist. Idris Elba continues to shine as Heimdall, the sword-wielding guardian of the realm, and, thankfully, is more involved in the action this time around. But nobody makes Ragnarok more enjoyable than Jeff Goldblum, in his madcap portrayal of the Grandmaster. Keeping aside the fact that the the character is supposed to be terrifying and immensely powerful, Goldblum pulls off the loony version spectacularly.
Ragnarok is a laugh-a-minute visual treat and is action-packed for superhero junkies, but the formula somehow pulls the movie down and prevents it from excelling. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 97 per cent fresh rating, making it the highest-rated opening for a Marvel movie. While it is clearly the most fun Thor installment, Ragnarok is certainly not the best MCU movie, and is not even the best one this year. A web-slinging teenage boy beat the Norse god to that.
Word of advice: The mid-credits scene, as always, adds to the bigger MCU picture, but the post-credits scene is not worth your time.
Movie: Thor: Ragnarok
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba