Marvel has just completed their best year ever, by far. And if you continue their current run back a little further, to 2016’s Doctor Strange, it’s even more impressive (still technically within 365 days of this release).
I really struggled with the 2nd Thor film back in 2013. Sure, it was entertaining, but it was completely forgettable and uninspired.
Thor Ragnarok fixes what’s broken. Barely set on Earth at all, it moves past the fish-out-of-water schtick that runs stale in the last film. This one’s light on its feet and incredibly fun.
On the planet, Sakaar, Thor finds himself imprisoned and forced to fight in a gladiator ring to the death. This entire place is topsy turvy. Almost like something Willy Wonka would concoct–even nodding to this at one point.
Thor also finds out that he has a sister, Hela, who had been banished from Asgard by Odin many years ago due to her destructive nature. She escapes and seeks to kill all of Asgard’s citizens.
First, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Not that it matters much, but there’s one scene on a beach that has one of the worst green screens of any big budget blockbuster I’ve seen in recent years. You’ll know it when you see it.
Secondly, the premise isn’t terribly inventive. It doesn’t really have much to say. Although it doesn’t matter. The film is driven by its humor and its characters–along with a breakneck narrative. It’s too much fun.
The tone is similar to the Guardians of the Galaxy series in its blending humor with action. But even those films attempt to be flippant while maintaining deep emotional attachment–often sacrificing one for the other where it deems it convenient. With Thor Ragnarok, it knows its priority of being an action film first, while recognizing that it also just simply needs to be entertaining.
And it truly is. It’s probably the funniest Marvel movie to date. Along for the ride this time is Jeff Goldblum as the hedonistic ruler of Sakaar, who brings so much originality to the film it’s not even fair that he’s probably just a one-off. Also, we’re introduced to a new pseudo-hero, Korg–a CGI being who looks like Thing from Fantastic Four–except he talks with a high-pitched British accent and is comically frank about everything. And then there’s Cate Blanchett playing our main villain–making it all the more evident that the casting for this movie is just truly phenomenal.
The humor doesn’t just come from the situations and inherent dialogue–but almost always from HOW a line is executed or the meticulous verbiage of its delivery. And it almost never relies on inside jokes for laughs–a constant crutch in previous Marvel installments. This film manages to perfectly balance levity and the macabre. It adequately distances itself sentimentally, while still keeping us fully invested.
Although it doesn’t quite have the theming to put it above the likes of Iron Man or Logan on the list of greatest Marvel films of all time, it’s definitely one of the most memorable, and may just be the most thoroughly entertaining.