It is quite rare to see a film franchise completely reinvigorate a character without disappointing fans of the original. However, Marvel Studios has given new life to a character that has, up until this point, not lived up to its full potential. “Thor: Ragnarok” provides audiences with a fresh, comedic take on its iconic character, a gladiatorial side plot with the incredible Hulk, and ultimately a fun time at the theater.
The film, directed by Taika Waititi, resumes the adventures of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) after the events of 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Since we last saw him, Thor has been traveling the universe searching for the means to prevent Ragnarok, the prophesied apocalypse of his home. Thor returns to Asgard and discovers that his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has been impersonating the king and inadequately governing their home into turmoil. While attempting to reclaim control of Asgard, a new threat emerges in the form of Hela (Cate Blanchett), the previously imprisoned goddess of death. Exiled from his home, Thor finds himself stranded on the gladiatorial planet Sakaar where Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has been enslaved to be a fighting machine for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Ultimately, Thor and Hulk must devise an escape plan from Sakaar and return to Asgard in time to prevent the destruction of the realm at the hands of Hela.
From a storytelling perspective, it becomes quite obvious about one-third into the narrative that this film should have been divided into two films respectively. The first film could have been an in-depth character study of Bruce Banner/Hulk as an enslaved gladiator on a foreign planet. The gladiator battle in the film is definitely entertaining to watch for all Marvel fans, however the real emotional weight behind Banner’s struggle to define himself as a man or monster was not established throughout. The second storyline of the film could have been the conflict between Thor and Hela as they attempt to lead their home to a prosperous future simply with different viewpoints on how to achieve it. For a majority of the film, Hela is simply waiting around for anyone to oppose her and unfortunately this doesn’t lead to an interesting character arc. This also would have been an excellent time for Thor and Loki to reconcile after the previous films and evolve their relationship past what we’ve already seen. The underlying issue with the narrative is the script’s inability to provide both storylines with the proper time to develop and affect the characters in a way that is exciting for audiences.
The most exciting element of the film is director Waititi’s unique humor that he instills throughout. Unlike other Marvel films that have undeniably included comedic elements, “Thor: Ragnarok’”s first priority is comedy. Coming from an independent film background, Waititi provides the script with an abundance of subtle humor and is an exciting change of pace for blockbuster filmmaking. The colorful visuals also add to the high energy and fantasy elements of the story, even when Waititi’s action sequences often rely too heavily on special effects as opposed to scripted fight choreography. Although the humor may originate from Waititi’s writing, Hemsworth and the rest of the cast knock it out of the park with their delivery and physical performances. Hemsworth completely refreshes the character as a loveable and naïve jock, and you can bet that we will see more of this version of the character down the road. Goldblum also provides some unique humor as the quirky Grandmaster and the incomparable Blanchett is certainly having fun as Marvel’s first powerful female villain.
For audiences that have not followed along with Marvel’s abundance of superhero films, this entry is an excellent place to start. The comedic elements and star-studded cast are sure to intrigue new viewers and provide them with a whole new set of characters to root for. “Thor: Ragnarok” is certainly among the best of the best when it comes to superhero blockbusters, and audiences can anticipate a sharp shift towards comedy in the future of the genre.