Thor: Ragnarok makes the MCU three for three in 2017. Three excellent additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that could not be more different from each other, except that they all brought the funny. Thor’s third solo outing is his best, ably directed by relatively unknown Kiwi director Taika Waititi. If all you need to know is if the film is worth the rave reviews that it is getting: it is. If you want to know if, unlike Guardians 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, if this film has big MCU plot twists in it: it does. And if you just want to know how many post-credits scenes there are: two. I don’t do spoilery reviews of MCU movies, but that’s all you need to know if you were on the verge about going or not.
BIG things for Thor, Hulk, and the MCU do happen in Ragnarok. In many ways Ragnarok is as much a Hulk film as Captain America: Civil War was as much an Iron Man film as a Cap film. The unlikely pairing of the two strongest Avengers (depending on which you ask), pays off as Marvel is able to dovetail its popular Planet Hulk storyline into a Thor movie. As to how they come together, I won’t say, but the gladiatorial planet from the trailers has a lot of Easter Eggs for comic fans and is the wackiest place in the MCU that hasn’t been in a Guardians film. It’s a straight-up homage to Willy Wonka’s factory….if that factory were a run-down 1980’s arcade run on slave labor, booze, and forced mortal combat.
There are significant additions and subtractions to the Thor supporting cast. Natalie Portman’s decision not to return is handled in one line, showing how unnecessary Jane had become to the storyline. Tessa Thompson is absolutely fantastic as Valkyrie, and I hope we see her in many MCU films to come. Some of the denizens of the Planet Hulk storyline may recur in future MCU films, as well. Sadly, we also do lose some longtime beloved Thor supporting cast. The tone of the film is, from the opening scene, tongue-in-cheek, and my only significant criticism of the film is there are some moments that needed a little more gravitas. However, the tone never wavers, so it’s not a matter of inconsistency, it’s just that-again-BIG things do happen for the MCU and to Thor. The Odinson at the beginning of the film is a completely different Thor than at film’s end. He is as changed by this film as Cap and Iron Man were by Civil War.
The force for all this change is one of the best villains the MCU has seen: Hela the goddess of death. The screenplay mixes up Norse mythology a bit to give her a different role than she has there, but it works well to give the character instant connection to Thor. She has an actual character arc, where most MCU villains just serve as punching bags, and Cate Blanchett is clearly having a blast chewing scenery playing the murderous hag.
The film closes the Thor trilogy in a stirring and unexpected way. Of course, wherever there is Thor, Loki is sure to pop up, and Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth (who IS Thor by this point so indelibly that only Robert Downey Jr. will be harder to replace out of the Avengers if they ever recast the part). Loki and Thor’s relationship picks up from their last encounter at the end of Thor: The Dark World, and-as it has with every encounter-the brothers bicker and fight and grudgingly love each other in probably the most layered relationship the MCU has.
Mark Ruffalo spends most of this film in Hulk mode, and they motion and facial capture for the big green guy has never been so sharp. The fight in the arena that has been teased for a year is absolutely epic. Thor relating to both sides of Hulk/Banner is extremely good fun, and while Hulk doesn’t get as much character development as his titled counterpart, we do find out what happened to him after the end of Age of Ultron, what he’s been up to, and this begins (according to Ruffalo) a story arc for Hulk that will go through Avengers 3 & 4.
Thor: Ragnarok’s ending nicely mirrors the first film’s beginning. Who knows what will happen in Infinity War, but could there be new Thor films? Absolutely. Hemsworth, if he’s willing, definitely has a new direction and new ways to take Thor and Asgard in future stories. All will depend on the outcome of the war with Thanos, and all that stands between its onset now is next February’s Black Panther. Is Thor: Ragnarok the best MCU film of all-time? No. I still think that’s a tie between Winter Soldier and Civil War, but this is the best of the stellar 2017 crop and the best since Civil War. With the MCU quality bar, distinguishing the best installments gets dicey, but this belongs near the top.