No one in their right mind would have expected anything great to come out of the Thor franchise. Ever since the series’ failed second outing, The Dark World, Thor might as well have been dead in the water, minimized to just a decorative set piece for the Avengers franchise.
To everyone’s surprise, Thor: Ragnarok blows the franchise’s death out of the water, casting the spotlight firmly back to the Asgardian Avenger. Brash, hilarious, and game-changing are only a few adjectives you can confidently call the series’ third outing. Comedy director Taika Waititi drags Thor from his boring roots to a fun, comedic light.
The tale of two Ragnaroks
The Dark World left us with Thor choosing to stay on Midgard (see: Earth) like Hercules and Odin masquerading as their father, Odin. Logically, Ragnarok should’ve taken us on the same tired route that its predecessors took. Thankfully, Waititi chose to disregard almost all of Thor’s background and just have fun with the material.
Regardless, Disney is Disney and Marvel is Marvel. They have a story to tell before heading off to Infinity War next year. As much as Waititi was given free rein to do what he wants for Thor, he has to serve the grander MCU narrative. Thus, Thor: Ragnarok feels like two movies rolled into one: the wacky adventures of Thor and Hulk, and the narrative sequel to The Dark World.
On one hand, Ragnarok cleans up the loose ends of The Dark World and the Avengers. Odin is still missing. Loki is wrongfully sitting on the throne as his father. Thor continues to have dreams of Asgard’s demise.
While Hela, the goddess of death, is a more workable villain than Ronan the Accuser or Kaecilius, Ragnarok’s Asgardian storyline takes a backseat whenever Thor or Loki aren’t around. The most we see from Hela’s rampage are left as glimpses and visions. She does have great action scenes, but most of her evil is left to fester in the background while Thor is off galivanting in Sakaar.
Ragnarok’s full momentum starts when Thor is exiled to Sakaar, known to most comic book fans as the setting of Planet Hulk. And yes, Ragnarok’s storyline does shape up into Hulk’s most well-known comic book story.
Thor finds himself in the clutches of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who runs a planetary fighting ring to appease Sakaar’s inhabitants. The god of thunder is pitted against the arena’s champion, a hostile Hulk.
Ragnarok casts Thor in a peculiar light. He’s no longer the arrogant Asgardian god, but a fish out of water. Thor gets himself into situations outside of his own realm. Coupled with Waititi’s humor, Ragnarok styles itself as the self-aware Scream/Scary Movie of the superhero genre.
The film never takes itself seriously. Even the Infinity Stones are ridiculed to some extent. Refreshingly, Thor comes off a ‘90s comedy icon complete with perfect timing. His relationship with Hulk comes off as a buddy comedy. His occasional run-ins with a certain female character plays off as an awkward romcom. Thor: Raganarok showcases the timeless quality of ‘90s movies.
It’s a film shot in the past. It’s a film that appropriately uses synthwave as a soundtrack. It’s a film that features a medieval knight wielding dual automatic rifles. It’s a film that has Jeff Goldblum cast as a ridiculous version of himself. It’s a film with the most awkward butt shot in MCU history. Thor: Ragnarok is full of bright spots that you’ll forget that it’s a leadup to Infinity War.