After about eight months of waiting, the third film in Marvel’s Thor series arrives. As the years have gone on, Thor has remained one Marvel’s strongest movie characters. Both literally and figuratively. The initial film in this series has been one of my favorite superhero films. It’s nowhere near The Dark Knight, the first Iron Man, or Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man 2. However, Thor helped build the Marvel Universe for what it is today. Starring Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder, this trilogy balances humor, action, and emotion quite well. Despite a par second installment (in my opinion), these films are typically entertaining all the way through. Although both of its predecessors are action-packed fun, Ragnarok is without a doubt the best of all three. One of the reasons I say that is due to its art style. This film separates itself within the Marvel Universe canon.
Enlisting LucasFilm for Ragnarok‘s special effects was money well spent. It must be nice having that cozy Disney budget. Alas, this big-budget blockbuster meets its hype eye-to-eye. Many superhero films cannot say the same. Thor’s lightning powers, the fire demon Surtur, and, of course, The Hulk all look awesome. Since Surtur was not the main villain, his CGI was timely rather than tiresome. Also, the film’s score added a memorable splash to the series. The bouncy guitar strums mixed with rock-and-roll chants fit snugly into Ragnarok’s overall aesthetic. It heightens the mood instead of stifling it, feeling signature and pertinent. Few times have I heard superhero theme music work just as well in trailers as it does in the actual film. Meticulous creative direction has eluded many of today’s superhero movies. Studios know people will flood into theaters to see their film so details mostly go overlooked.
Conversely, Ragnarok feels very different in that sense. From the title font to the color palette to the end credits, this film has its own unique flavor. I left the theater completely satisfied, which is rare. It wasn’t the type of film deserving of a re-watch hours later. However, I do plan on seeing it again. The cohesive storyline kept me entertained until the end. Thor’s sister Hela the Goddess of Death (played by Cate Blanchett) had a dangerous aura about her. Her walk, her suit, her altering headdress all swelled her intimidation effect. Hela’s threat felt dire. Her evil motives were justified, tying into the narrative succinctly. She wasn’t some random villain coming and going. Hela made sure her presence was known. Blanchett was an excellent choice. I was happy to see that she didn’t play any games like the rest of the characters.
Unfortunately, once again, there are way too many jokes in this script. Though the Thor series is one of the better ones for humor, I could have done without the wall-to-wall wisecracking. I know I am in the minority with this thinking. However, Marvel has been beating dead horses for years in their dialogue. Why does every single character have to be a jokester? In my opinion, that takes away from characters whose nature is more fun-loving. Thor’s arrogance makes him a prime candidate. I usually enjoy his quips. But even he went overboard in my eyes. From the start, Ragnarok keeps the one-liners flowing, trickling into the tone of the villains occasionally. I dunno. I have a hard time believing a diabolical demon like Surtur would enable a childish back-and-forth with his prisoner. The more jokes that get thrown into these scripts, the more the actors feel like actors.
Personally, I don’t like being reminded that who I’m watching on a big screen aren’t really those characters. Of course, I understand who they are and what is going on. Yet many action stars and actors in general do not have the comedic timing to pull off numerous jokes in the same film. This is more of a Marvel rant than a Thor one, though. Ragnarok‘s humor did not reach unbearable levels. Over time, I have simply grown tired of the formulaic rollout of most superhero movies. One Marvel film ruined by its attempt at humor was Doctor Strange. Dr. Stephen Strange makes an appearance here. I wasn’t really expecting that, to be honest. His cameo was enjoyable. I do hope, however, they depict Strange less as a Tony Stark knockoff and more as a down-to-business guru in future films. In this small sample size, he was delightful.
Another gripe specific to this film was the death of Skurge. Skurge was a protector of the Bifrost, the portal from which Asgardians travel to other worlds. When Hela hijacked Loki and Thor’s escape back home, she killed Skurge’s allies, leaving him with a choice: die or serve as her executioner. He chooses the latter. In the end, he claims redemption by sacrificing himself to help Asgardians escape on a getaway spaceship. Nonetheless, the way he goes out bothered me. Earlier in the film, he bragged to two lovely ladies about the big guns he received back on Earth. Skurge bought dual rifles from Texas. He named them Dez and Troy (together making “destroy” and a reference to two Cowboy greats). This scene happened inside of the Bifrost, where he stowed all his treasures. Before his heroics, he whipped out Dez and Troy to fend off Hela’s pesty zombie minions.
Here’s the problem, though. The Bifrost was guarded by a giant zombie wolf! There is no way in hell that adds up. His death stunk of Hollywood fluff. Asgardians are tough, sword or axe-wielding warriors, not John Rambo wannabes. Also, Jeff Goldblum felt out of place. He portrayed a wealthy, half-gay asshole much better in Wes Anderson’s A Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Despite my minor complaints, Thor: Ragnarok is worth the price of a theater ticket. If you love superhero movies, you will rave about this one. If you aren’t crazy about them, this may not sway you. But it will at least keep you entertained in case you get dragged to the movies by your friends. Attention to detail and a slick aesthetic make Ragnarok the best Marvel movie of 2017.