By Billy Jepma ’18
At this point, audiences know what to expect when they take their seats for a new Marvel release. With “Thor: Ragnarok,” the case remains roughly the same. Under the directorial leadership of Taika Waititi, however, the film demonstrates that there is still a lot of vibrancy and life to find in the increasingly populated Marvel universe.
While Thor’s solo outings have been fairly unremarkable so far, with Waititi behind the camera “Ragnarok” gets right what prior releases have not, by embracing the inherent goofiness of a blonde-haired alien with a magic hammer.
Part comedy, part space-opera, and part 80’s-infused action flick, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a gleeful and colorful exploration of the cosmic weirdness of the broader Marvel universe.
The plot focuses on Thor’s journey to track down the truth behind a foretold apocalypse looming over his home planet of Asgard, but in what becomes the film’s greatest surprise and greatest weakness, that apocalypse really doesn’t end up mattering that much. This overarching plot suffers from a clear lack of focus and motivation; however, the movie succeeds because of the lovable charm of the characters and their antics.
Chris Hemsworth’s performance in “Ragnarok” is his best so far in the franchise, as he easily transitions from comedy to intensity with ease. Mark Ruffalo also returns as Hulk/Bruce Banner, and he, too, is better than ever. The delightful buddy-cop dynamic between Thor and Hulk carries some of the film’s very best moments. This team winds up being just as ingenious as it is unexpected.
The rest of the star-studded cast turn in equally colorful and delightful performances as well, and there is hardly a line that does not land exactly where it intends to.
Jeff Goldblum is gleefully absurd as the Grandmaster, while Tom Hiddleston is predictably charming and wonderful as Loki. Even though neither of them are that vital to the plot’s driving motivations, they are so easily charismatic that every scene they are in is better for it.
However, it is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie––a hard drinking, sardonic bounty hunter––who really stands out here. Thompson’s lively performance immediately captivates the audience, and her character arc is easily the strongest of the film, leaving her as one of the more exciting new characters to be introduced into the Marvel ensemble.
Even though Cate Blanchett’s Hela falls victim to the underdeveloped Marvel-villain curse, her screen presence is so effortlessly powerful and compelling that she milks the role for everything it has, and for the most part, it works. Despite never reaching her full potential, Hela’s sardonic humor and cruelty is a delight to watch.
Ultimately, the movie’s strength comes from its willingness to do its own thing. It’s self-aware, psychedelic, and easily the funniest Marvel movie yet. Even though it falls short in a couple areas, its eagerness to explore the weird side of the superhero genre is a breath of fresh air, and the inherent charm and likability of its cast drive the film forward—even when its plot does not.