For someone proclaiming to be the God of Thunder, Thor seems to find himself on the wrong end of a Taser surprisingly often. It’s all part of his rebranding. Thor started as this holier than thou, mostly immortal, ancient legend, master of battles and ale. Now, after taking a page out of Star Lord’s playbook, the feeling in the room has gone from this tombstone:
Sometime around the drafting table, plans turned away from a galactic apocalypse and started budgeting for gold bathrobes and satirical cameos. But hey, if it’s what the people want…
So where was Thor (Chris Hemsworth) during Civil War? He was sniffing out a feeling that something was amiss in the universe. This problem, two years in the hunting, is resolved in the first two minutes of Thor: Ragnarok, with a trophy to boot. With his sabbatical over, Thor heads home to Asgard and finds his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), masquerading as their king and father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor, pissed, drags his brother to Earth to rescue Odin from exile; but what they find is a peaceful old man enjoying the view from the cliffs of Norway, too comfortable to change out of his West World tweed. Odin sits his sons down and finally reveals that his first born is not Thor but a woman named Hela (Cate Blanchett). Hela’s ambition grew too large, forcing Odin to imprison her and cover up her existence. The trouble is, Hela – the Goddess of Death – is now free and hungry for the throne and every kingdom it rules. Thor and Loki are powerless to stop the lean, green, fighting queen, and get tossed off the highway on the family’s ride back home. Asgard is at the mercy of its true queen while Thor is stuck on a slave planet ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and Loki is doing buck all to help anyone.
So that’s where Thor’s been for the past two years. But what about the Hulk? Since flying off-planet in The Age of Ultron, the Hulk has become the main attraction of the Grandmaster’s fighting pits – and he totally loves it. He has a new friend, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), with many grudges, a drinking problem, and some major krav maga skills. Plus, Hulk has a private hot tub. Hulk is happy. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), has spent the last two years asleep inside the big green guy and is completely oblivious to his alter ego’s fame – which is another reason why Hulk is just so happy.
The Hulk is one of many characters Thor connects with – emotionally and violently – but all get their chance to be hilarious. Thor: Ragnarok isn’t a twisty, suspenseful, cleverly written Marvel movie like Winter Soldier, but it is inarguably one of the funniest. The studio discovered that Chris Hemsworth is a muscle and a comedian and they couldn’t resist the opportunity to let loose. Ragnarok is predominantly adlibbed, bouncing back and forth between characters that think they’re the greatest and characters that know they’re the greatest. Even new players, like rock man Korg (surprise; it’s director Taika Waititi), draw a delicate line between socially awkward and lethally entertaining. While the general heroic story line is pretty standard, the electric humour makes the movie whiz by.
On the other side, there’s Hela. She’s perfectly content to rule a kingdom of zombies as long as all skeletons on board are cool with conquering, maiming, and reduced salary/benefits. Cate Blanchett saunters past corpses like a snake in the grass, turning everyone’s happy day into an “Oh Hela no.” Her special power is materializing pointy projectiles out of her spandex sleeves and stabbing every prequel character that’s unneeded for the rest of the franchise.
Hela is dark and famished, but she’s not the only character we get to explore. Our half immortal (at some point we need an explanation of Asgardian biology and longevity) God of Thunder hasn’t quite finished evolving. There’s more to Thor than coffee and Good Life Fitness. It’s satisfying to see a character that we’ve followed for the better part of a decade learn something new about himself. He’s not just Thor the hammer-wielding warrior prince; he’s Mr. Sparkles too.
Ragnarok is blessedly fresh and full of surprises. It’s stuffed with cameos and leans more on Marvel’s new brand of humour than its old, sacrificing, hero-saves-the-world shtick. While some of our old regulars (Jane Foster and Lady Sif) are unceremoniously absent, new faces like Valkyrie, Korg, and Hela revitalize the franchise with rough edges and playful banter. It’s my favourite Thor movie of the three and my new go-to for kick ass fights and free laughs. Thor: Ragnarok is a Helavagood time at 8/10.