Thor: Ragnorok (Taika Waititi, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Kimberli Wong, AFI Fest 2017

Thor:  Ragnorok is the third installment in the Thor franchise produced by Marvel Studios.   It follows the original Thor (2011), Thor:  The Dark World (2013), and a splattering of Marvel Studios franchise movie crossover appearances by the lead character, Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, and his brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.

In a lot of ways the third Thor is the most charming of the three.  This is also the first movie where an original Avenger makes an appearance in a specifically “Thor” movie, not the other way around.  The (not so surprise) appearance of The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is a highlight of the film, especially since the relationship between Thor, Loki, and The Hulk is complicated, funny, and poignant as the two brothers both have histories with the temperamental green giant.  To watch them attempt to communicate with him is always a challenge, and always entertaining.

Thor:  Ragnorok picks up 2 years after Avengers:  Age of Ultron (2015), where the Avengers save the world but destroy an entire city in the process.  During this time, Thor has been fighting the good fight away from Asgard, only to become imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur.  He defeats Surtur, but not before Surtur reveals his father Odin is missing from Asgard.  Surtur claims when his beheaded “head” (his head with horns) unites with the eternal flame locked away in Odin’s vault, he will rise again into the huge fire demon he is and destroy Asgard.  Thor, disbelieving, laughs, and carries the head away with him to lock it up later in… Odin’s vault.

Upon his return to Asgard, Thor finds Loki, who he believed to be dead, parading around disguised as Odin and ruling the kingdom in his stead.  Loki has locked Odin up in an old people’s home on Earth, but when the two arrive there, the building is literally being torn down.  While the two are contemplating this, they are magically hijacked by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberpatch).  Dr. Strange gives Thor beer and takes him and Loki to their father Odin.

Odin reveals that he is dying, and upon dying his first-born Hela (Cate Blanchett), a bloodthirsty, all-powerful warrior who he locked away since she became too ambitious, will be released and try to take over any realm she can.  As soon as Odin dissolves into the mist, Hela appears and promptly gives both Loki and Thor a sound and defeating beating.

The rest of the movie is basically Thor and Loki trapped on the alien planet Sakaar, Thor battling The Hulk in a gladiator style-battle overseen by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), as they attempt to escape back to Asgard to stop their half-sister Hela.  One of the strengths of the Thor franchise is the incredible acting and characterization within this mostly virtual, otherworldly alien setting.  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, specifically, do an excellent job at capturing the nuances of the Thor-Loki dynamic, so that it is both sad and funny, tragic and heart-warming, doomed and hopeful.  Cate Blanchett once again stuns with her absolute versatility as an actress, playing the almost comically evil, gorgeously vengeful half-sister convincingly undefeatable.  And the rest of the characters, too, work together to create a very touching, very real, and very human alien realm.

 

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