I have a confession. I’ve liked all three of the Thor movies, and for three different reasons.
I enjoyed the world-building in Thor (2011). The Jack Kirby version of Asgard was brought to life on film, and director Kenneth Branagh treated the subject matter with a seriousness that it might not have even deserved. It was a good-looking movie. And the Midgard portions with Natalie Portman and Kat Denning were fun.
Thor: Dark World (2013) did indeed go darker, and I think I still liked it more than the first movie, even now in hindsight, although I didn’t think it was much fun. It had an epic feel to it.
And, now, Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
I’m not making any excuses here. This is my favorite of the three movies, and it was loads of fun. Fun, in the same way that Iron Man, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy were fun. Fun in the way the best of the MCU movies are fun, in my opinion. I’m not going to list all of the MCU movies I classify as fun, just know that I think some of them were and some of them weren’t. As of today, I’ve seen them all but Black Panther and about half of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I’ll remedy that soon.
As Thor: Ragnarok opens, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the prisoner of the Satanic-looking Surtur on a world that looks a lot like I would imagine Hell looks. Thor escapes and takes Surtur’s horned crown, the source of Surtur’s power. It seems that if Surtur put his crown in the Everlasting Fire of Asgard (not to be confused with the Everlasting Gobstopper of WonkaLand) he would grow to the size of a mountain and kick off Ragnarok. Thor is preventing this.
It should come as no surprise to you that this bit of exposition becomes important in the third act.
When Thor is trying to leave Surtur’s hellish world, he has trouble contacting Heimdall (Idris Elba), the watchman of the gods. It seems that Odin (who, as we recall, is Loki in disguise) accused Heimdall of treason, and now Heimdall’s job is being under-performed by a sketchy guy named Skurge (Karl Urban). Thor finally makes it to Asgard, where he exposes Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as the fake-Odin. Then, Thor and Loki travel to New York City to find their father, the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who Loki left at a nursing home.
By the way, during their conversation, Thor mentions to Loki that he and Jane have broken up. While I enjoyed Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, I have to admit that I don’t really miss her presence in this movie.
The nursing home has been demolished, so the question of their father’s whereabouts remains as Loki vanishes via some familiar-looking magic. A business card remains in Loki’s place, directing Thor to 177A Bleecker Street, which is awfully similar to 221B Baker Street. This isn’t the only homage to the BBC show Sherlock. During Thor’s scenes with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the musical score is also similar to that heard in the series. It seems that the Sorcerer Supreme has captured Loki as a potential threat, which is a wise precaution. Strange ends up releasing Loki and sending the two Asgardians to where Odin is hiding out in Norway.
Odin says he’s been waiting on them. He warns them that Ragnarok is upon them because “she” is coming. The “she” in question is Odin’s firstborn, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett). She has been imprisoned for eons, but now she is free. Odin says he can’t help Thor and Loki, because he’s on a different path now. And then, he vanishes. Dead? Probably not, but he’s gone except in Thor’s later visions in the movie.
Then Hela appears, and she’s a badass. She commands Thor and Loki to kneel. Then she destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. At first, I didn’t think they were going to duplicate Hela’s comic book appearance, but suddenly her familiar, thorny, and hugely improbable headdress makes its appearance, and Hela looks the way I remember her from the comics.
The A-plot of this movie is about Hela and her plan to claim the throne of Asgard and begin Ragnarok. And, if this movie didn’t have an interesting B-plot, this would still have been an exciting action-filled movie. Maybe not as fun, but still exciting. What happens next to kick off the B-plot is largely what makes this movie so enjoyable.
As Thor and Loki are battling out with Hela while being teleported to Asgard, both Thor and Loki end up elsewhere, while Hela arrives in Asgard alone. She makes it to Asgard alone, makes Skurge her #1 lackey, and proceeds to destroy scores of Asgardians, including Thor’s Howlin’ Commandos (or whatever they’re called).
Thor lands on what appears to be WALL-E’s planet. A group of Mad Max rejects show up and ask Thor if he’s a fighter or is he food? When he says he’s just passing through, they decide he is food. Thor is saved, and enslaved, by a young woman calling herself Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson, who has been a hot commodity the past few years). It turns out that they are on the planet Sakarr, which is ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who decides that Thor will get to battle his champion gladiator. Thor gets his hair cut by Stan Lee, and then battles the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in the arena. He may have won, too, if the Grandmaster hadn’t cheated.
Even though the battle between Thor and Hulk was the centerpiece of this movie, the results of the battle don’t matter much. The two end up teaming up together to escape, with the help of Scrapper 142, who turns out to be an exiled Valkyrie who remembers being defeated by Hela. Loki had ended up on Sakarr as well, and was attempting to be one of the Grandmaster’s courtiers. Although Loki doesn’t escape Sakarr with Thor and Hulk, he does manage to get away with a shipload of released gladiator slaves.
The B-plot over, Thor and everyone who left Sakarr end up on Asgard to battle it out with Hela. Lots of over-the-top action throughout, with an ending that is surprising but believable. I may be willing to spoil a lot of the movie for you, but I won’t spoil the ending. I’ll just say that I liked it.
I didn’t bury the lead here. I already told you that I enjoyed this movie. It is fast-paced and action-packed, with a suitable amount of humor that doesn’t detract from the story. The Doctor Strange appearance may not have been entirely necessary, but it was fun, and it reminded the viewer that all of these MCU stories are interconnected. Both Hela and the Valkyrie were strong female characters who both seemed to easily kick Thor’s butt. And the ending, though telegraphed, was still satisfying.
I recommend this one. I give it 8-out-of-10 Uru Hammers.