loki-the-movie

Thor: Ragnarok Impressions

I really liked Thor: Ragnarok. I’ll put my cards on the table: I am probably going to like movies in this shared Marvel universe more than the average bear. It seems that the more pissed I get at Marvel as a whole (a long story), the better their movies get. 2017 dropped three of my favorites, as well as a non-MCU bonus in the form of Logan. I’m a happy nerd.

I also don’t really want to go over the high points again. Every nerd and critic has already done that. So instead, I decided to share a handful of entirely personal thoughts I had about the movie during and after. Here goes.

Chris Hemsworth did not just become funny
Inexplicably, I’ve heard a lot of chatter that Thor is finally funny in Ragnarok. I’m wondering where these people have been for the rest of the films, or for Chris Hemsworth’s career. Thor has been the most comedically versatile regular character in the MCU for a while. Yes, more so than Iron Man, who rarely veers from his arrogant-playboy routine, and more so than Cap, who relies on his man-out-of-time shtick for laughs. He’s even funnier than any of the Guardians. All of those characters are entertaining and play off each other well, but Hemsworth can do it all himself. He’s able to simultaneously make Thor a lovable lug and poke fun at his tough guy image. It isn’t that he becomes funny in Ragnarok, it’s that Taika Waititi takes off the cuffs and allows him free rein.

Did they just actually move Loki’s character forward?
NOTE: HUGE SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION
Tom Hiddleston has always been a gift to the MCU. For one thing, no two actors in the franchise play off each other as well as Hemsworth and Hiddleston. For another, he somehow makes the “Snake” character work. Most of the time, when someone continually changes sides (Miles Teller in the Divergent series, for instance), you wonder why the other characters don’t just off them and get it over with. By comparison, Marvel has done an excellent job over multiple directors of maintaining Loki’s character and relationship to Thor in ways that let us see why the God of Thunder keeps the God of Mischief around.
In this particular movie, Loki is literally given the task of destroying Asgard to stop Hela, and seems to have mended his relationship with his brother. But…did he take the Cosmic Cube at the end? Of course he did. Not only can I see no other way he could have gotten onto the ship to escape, but it actually makes sense. Otherwise, the Infinity Stone inside would have been left adrift at the site where the world it was known to be on just exploded, for anyone to amble along and pick up. That may not be Loki’s motivation, but Thanos did promise to hunt him down if he didn’t bring him the Cube. And according to descriptions of the unreleased Infinity War trailer shown at Disney’s D23 event, one scene pictures a kneeling Loki…handing Thanos the cube.
If you think Loki’s constant betrayals are getting old, there’s another wrinkle: perhaps he agreed to serve Thanos again in order to spare the survivors of Asgard.

The movie definitely delivered on the title
Going in, I did not expect the film would follow the comics, in which, last I read, Ragnarok really happened and Asgard as we knew it was destroyed. In fact, the movie followed that pretty closely, with the exception of Loki not being the one to initiate the apocalypse. Asgard is gone, and Thor is getting ready to re-home his people on earth, similar to the comics Thor. This seems like a pretty bold move for the movies, but really, the Thor series and character were too tethered to Asgard, in many ways. Ragnarok was obviously meant as a clear break with the dour and serious tone of the previous Thor movies, and severing the character’s ties to Asgard was a necessary step. Also, I know critics aren’t supposed to like final battles, but that one was pretty epic. I don’t recall a giant green monster fighting Fenrir in the original myths.

Throwing the cast together really works
There’s not much to elaborate on here. Tessa Thompson kicks major ass and is mercifully not set up much as a love interest. Loki and Thor work as well as they always do. The Hulk and Banner fit surprisingly well, with Mark Ruffalo playing off the proceeding as himself as well as he does when he’s CGi-ed up. Karl Urban seems to have had a lot of scenes cut behind those meaningful looks, but his role works fairly well. Idris Elba’s Heimdall finally gets more to do than stand there looking serious, and it’s about damn time. Several movies could easily be made out of this group. Even Benedict Cumberbatch’s brief appearance as Doctor Strange is fun. The only letdown is no appearance by Jamie Alexander’s Sif. It would have been great to see her and Valkyrie get into a drunken arm-wrestling match. I also need to mention that Thompson’s inclusion pisses off racists, which is awesome.

Marvel’s villains keep improving
I’ve never been on the all-Marvel’s-villains-suck bandwagon, but there’s no question 2017 has seen their best ones yet. The Vulture from Spider-Man still takes the prize, but Cate Blanchett’s Hela is deliciously dark, and Jeff Goldblum’s deliciously devious Grandmaster is a treat. It’s honestly hard for me to see how Thanos could top any of 2017’s baddies.

Taika Waititi!
He can do no wrong. Everybody run out and see Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows, right now. I wouldn’t whine if they had him back for the next film.