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TAC Reviews...Thor: Ragnarok

 

Okay, let me get this right…Thor: Ragnarok is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees Chris Hemsworth once again stepping into the role of Thor, the God of Thunder with Anthony Hopkins returning as Odin with Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Joining them is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and the Hulk with Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Goddess of Death.

 

Thor Ragnarok Poster

 

I have to say that Thor has quickly become my favourite Avenger, he is not only powerful, but he also has a sense of humour. Plus it is pretty obvious that Chris Hemsworth has an absolute ball portraying him, unfortunately as we have seen in the MCU it is not often that the third film surrounding a single character is actually any good. Iron Man was the strongest of the three films with them getting steadily worse as things went on. Captain America’s third film was more like an Avengers movie as the majority of the assembled Avengers returned with the only exceptions being Thor and Hulk. Will Thor: Ragnarok be something great or will it, like Iron Man 3, suffer from Tired Trinity Syndrome?? Well, lets find out…

 

It has been two years since we last saw Thor in The Age of Ultron, since then Thor has been roaming the Nine Realms trying to find the Infinity Stones and also prevent the end of Asgard known as Ragnarok. As the film opens we find Thor is a cage being held by the fire demon Surtur, the entity that will cause Ragnarok, who also informs him that his father Odin is not in Asgard. Thor defeats him and his minions then returns to home. Upon his return he realises that Surtur was correct and his father Odin, is actually his brother Loki in disguise, and forces Loki to tell him where their father is.

 

The pair returns to Earth and with a little help from Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch in a cameo) locate Odin in Norway. There Odin tells his sons that his time has come, and warns them that upon his death Hela, the Goddess of Death, and Odin’s first born child will be released. Odin was the only thing preventing her escaping her banishment, and sure enough as Odin turns to dust, Hela appears seeking to reclaim the throne of Asgard. Thor throws his mighty hammer at his sister but she snaps out her hand and before the horrified eyes of the God of Thunder she shatters the hammer into pieces. Loki calls for the Bifrost and as it appears the three are whisked back towards Asgard, on the way, Loki and Thor are thrown out, whilst Hela makes it back to Asgard. She informs the citizens that she is the true heir to the throne as she is Odin’s first born, and together she and her farther conquered the Nine Realms before her father decided to seek peace and exiled her. The people reject Hela and the soldiers take up arms against her but are swiftly and mercilessly killed by the far more powerful Goddess of Death.

 

Thor awakens on a world named Sakaar, surrounded by portals that seem to be dumping and endless stream of rubbish onto the surface; he is attacked and subdued by a powerful woman called Scrapper 142 who attaches as device to his neck that renders him unable to move. She sells him to the Grandmaster (portrayed by Jeff Goldblum) who wants challengers to fight in a Gladiatorial style arena against his Champion.

 

Thor has no choice and once he enters the ring he is confronted by none other than Hulk. Initially happy because the two can escape together Thor realises that the Hulk has made a life for himself as the Champion and doesn’t want to return to Earth, nor does he have any desire to help Thor escape.

 

Meanwhile Hela tears through anyone in Asgard who opposes her and sets her sights on the throne wishing to once again spread chaos throughout the Nine Realms, and unless Thor can escape the arena then he will be powerless to stop her.

 

Does this film fall into the Tired Trinity Syndrome category??

 

Hell no, in fact I would go so far as to say this is one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But before I get too far ahead of myself I’ll drop this then we can get cracking…

 

(...Spoilers Ahead...)

 

Like I said above Thor is my favourite of the Avengers as whilst he is as strong as the Hulk he also has a sense of humour about things. I think perhaps the idea of a God of Thunder is so ridiculous that it needs to be tongue in cheek for it to work, and honestly this film’s tongue is so far in its cheek it is in danger of burrowing through to the other side. The film is more of an action comedy with Thor getting knocked down, hit in the face, and getting into various scrapes all of which are intentionally hilarious, however, the film also knows when to take things a bit more seriously.

 

I do think that it was a bit of a shame that everyone knew the Hulk was going to be in the film, because there is a lot of build up for the Grand Master’s Champion with other characters telling Thor that many have died in the ring facing him. Naturally Thor has no idea who he is going to be facing but the audience knows because in the trailers, on posters and various other marketing material the Hulk has been plastered all over it. If they had kept that a secret how awesome would the reveal of the Hulk have been??

 

How Hulk arrived on the planet is not made clear, however, he has been the Hulk for two years after simply not changing back into Banner after the events of Age of Ultron. As a result he has more of a personality, he can talk more, and basically has a good life as the Grand Master’s Champion. The majority of the film he is Hulk, and whilst he does change back into Banner for a while, it is the Hulk that we get to spend a decent amount of time with. The chemistry between Helmsworth and Ruffalo is also joyous because when they meet in the ring Thor tries to talk the Hulk down using the words and hand-hold thing that Black Widow did in Avengers but it doesn’t work as, presumably, he isn’t Black Widow. Later when Banner is back and starts freaking out about being Hulk for two years and being on an unknown alien planet Thor keeps repeating the words in the hopes of keeping him calm…they work brilliantly on screen together and all in all Thor and Hulk are both great fun to watch bouncing off one another.

 

The side characters especially a rock-like creature are all hugely entertaining and a pleasure to watch. The rock-guy’s accent is New Zealand I think, and it makes a change for a tough character to be so soft spoken. Jeff Goldblum just basically plays himself but he is clearly having run, and makes an interesting villain that has also befriended Loki who arrived on the planet before Thor did.

 

The special effects are fantastic and the Hulk’s motion-capture and CGI spot on…you know what, in all honestly I could just go on and on and on talking about everything that is great with the film, but that would be pretty much everything, so let’s talk about the couple of occasions when it fumbles, rather than drops, the ball.

 

Karl Urban plays Skurge who has taken over controlling the Bifrost from Heimdall (Idris Elba) who went into a self-imposed exile whilst Loki was disguised as Odin. Elba does have a more major role later in the film when he helps the vulnerable Asgardians to find shelter after Hela slaughters anyone who stands against her, including Thor’s friends from the previous films. Skurge joins with Hela but his reasons for doing so are shaky at best, and he turns against her in the film’s climax anyway. I think he is only there so Hela has someone to talk to, explain her motivations to, and so on. He really serves no real purpose beyond that. It is a shame because I like Karl Urban and think he is a decent actor but there isn’t much for him to do here apart from walk around, mostly in the background behind Hela, and look increasingly disturbed by her actions.

 

One of the main things that we saw in the trailer for the film was Thor throwing his Hammer at Hela and it being shattered. This happened in an alleyway in the trailer but in Norway in the actual film, now up to this point we have been lead to believe that the Hammer is the source of Thor’s power, however it turns out that it isn’t. The Hammer focuses his power but it is a tool more than anything else…which makes me wonder how he was rendered mortal in the first Thor film and only returned to being a God once he proved himself worthy enough to lift the Hammer. It would be like someone telling me that I can’t run anymore without my trainers only for me to discover I can run barefoot if I want. It doesn’t make much sense to me. By the end of the film Thor realises that he has power regardless of the Hammer but it is still a pretty useful weapon to have around, in the beginning he prevents a dragon-like creature from eating him by dropping it on the creature’s tongue preventing it from moving. This plot point raises a few questions that aren’t explained. If the Hammer was never the source of Thor’s power why does it matter if someone else picks it up?? Why can it only be wielded by someone worthy when we see Hela welding it during the reign of destruction that she and Odin brought down upon the Nine Realms?? If the Hammer has now been shattered can the individual pieces be picked up?? Or as it was never the source of Thor’s power if it was reformed could anyone pick it up and use it?? The questions just go on…

 

Plus Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo also left me a tad disappointed. Basically Thor and Loki travel to Earth to the nursing home Loki dumped Odin at after brainwashing him, only to find out it has been knocked down, Dr Strange appears and tells them where Odin is, sends them there…and is not seen again. As we saw the Hammer being shattered in an alleyway, I assumed the fight takes place in New York, and later on Dr Strange would find the pieces and using his newly discovered mastery of sorcery would reform the Hammer before sending it back to Thor. Again, this doesn’t happen. Basically it is a quick cameo not much longer than what we saw at the end of Doctor Strange and that is it, yet strangely Cumberbatch receives high billing when the credits roll.

My criticisms are all tiny though compared to how much praise I could heap onto this film.

 

 

Essentially the good in the film massively out-weighs the bad, and this film is an absolute joy to watch. My only concern is that as I sit here writing this review I am still smiling about how funny some of the scenes were. The problem is I remember seeing Blade Trinity and laughing most of the way through thanks to Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal of Hannibal King. Unfortunately it was only after I stopped laughing on subsequent viewings that I really saw how bad the film actually was. So when I’m not laughing anymore I don’t know if my opinion of Thor Ragnarok will drop, but I seriously doubt it will because this is an amazing film.

 

Great action, knows when to be funny and when to be serious, excellent cast with a brilliant cameo from Matt Damon plus awesome characters…what more can you say…this film is amazing and gets a Hulk sized Thumbs Up. Easily one of the best films of the MCU and considering how good some of those films have been that is saying something.

 

 

9/10 – The film is just an absolute joy to watch from beginning to end, Thor is great, the Hulk is great, the characters are great…basically if you haven’t seen it then take my advice and drop what you are doing and go watch this film

 

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© Chris Sharman