Minor spoilers ahead.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Evil Dead franchise, allow me to sum up general themes of the first three movies. The first films took themselves fairly seriously, but the third film, Army of Darkness, took on a comedic tone and was very self-aware. This accurately describes the path the Thor: Ragnarok has taken, complete with an undead skeleton army.
The opening monologue of Ragnarok tells what to expect. Thor makes jokes. He no longer speaks “Shakespeare in the Park” rhetoric, but with a familiarity you’d expect from your buddy doing his best Thor impression. Today’s Thor is more reminiscent of a devil-may-care superhero, kind of like Iron Man. Or Ant Man. Or Starlord. Or Doctor Strange. Boy, we’re going to wait and see how these guys will mesh in Avengers: Infinity War.
But Thor as a smart aleck worked for me. Would the champion of an entire realm have so little of an ego? Of course not. Could his extended time on Earth have given him a sense of a humor? Sure. But the small important moments- such as the farewell of Anthony Hopkins’ Odin- are overlooked as our villainess emerges and smashes Thor’s hammer to pieces.
The goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), has emerged from exile and plans to conquer Asgard. I’m a little confused as to whether it’s her or the fire demon from the opening scene who’s supposed to bring on Ragnarok, but either way, things do not look good for Thor’s people. Among those unceremoniously massacred are the supporting Asgardian characters from the first two Thor movies. First to go is Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Zachary Levi), but I’m sure the latter was already beginning to prep for the lead role in DC’s upcoming Shazam movie. Lady Sif is unscathed and can still return in the future, as her actress (Jaimie Alexander) was unable to reprise the role due to a conflicting schedule. Too bad Tadanobu Asano (Hogun) was free, but at least his character gets an honorable death scene.
In any other context, I might feel more hesitant to reveal such major deaths…but they’re not really treated as such in the movie. The director of Thor: Ragnorok, Taika Waititi, is new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and perhaps didn’t quite find time to dignify these characters’ deaths. This is something I prefer, since characters should always come second to jokes about alcoholism, orgies, and a portal cheerfully referred to as the “Devil’s Anus.” Treated with much more respect are Hulk/Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). While I would have preferred Lou Ferrigno reprising his role as the voice of Hulk, IMDb claims that eighty percent of this film’s dialogue was improvised, so it follows that Ruffalo get to fully embody the character he was cast to play. Thompson shines as the fierce and feisty aforementioned alcoholic
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Idris Elba and Jeff Goldblum. Elba’s Heimdall has been the most consistent Thor character and triumphs as the kind and noble warrior you don’t want to mess with. Goldblum hijacks several scenes in the movie while simultaneously being wacky and a cruel dictator.
The third Thor movie is a welcomed improvement over the previous two. Thor and Thor: The Dark World are probably my least favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an opinion far from unpopular. They failed to grip me with their drama and made me cringe with their humor. We have come to the point where the drama is sidestepped to allow comedy to dominate the spotlight, even if certain plot holes appear in the cracks (but in a fictional universe wherein seemingly everyone speaks English, I can’t really complain). While Thor: Ragnarok could have reeled in some of its sillier moments, there were enough epic moments to make me feel like a kid again. After all, who wouldn’t like seeing Thor fight a dragon while Led Zeppelin blares in the background?
For an MCU movie: 9/10
For an average movie: 7/10