I watched Thor: Ragnarok (2017) last week and loved it. It wasn’t the perfect film, but of the three “Thor” movies, it was clearly the best.
Things I Liked
I really liked the dynamic, both between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and between Thor and Banner (although, in a way, it’s the same thing). I’m glad that Thor not only was able to hold his own against the Hulk, but actually beat him, that is until the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) cheated by triggering Thor’s pain-inducing device.
They ended up being “odd couple” buddies, which brings up another point.
The two previous Thor films and just about any solo movie version of the Hulk have all been pretty blah. These are characters who have successfully carried their own comic book titles for decades. Why don’t they translate well to film?
In the Avengers films, they are a lot easier to take, but all by themselves, not so much. I think part of the magic of this movie is that the two cinematic characters complement each other, sort of a weird yin and yang.
I also loved Dr. Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) involvement. He totally owned Thor, but then again the God of Thunder wasn’t trying to kill him. When Loki tried to kill Strange, suddenly, he and Thor were in Norway, and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) was about to die. I suppose this is to keep the character in the minds of the fans (and, of course, his appearance in this years Avengers: Infinity Wars does that as well), since the rumored release date for “Dr. Strange 2” is 2020.
I was surprised I loved Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, only because I thought she’d be unimaginably difficult to portray. I must say that Blanchett did a creditable job in the role, but I still think John Buscema’s Hela is way hotter (I also admit that, since I’ve never read Thor comic books, I can’t speak to the differences in the personalities of the cinematic vs. comic book Helas).
Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is way, way different from how he is portrayed in the comic books, since as one of the Elders of the Universe, he should have been a lot more badass and above it all. However, since, with some significant exceptions, this film had a lighter and more comedic feel, Goldblum’s interpretation fit right in.
Things I Didn’t Like
There’s not much I didn’t like about the movie, but I think casting Karl Urban as Skurge/The Executioner was a big mistake. I mean, have you ever seen the Executioner in the comic books? The guy is massive. He looks bigger than Thor and totally humorless (at least as I remember him from the 1960s/70s). He may not have been particularly bright, but he more than made up for that by being especially threatening. By comparison, Urban played him as a hapless stooge who, thankfully, had a change of heart and saved the day near the end of the film.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Karl Urban as an actor. He turns in a solid performance in anything I’ve seen him in, including this movie. It’s just that physically, he couldn’t carry the role, at least in my opinion, plus, while the Enchantress (I’d have loved to see her make an appearance in this movie, and maybe even find a way to help the Executioner escape to fight another day) may have manipulated his love for her, he generally wasn’t anyone’s buffoon.
Things I’m Ambivalent About
I thought Tessa Thompson played the drunken, disillusioned, PTSD-suffering Valkyrie well, but I had the same problem with her that I had with Urban, she didn’t physically carry the role. The original comic book Valkyrie, while “shaped” in a very “feminine” manner and not being particularly muscled, was tall and definitely someone you never wanted to mess with.
Tessa Thompson is 5′ 4″ which is the average height for women in the U.S., and while I can’t get a firm statistic as far as the 1970s Valkyrie’s height, I’m guessing it approaches six foot. I’m including a couple of comic book covers indicating her size relative to the Thing and the Hulk (and I’m aware there are multiple modern versions of the character, with one of them being based on Thompson).
Now I know someone out there is going to think I’m being racist, since the original Valkyrie was white and Thompson is of Afro-Panamainian and Mexican/British Isles descent, but I’ve long since adjusted to the idea that the cinematic Asgard is made up of multiple races, just like human life on Earth (this is both the necessity of needing to cast as wide a net as possible over the pool of available acting talent, and to satisfy the requirements of inclusiveness and diversity, Norse mythology notwithstanding). After all, we saw an Asian Vulcan briefly in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and in Star Trek: Voyager, the Vulcan Tuvok was played by African-American actor Tim Russ. An alien species can be made up of multiple races.
Thompson being a person of color did nothing to detract from the role, and as I said above, I think she really honed in on the tragic aspects of the character, and being the sole survivor of the Valkyries. I also understand that Thompson trained physically for the role, but all that said, it’s really a matter of height and a certain presence. Comparatively speaking, Gal Gadot totally owns the role of Wonder Woman, so it’s definitely possible and reasonable to have a woman play a totally kickass hero.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was, as always, a joy to watch, but he seemed to lack a certain amount of punch or menace this time around. Yes, he was mischievous, but it seemed like he was always scared or getting his ass kicked. Granted, he was frightened of the Hulk, and with good reason, but if he couldn’t outfight Thor, he could usually outwit him. Of course, Loki’s true character is revealed in the first few minutes of “Infinity Wars,” which the end of this movie segues into, but I have to say I was disappointed that Valkyrie beat him so easily. I thought he’d put up more of a fight.
Oh, by the way, as you saw in one of the images above, in the 1960s comic book “Strange Tales,” Dr. Strange did encounter Loki and was almost killed by him. Strange was totally outclassed and only the timely appearance of Thor saved the good doctor. Yes, Loki is supposed to be magically very powerful.
Then there was the destruction of Asgard. Yes, it was necessary to defeat Hela and have a climatic end to the saga, but what is Thor without Asgard? For that matter, the vast majority of Asgardian warriors were killed by Hela, so all you’ve got left are a small band of civilian refuges limping along through space toward possible sanctuary on Earth. Without the legendary home of the Nordic gods, where does that leave Thor?
And did the plot really require that Thor lose an eye? And what about Thor’s hammer? How can he be Thor without the hammer?
I admit that I don’t know much about the development of Marvel characters beyond the early to mid-1980s, so I’m sure there have been changes since then that, if I were aware of them, would explain much of what I saw in this film. That’s a given.
The Wrap Up
As I mentioned up top, I really loved this film. If you haven’t seen it, I think you’d enjoy it (and since it is a direct lead in to “Avengers: Infinity Wars,” it fills in a few gaps, so there’s that. Also, if you’ve seen this movie but not “Infinity Wars,” the latter completes the cliffhanger this movie ends on, though perhaps not the ultimate fate of the survivors of Asgard.