Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Comedy
Run Time: 2hrs 10min
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Based on the comics by: Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Jack Kirby
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Distributed by: Disney Pictures
Developed by: Marvel Studios
Many forget that back in 2011, the first Thor movie laid the groundwork for the mind-bending cosmic action we’ve come to expect from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. But as the looming threat of interstellar forces gained further traction within the MCU, so too did the potential for exploration. Leading to Thor’s follow-up film [The Dark World] and driving audiences head on into the wild adventures of Marvel’s band of misfit heroes led by Peter Quill. Now, as they should, Marvel Studios has once more looked to the God of Thunder to up the interstellar ante and with that opportunity, Director Taika Waititi and his own band of misfits have redefined the limits of the MCU.
Let me first begin by stating that Thor: Ragnarok is everything you’ve already heard and yet, so much more. Yes, Thor and Hulk have a great on-screen bromance. Yes, Cate Blanchett is fantastic. And yes, it’s laugh out loud funny. But most of that can be discerned simply by watching the trailers and as far as Ms. Blanchetts credits, think about it and tell me, when has she not been great in a film?
What is missed, however, is how much growth we see in the characters throughout the film and how big the stakes are within the greater MCU narrative. These are, by far, the biggest strengths of the film and leads me to assert it as the most well written Marvel film yet.
There are several character driven stories in this film that are central to the plot but each has a unique path within the narrative and each is given a perfect balance of emotional context which sets the stage for their growth within the film. While our core cast of MCU alum are each given subtle ques to this growth throughout the film, this effort shines most in the back stories of new arrivals. As these are cleverly interjected and provide that much needed “audience buy-in” that is so often lacked in large ensemble films.
I could write an entire article on the cast’s stellar work alone. But I’ll save that for the inevitable spoiler review that will follow-up on PCU closer to the film’s release date and instead I will focus this review on the merit of the film from a technical standpoint. That being said, the art design, costumes, sound, lighting and special effects are all top notch. Hulk’s CG rendering gets exponentially better with each film and the desire to keep alien races limited prevents over saturation of on screen CG characters; allowing for better focus on those presented. Additionally, when warranted, integral members of the film are seamlessly enhanced by the technology.
The sound track is superb and the timing of its injection is just as exciting as the on screen action. That is, it adds to the visuals rather than detract from them. Just as was demonstrated by the film’s initial trailer. Which utilized Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to amazing, blood tingling, goose bump giving, rock your face off effect. Additionally, adding to the mood, there are several classical compositions which provide emotional ques as the films tone shifts between drama and action/adventure, to include Thor’s signature intro music.
With all these accolades, special mention MUST be made of the art direction of this film. From costume and set designs to the lush color pallet, specifically those of the Sakarians and their home world. The art department took Waititi’s vision of the remote civilization and brought it to life with stunning beauty. Fans of comic book legends Jack Kirby and Jon Romita Jr. will note their ever-present inspiration in the exciting use of energetic auroras, gnarly outfits and geometric patterns. Everyone else will be mesmerized by the colors, grandeur and out of this world premise of the film.
As for story, as was mentioned before, there are a host of characters in this film and each was handled beautifully. While some changes were made from their comic book counterparts for the sake of continuity and streamlining, these improved upon the characters from an MCU narrative standpoint.
The story also provided several twists and turns that I WAS NOT expecting, to include some nice, albeit unorthodox, cameos that only the most devout spoiler searcher may have somehow been aware of prior to the screening. This rollercoaster of uncertainty was set in motion early on in the film with an unexpected death and left me thinking, “well, if that one’s dead, all bets are off!”; as I had no clue as to the ultimate direction of the film, until its climactic conclusion. A rare case for comic films in general.
Now, with all this praise, we must acknowledge that no film is ever perfect and while there are no MAJOR shortfalls, there are a couple of minor ones. Specifically, three potentially avoidable exceptions to the films canonal success involving Hela’s existence, “The Warriors Three” and “The Lady Sif” which I will discuss in spoilers. However, these do not significantly detract from the story the production team chose to tell. Yet, had they been addressed, this may have solidified the film as the best made comic book movie to date!
In all, the audience members I spoke to after the screening loved the film. Of these, most were fans of the MCU and/or comic books movies in general. But only approximately 10% of those surveyed were traditional comic book fans and none were very familiar with silver age Thor canon. Given this, it is safe to say, that your average movie goer will likely enjoy this film. However, apart from my own opinion, I am unsure of how die-hard Thor fans may react to the film.
Ultimately, Thor: Ragnarok delivers on all fronts. The team behind this film should be extremely proud and I foresee a tremendous outing at the box office. While there may be some lag in ticket sales upon release of the Justice League, it is safe to predict a stellar overall run for the God of Thunder and his makeshift team…
Final Rating: 4.8 Shattered Mjolnir’s out of 5
Special thanks to Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, Reel Time Cinemas, AAFES, the 90th Missile Wing, and the F.E. Warren AFB Theater staff for coordinating this pre-screening and making this review possible. As military members, both we and our families greatly appreciate these unexpected treats and look forward to their presentation as soon as they are announced. Thank you for your continued support of the U.S. Military.