Written by David Holland
At last, it’s time for one of the original Avengers to complete his trilogy. Iron Man has been done for ages (even if he does keep cropping up) and Captain America ended his solo run with the Civil War, so Thor has big boots to fill. Fortunately, he’s got some friends to help him!
The third Thor movie was directed by Taika Waititi (Director of “Jojo Rabbit“, an episode of “The Mandalorian, and “What We Do in the Shadows“). This is the third director of three movies, but Waititi puts his personal spin on this one. In fact, he even said that “a lot of what we’re doing with the film is, in a way, dismantling and destroying the old idea and rebuilding it in a way that’s fresh”.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, along with Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Idris Elba as Heimdall. Sir Anthony Hopkins said he didn’t plan to come back as Odin until he saw the script, and Natalie Portman did not return as Jane Foster. This opens a space for Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. She’s a refreshing change of pace from Foster since she is a female lead more than capable of keeping up with Thor instead of just being a damsel in distress.
Cate Blanchett took the role of Hela to make her kids happy, becoming the first female villain in the MCU. Wait, that can’t be right. We’re seventeen movies in and this is the first female villain? Well, she makes a heck of an entrance. Thor is one of the most powerful Avengers and she smacks him around. Hela’s return sends Thor across the universe to the colorful world of Sakaar, where we dip into the “Planet Hulk” comic storyline to bring Hulk/Banner into the fight as well.
How Does it Hold Up?
“Ragnarok” takes an intentionally different tone from the first two Thor films. “Thor” and “Dark World” were both straightforward superhero movies with a dash of mythologizing thrown in to make them feel more grandiose. Of course, I am also on the record saying that “Dark World” is the MCU’s most forgettable installment so you can probably guess how I feel about those two.
“Ragnarok” starts with nods to the previous installments. Then it subverts them all. Thor accomplishes incredible feats of strength with his trusty hammer, just like the first two movies. Then Hela breaks it. His friends (whom I call the Merry Men because I can’t remember any of their names) stand up to Hela and fight courageously, as they have in past movies. Then Hela kills them all (except Lady Sif, but that’s only because of Jaime Alexander’s scheduling conflicts with “Blindspot”). In fact, “Ragnarok” even pokes gentle fun at the self-indulgence of “Dark World” in Loki’s play, which uses actual lines from “Dark World”. Even Jane Foster is gone for this movie, but we have confirmation that she will be back AS Thor.
I think “Ragnarok” is the best Thor installment. If you’re not a fan of the quick banter or the physical comedy, you’re not going to love it. But “Ragnarok” doesn’t take itself too seriously. The 80’s sci-fi vibes shine through in the visuals and soundtrack. The movie is also not afraid to break up an emotional moment with a pratfall, let Jeff Goldblum chew the scenery, or lean into Chris Hemsworth’s surprising comedy chops.
In the first act of “Ragnarok”, Thor loses just about everything. His father, his hammer, and his throne are all ripped away from him. He goes from the confident hero who defeated Surtur in the beginning of the movie to exiled alone on a garbage pile. Thor’s losses lead him on a Kubler-Ross style journey from denial to acceptance. He has to come to peace with the fact that Odin is gone, leaving behind one more family secret in the form of Hela, goddess of death. When Thor finally confronts Hela in a desperate attempt to save his people, he does so without his trusted Mjolnir. In a vision, Odin chides him “Are you Thor, the god of hammers?” and helps Thor unlock his real potential as the God of Thunder.
Thor ultimately accepts the loss of his world, Asgard. His homeworld is the source of Hela’s power, so Thor releases Surtur and triggers Ragnarok in order to defeat her. But this leads him to his acceptance of his role – King of Asgard, the people not the place. In a way, maybe “acceptance” is a lesson we need here in Midgard too. There’s no going back for the Asgardians after Ragnarok. Their world is gone, nothing will ever be the same. When this quarantine started (way back in the days of Iron Man) people used to talk about things going back to normal. Now we’re looking at school, work, baseball, community gatherings, and everything else in our lives adapting to a new way of doing things. We may have accepted that things might not ever go back to the way they used to be, at least not here in the United States. The world is changing right before our eyes.