A cast of colorful personalities, an interesting story and a beautiful swath of visual effects sets “Thor: Ragnarok” apart from prior installments in a very important way: it’s funny without having to insist it is.
After four prior portrayals as Thor, Chris Hemsworth, and the franchise as a whole, needed something new. Installments were becoming bland, and the Marvel movie “formula” was beginning to show through in a bad way. So: they threw him into a ring with the Hulk, surrounded him with distinct accomplices, from the far reaches of the universe, and gave him an opponent he couldn’t possibly overcome.
The actors for “Thor: Ragnarok” were clearly given a lot of liberties in playing their roles. This goes doubly so for Thor himself. As a result, the movie’s two-hour runtime is rife with hilarious back-and-forth exchanges and a unique sort of style not-yet seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why it took the studio so long to allow the franchise to be what it’s deserved to be for a while, we may never understand; but getting to see it, finally, is at least satisfying.
It’s no less of a spectacle for the names called to the stage either. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki to have his character laid out to bare, Mark Ruffalo used this opportunity to play more of the Hulk and Jeff Goldblum makes the interim antagonist, the Headmaster, fairly difficult to actually dislike.
In a way, it was Cate Blanchett as Hela—the movie’s pivotal antagonist—that commanded attention when she was on the screen. It’s difficult to believe such a likable woman could pull off such a sinister and imposing character, but it’s all the more credit to her talent as an actor. It’s unfortunate that she was relegated to the duller parts of the film: Asgard continued to feel like an idea rather than an actual place with citizens and, because of that, the only value in Hela’s appearances was to showcase her terrifying power and to move forward her agenda.
A fantastic character she could have been. Unfortunately, there wasn’t room for everyone in the spotlight. Instead, an intergalactic junkyard and a host of the strangest characters along with a distinct few (including Tessa Thompson as 142, Thor and the Hulk’s resourceful new ally) were given all the space that they needed to allow Hemsworth to re-envision Thor as a character, with every back-and-forth inside of a room made of vibrant personalities.
Apart from other installments, Ragnarok sees that Thor actually changes and matures—for the better, to be sure. For how genuinely funny and exciting the film was otherwise, my only grievance is that he didn’t have a chance to really interact with Hela, whose actions made it possible for that change to happen.