Out of all of the Marvel films that have been released in the last decade, I always felt that the Thor films were among the least enjoyable. Now, that is completely relative, because I would contend that even Thor: Dark World is better than the best offering in the latest round of DC films, but I digress.
Ironically, I felt that the Thor character was one of the most enjoyable in the Avengers films, but they just couldn't get the tone right in his stand-alone movies. That is until I finally watched Thor: Ragnarok. As the old say goes, the third time is the charm and this is certainly the case here as Ragnarok provides a well-balanced mix of laughs and action to create a near-perfect comic book movie.
The first two Thor films seemed to be darker and more pessimistic than their brethren and I always felt that they didn't really fit into the bigger story as easily as the other stand-alone films. I think Marvel films, in general, shifted more towards comedy with the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been all the better for it ever since.
Thor: Ragnarok follows the titular God of Thunder who is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and must get back to Asgard to stop the destruction of his homeworld at the hands of his sister, Hela. Along the way, he meets up with some old friends and new ones and even learns a couple of life lessons to boot.
Right off the bat (well, soon enough), it is pretty apparent that this film is not like the previous installments. Physically, the change manifests itself in a haircut for Thor which is itself a hilarious bit that I won't spoil for you in case you haven't seen the film yet. The tone is light and cheery while still holding enough of the lingering ominousness for the big action sequences in the back half of the film. It's pretty obvious that the filmmakers are trying to mimic the successful formula that Guardians of the Galaxy used to great success.
Two new characters help to establish this new balance in tone with the introduction of Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Cate Blanchett as the main villainess Hela. Valkyrie is a flawed hero from her opening scenes when she proves her might only to fall off her ship in a drunken stupor. On the other hand, Hela is pure badass and she brings a true villainess to the MCU that has up until now been in short supply. The fact that they could get someone as huge as Cate Blanchett to fill this role speaks volumes for the MCU as a whole.
Another secret ingredient to the success of Thor: Ragnarok is its director Taika Waititi. The relatively unknown director was given a massive vote of confidence when he was handed the reins to such a huge Marvel film. I mean, I loved What We Do in Shadows, but I wouldn't have immediately thought that the director of that film would be the top choice to helm the next Thor movie.
But his sense of style and humor that uniquely reflects his home country of New Zealand, is a wonderful match to the new direction of the MCU. Not only does he spend his time behind the camera, but the actor/diretor also took a pretty sizeable role for himself in front of the camera. He breathes life into the character Korg who crosses paths with Thor in the jail cell of Sakaar while awaiting their fates to entertain the Grandmaster.
Another thing that can't be understated is the visual style of Thor: Ragnarok and how it differs from the other Thor films. The first two Thor films have been very dark both in tone and visual style, but they opt for a complete 180 for Thor: Ragnarok.
The film is bright and the colors are vibrant, especially on Sakaar and if you get an immediate Jack Kirby feel while watching the film, that is intentional. The filmmakers relished the opportunity to inject some of Kirby's trademark style and colors to make the film feel more like the comic books upon which it is based.
I was fortunate to review the 4K UHD Blu-ray version of the film and it is absolutely beautiful. All of these colors on this vivid color palette pop on the screen and the Doby Atmos soundtrack handles all of the heavy action with ease. If you ever want to show your friends why 4K is better than Blu-ray, simply show them the street scenes of Sakaar in both formats and they will see the difference for themselves.
Marvel and Disney have packed this offering with a ton of goodies. Marvel's films are usually pretty decked out, but this film is truly special. There are several deleted and expanded scenes, numerous featurettes and some fabulously unique offerings like the 8 Bit scenes in which they turn a couple of scenes from the film into the popular 8 Bit video game format. These bonus features add to the experience and really show how much fun the filmmakers had in making the film.
Speaking of Taika Waititi, his director's commentary was truly both interesting and enlightening. For instance, he takes time to explain a very cool lighting sequence that I enjoyed but never appreciated until I listened to his commentary. But, he also keeps it light and had me laughing at several points. It is clearly worth the investment to go back and listen to his audio commentary.
If you couldn't guess by now, then you haven't been paying attention but I thoroughly enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. It was a big hit with my entire family and I felt it was one of the high water marks of the entire MCU. This film is definitely worth adding to your collection and it is currently available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD.