Anghus Houvouras on whether Thor: Ragnarok is the best Marvel movie ever…
There you go! Nice, succinct, spoiler-free and to the point. I suppose there are those who want more detail, so allow me to elaborate. Spoilers ahead my friends.
THOR: RAGNAROK IS THE BEST MARVEL MOVIE. Better than Iron Man. Better than The Avengers. Better than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Better than Guardians of the Galaxy. After four or five years of being completely ambivalent about Marvel Studios and their ridiculously similar, formulaic content I found myself blasted out of the back of the theater at the awesomeness of the third Thor movie.
How the hell did this happen? Let’s break it down.
It’s the most COMIC BOOK movie since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
One of my biggest gripes about Marvel over the past few years is their attempts at bringing their larger than life characters into a more realistic realm of existence. Where comic books are collections of over-the-top antics and heroics only limited by the imagination of the writer and artist, the movies have had to try and capture that magic in the grey-brown filter of our reality. Occasionally we get more out-of-the-box adaptations like James Gunn’s excellent, intergalactic Guardians of the Galaxy and Scott Derrickson’s mind-bending Doctor Strange. However, most Marvel movies are mired by the reality, physics and limitations of real life both with the action and lucidity.
Thor: Ragnarok is an absolutely mental movie experience that embraces the lunacy of the comics and unleashes it into an exceptional piece of action entertainment. Director Taika Waititi has crafted something special in terms of an epic comic-book style story with great production and visual design. This is the first Marvel film that, for me, captures the creative limitlessness of the comic books. From the inspired visual design and cinematography to the massive real-spanning story. Waititi has created a lush, rich world to be explored.
Finally, a Marvel movie that understands the importance of character.
A beautiful world is pointless if the lead characters are a collection of charisma-free bores (Valerian, I’m looking at you). Ragnarok gives us a nice collection of characters each with their own particular arc to undertake. While you would expect good character arcs for Thor and Loki, even the supporting cast gets a chance to become three-dimensional. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is my favorite character to come along since Michael Rooker’s exceptional Yondu. Bruce Banner/Hulk gets a chance to do something other than smash. Even Karl Urban’s Skurge gets a nice redemptive storyline. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, the entire cast is given an opportunity to shine.
The Villains are… pretty good
We know that the average Marvel villain is about as exciting as a box of flavor free tofu covered in liquid paper. Ragnarok makes some improvements providing a handful of villainous presences that do a pretty decent job of upping the stakes. Cate Blanchett’s Hela is entertaining and appropriately frightening. Her motives are painfully one-dimensional, but her brutality more than makes up for it. Karl Urban does a good job as the morally conflicted Skurge. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is entertaining, but he’s too shticky and prefers to deliver punchlines instead of dread. Waititi took a Rick Sanchez approach to the Grandmaster. While it worked well as a bit, it was played more for laughs than chills. Kind of like Ronald ‘Mac’ McDonald’s portrayal of Night-Man in the poorly received Day-Man musical by Charlie Kelly.
A third act that doesn’t feel pointless
We all know that most third acts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe consist of dense, mind-numbing action sequences that assault the eyes and ears. Pointless fights like the ends of Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel likes the big, crowd-pleasing action sequences. The difference with Thor: Ragnarok is in the construction and the consequences. Yes, actual consequences. The final act of Ragnarok gives us some awesome, well constructed set-pieces that feel appropriately epic. Waititi also takes a nice sharp left turn on the corner of Expectations Boulevard by letting our heroes prevail at a great cost. Instead of saving Asgard, Thor and his rag-tag group of heroes have to sacrifice the realm to defeat Hela. For the first time in ages we end a Marvel movie with the hero being dealt a difficult loss. Not some low-stakes nonsense like Peter Parker losing the girl or a few dangling threads that haven’t yet been tied. Asgard is an ashen wasteland. The remaining population of this once great plane of existence are now on a ship headed to Earth. Now, more than ever, Thor needs to step up and be a leader to his people. It is, by far, the most interesting ending to any of the Marvel movies delivering both drama and pathos.
A Marvel Team-Up that doesn’t feel forced
I wondered how this Hulk/Thor Marvel Team-Up would play on the big screen. Shoehorning the famous Planet Hulk storyline into a Thor movie felt like a potentially perilous journey, but it ends up feeling pretty organic given the circumstances. Thor and Hulk make a great team on the big screen.
Sure. The movie isn’t perfect. Some of the comedy feels forced and too frequent. There are times when Chris Hemsworth feels like he just graduated from Sunnydale High School after completing the Joss Whedon school of sarcastic zingers and comedic timing. However, even with minor gripes this is by far the most entertaining, epic, fun, over-the-top, ridiculously entertaining movie Marvel Studios has ever produced.