Seven months ago, not a single person I knew cared that there was going to be a new “Thor” movie. Then the trailer dropped. The trailer promised a film that had fun in the face of fate, joy at the end of the world and Thor fighting the Hulk in a gladiator ring. It looked awesome, and seven months later I can say that the movie lived up to the trailer.
The plot of “Thor: Ragnarök” loosely revolves around Thor trying to stop Hela, the goddess of death, after she takes over Asgard and traps Thor and Loki on the planet Sakaar. In another film in another year, what would have likely followed is Thor doing pushups in a cave with a broken back, desperately training for his vengeful return to fight those who would invade his home. Instead, we get a movie that compares in tone and dare I say, the quality, to that of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” On Sakaar, we are introduced to the Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum, who is best described as “if the host of the Hunger Games was in charge of a planet.” He is probably also boosted. He is the de-facto villain on Sakaar, as he runs the gladiator ring that is keeping Thor on the planet. Along the way, we meet more heroes to help in Thor’s journey back to Asgard. Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson) is an Asgardian deserter with a “tragic past,” and the Hulk, (Mark Ruffalo) who is stuck as the Hulk for most of the movie.
This being Marvel, there are multiple fight scenes, most involving some disposable armies or a giant CGI character. It is to the film’s credit that they can somehow keep these tired tropes feeling fresh, and this time there is only sort of a sky beam. Every fight scene is good, and the Hulk looks better than ever. That being said, the best parts of the movie are not the fight scenes or the crazy graphics. The best parts are the characters interacting with each other, often being genuinely funny. Thor and the Hulk specifically have some great moments together that go beyond Whedon-esque quips.
I suppose a criticism of the movie is that there was very little character development within this movie. No characters in this story went on deep emotional journeys or changed as a character in any significant way. For my taste this is preferable to the approach of several Marvel movies that we have seen before. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is an example of a movie that I feel is a slog to get through. “Age of Ultron” is weighed down by the need to service every ensemble character with some emotional moment or a twenty-minute interlude to advertise Jeremy Renner’s house flipping career (look it up). “Ragnarök” is not concerned with adding more baggage to these characters that we have spent so much time with, and it frees every character to be the best version of themselves.
I am sure there is still a place for the moody hero in cinema, but in this tale of monsters, gods, and aliens, that would not be right. What Marvel does here is take the tone of “Guardians,” the aliens from “Star Wars,” the music from “Tron,” the closing scene from “Star Trek,” and make a great movie. Maybe at some point, we will all get tired of “Spider-man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and now “Thor” all essentially having the same tone, but for now, I am enjoying it. From beginning to end, this movie was above all else fun, and I was entertained.