By: Kevin Jordan
Among other things, here’s what I said about Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 - “It felt like two hours of dudes fucking around on a film set for two-plus hours and calling it a movie.” Thor: Ragnarok is those same dudes throwing an epic party where everything goes off perfect and everyone talks about it for the rest of their lives. Lucky for you, everyone is invited.
(Mild SPOILERS and I’m sorry for all of them.)
The film picks up two years after the events of Age of Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) dangling in a cage, then bantering with a fire demon. This scene is extremely important in that it sets the tone of the movie at roughly a beer and a shot into the party. Serious, semi-moody Thor is no more, replaced with a Thor who has obviously been hanging out with Star-Lord a lot. Immediately following this scene is another in which Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is eating grapes while watching a revisionist version of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) death. Since we all remember the end of Thor: The Dark World, we know that isn’t really Odin and Thor confronts him. Like the opening scene, this one is all fun and giggles and the tone is now the same as you answering the door at the party and greeting the guy with the cooler full of Jell-O shots and he is Jeff Goldblum.
In a movie bursting with great actors and brilliant performances, you can’t go wrong picking any of them. For me, Goldblum as Grandmaster wins because the role fit him to a tee. Grandmaster governs a planet that is one giant garbage dump (literally), running gladiatorial death games as the main entertainment. Grandmaster is Dr. Malcolm, Jack Sparrow, and The Dude hitting a bong while hosting a game show. Brilliant is almost an understatement in this case.
The rest of the movie is a series of those scenes featuring characters as awesome as Grandmaster. It’s scene after scene of max fun, silliness, standout performances, and perfectly timed jokes. And, it gets even better than that because this movie has a plot and also moves us much closer to Infinity War. Ragnarok is a prophecy foretelling the destruction of Asgard, as Thor and Loki learn from the dying Odin. They also learn they have an exiled sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the God of Death, who draws all of her power from Asgard. Pretty ominous, right? Don’t worry. She is easily having as much fun in this movie as everyone else and Hela is weirdly endearing. Anyway, she follows Thor and Loki in one of those rainbow teleporter tunnels and makes it to Asgard, while knocking Loki and Thor out prior to their arrival (that’s how they end up on the trash planet). Unfortunately, Heimdall (Idris Elba) disappears with the big sword that works the teleporter, so she’s stuck in Asgard and can’t begin her conquest of the universe. You might think the party just took a turn for the serious, but Blanchett is the one doing keg stands and kicking everyone’s ass at beer pong.
That’s the crux of it and it’s so simple. Thor must escape the garbage planet to stop Hela from going on a conquering spree. Where it ties into the greater MCU narrative is in the supporting cast and where the movie ends up when the credits roll. And what party isn’t complete without the main body of guests? Since standalone Incredible Hulk movies have not gone well, and Ironman and Captain America got their buddy film, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) returns after disappearing during the climactic battle against Ultron to form another Avengers buddy movie with Thor. Since there is no way you haven’t seen a trailer for Ragnarok, you already know that Thor has to face off against Hulk in Grandmaster’s arena and it is you doing navel shots and everyone dancing to Love Shack (baby).
Dancing with you is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who is as badass as anyone in the film in a fight and seems as if she’s been part of this franchise since Tony Stark blasted out of that cave so many years ago. The chemistry she has with Hemsworth and Ruffalo defies belief and she damn well better be invited to the next party. Behind you is Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who didn’t stay at the party too long (one scene), but reminds you why he’s always invited. His scene is more of a foreshadowing of things to come, but he gets to show off his power and match witticisms with Thor and Loki. If Strange’s toying with Thor and Loki and casually dismissing them means anything it’s that he’s going to be pivotal when Thanos finally makes his move. Finally, that’s Skurge (Karl Urban) over there in the corner, wanting to join the dance, but not sure how to. He seems out of place and uncomfortable and nobody remembers inviting him. He hangs out with Hela for survival purposes and is basically a lost puppy dog for most of the film, but damned if he doesn’t bring it when the life-sized Jenga challenges are thrown down. Ok, I’m really stretching the analogy, so let’s wrap this party up.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen actors visibly having as much fun in a movie as in Ragnarok. The ease in which these characters come to life in the most entertaining ways possible is astounding, even for such seasoned actors as these. I especially loved unrestrained Hemsworth and Blanchett knocking their performances out of the park. The movie pushes the boundaries of action-comedy to the brink of absurdity, but there’s just enough restraint to keep it from crossing the line. Yeah, there are tiny moments of stupidity (they couldn’t resist a bad poop joke, Hulk somehow stays Hulk for two solid years, and Hulk even manages to speak in almost complete sentences now), but what epic party doesn’t include the guy puking in the bushes? Everyone else helps puking guy to a bed to sleep it off, then they all sing 80s rock ballads until they’re hoarse. By the end of the night, they all pass out together in one giant mass of bodies in the living room, waking up with all their clothes on and realizing, with a smile, that everyone is still just friends. It’s the party of the year, friends.
Rating: Worth ten times (or more) what you’ll pay for it and you won’t stop talking about it for months.