For those of you who have been involved in U.S. Thanksgiving-ness, hope it went well, even if you had to deal with family issues and weird political dynamics. For those who do not observe Thanksgiving for whatever reasons, hope your week went well and that your weekend goes well, too.
Anyway, I’m not a fan of consumeristic shopping cray, so today (the awful “Black Friday”) might be the perfect time for you to take in a movie. To that end, I highly recommend Thor Ragnarök as a way to spend a couple hours away from the maddening crowds.
Now, Thor isn’t necessarily a comic I follow faithfully, but I am aware of the various plotlines and I’ve seen all the other Thor movies and this one is totally my fave (I think it’s the best Thor movie yet) and below, I’ll tell you why.
So SPOILERS, people! SPOILERS below. If you don’t wanna know, stop reading.
Okay, so basically, what we have here is Thor in a big heap of trouble. The movie opens with Thor in a cage hanging out in some beg-ass cavern. What’s he doing there? Well, time for a bit of inside baseball that you don’t necessarily need to enjoy the film, but here it is. Thor’s been unsuccessfully searching for the Infinity Stones for two years after the Battle of Sokovia (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), which have significance in various Marvel Universes, but in Ragnarök’s opening scene, he’s imprisoned by the fire demon Surfur, who reveals a whole bunch of info.
Like, for example, Thor’s dad Odin is no longer on Asgard and that that realm will soon be destroyed as a result of the prophesied Ragnarök, which in Norse mythology, is basically a giant upheaval in which several gods/goddesses die, natural disasters destroy a bunch of stuff, and the submersion of the world in water. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Surfur is really looking forward to it. Thor, meanwhile, is all, I WANT YOUR COOL HORNED CROWN, SURFUR, TO LOCK AWAY SAFELY IN ASGARD’S VAULTS SO YOU CAN NOT PUT IT IN THE SACRED ETERNAL FLAME AND TRIGGER RAGNAROK HA HA HA HA! Keep that horned crown in mind. It plays a role toward the end.
Sure enough, Thor gets the horned crown and returns to Asgard only to discover that Loki, his trickster asshat brother has been masquerading as Odin, who Loki sidelined on Earth. Thor forces Loki to come to Earth with him to find Odin and with the help of Dr. Strange, the two of them end up in Norway, where Odin is hanging out and he tells them he’s dying and when that happens, their sister Hela — Odin’s firstborn — will be able to escape form a prison Odin put her in. Why did he do that? Because basically, she’s the goddess of death and is super ultra powerful and had been the head of Asgard’s armies and conquered the Nine Realms with Odin. So basically, she’s a major badass but also not friendly to Odin and Asgard. And why would she be, having been imprisoned for so long after helping Dad out?
So Odin dies and Hela shows up and holy crap, she destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer (OH NOEZ! Will he be able to function without this integral part of his identity???? Watch and see…) and then Thor and Loki are beamed back up to Asgard to try to beat Hela there and warn everybody but she jumps into the beam of the Rainbow Bridge and knocks them both off it while she goes to Asgard to kick ass and take names.
Thor ends up falling through a wormhole and crash-lands onto the garbage planet Sakaar, where he’s captured by a bounty hunter and taken to the ruler of the planet who forces him to be a gladiator against his prized fighter, who turns out to be Hulk. Loki, too, has ended up on Sakaar, so Thor enlists Hulk/Bruce Banner and the bounty hunter who captured him as well as Loki, to return to Asgard to do what they can against Hela. And coolness of cool, the bounty hunter is actually one of the last (if not the last) surviving Valkyries who last fought against Hela.
So they all go back to Asgard to face Hela.
And that’s where I’ll leave it so we can discuss why I enjoyed the hell (Hela?) out of this movie!
ONE: It’s freaking funny. And by that, I mean the one-liners and interactions between primary and secondary characters were such a delight. It felt more relaxed than any of the other Thor films, and watching Thor and Hulk interact on Sakaar and then Thor and Banner was such a treat. Thor let his hair down (ironically after Stan Lee in a cameo on Sakaar cut it off before Thor went into the arena with Hulk).
This was a whole new mood to a Thor film, and it was delicious. I chalk it up the writing team and the different director, Taika Waititi, who has a long history of independent films, some of which have a comical streak. He scored the position with Thor on the strength of those and promptly revamped Thor into a guy able to laugh at himself and play effectively off his fellow castmembers. He’s a warmer, funnier Thor, who admits some of his weaknesses and enlists help as a result. Basically, everybody in this film was allowed to be funny, and it rocked.
TWO: The supporting cast was SO good.
Cate Blanchett as Hela. OMG. Cate Blanchett brings her A game to basically every role, and this was no exception. She’s so evil, but you totally get why. I mean, I’d be evilly pissed, too, if my god-dad locked my ass up for however many centuries after using me to conquer Nine Realms. What the hell kind of thanks is THAT? Uh-huh. Plus, she, too, gets to deliver a few snarky one-liners and even though she’s a villain in this film, you can’t help but actually kind of like her. She’s not pretending to be otherwise, and there’s something darkly human about her and her motivations for what she does. She’s got bad-girl appeal wrapped in an ultra-powerful package and you find yourself kind of rooting for her even though you know it’s probably a bad idea to do that.
Jeff Goldblum as the Gamemaster on Sakaar. He’s flamboyant and somewhat silly but regimented in his role as providing entertainment at the expense of other beings’ lives, limbs, and liberties. He’s naively autocratic, and it’s such a weird mix but it works. He, too, has great dialogue and you kind of want to hang out with him even though he could totally have you killed while he’s gently laughing about something else. He’s also a total hedonist, but it’s like he’s sharing a joke with you in his delivery and pronouncements. Goldblum had a blast with this role, and it shines through.
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. She’s a bounty hunter on Sakaar, bringing potential gladiators to the Gamemaster and scrap to others as necessary. She’s hard-drinking, snarky, but has also formed a friendship with Hulk (who gets to talk a bit more and snark off, too, in this film). So why is she hard-drinking? Because she’s the last known Valkyrie of the noble Asgardian Valkyrior, and in this plotline, her sisters were defeated by Hela. Thor manages to convince her to return to Asgard to face Hela again, and she is a major badass. MOAR TESSA, PLZ.
Rumor has it that she was originally written as a potential love interest for Thor, but THANK GAWD that didn’t happen and instead she was given a bit of a backstory, so we understand her PTSD and reticence to go back. And Valkyrie is bisexual. That’s canon, but not so much in the movie though Thompson says she was faithful to that in her depiction of her. Valkyrie didn’t have an obvious love interest, though in one cut scene, apparently a woman lover was seen leaving Valkyrie’s bedroom. Tessa Thompson pitched to get the scene in, but alas. Regardless, Valkyrie in this movie is a bisexual woman of color who is so much badass that I was loving every minute of her screentime. Could we please have a Valkyrie movie now? With Tessa Thompson?
Taika Waititi as the voice of Korg, a member of the Kronan species (he’s basically made of rocks) who is one of the beings the Gamemaster has imprisoned to battle in his arena on Sakaar. Korg’s presence is completely refreshing and Waititi voices him as completely literal, which comes across as simply hilarious within the context of what Korg’s doing as well as his massive frame.
Korg was originally going to play a lesser role in the movie, but the more Waititi and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) improvised back and forth in a table reading, it became clear that Korg should play a bigger role. Waititi based Korg on the Polynesian bouncers at different clubs he frequented in New Zealand (where Waititi is from), so Korg is this big rock dude but he’s really soft-spoken and gentle, and it’s comical, how he comes across. He’s totally unlike other characters in the Marvel universe. He’s upbeat and jovial and has no plans to dominate the world; he just wants a revolution to help his friends.
Thor : How did you end up here?
Korg : Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that? Do you reckon you’d be interested?
THREE: Fab special effects. Fight scenes, battle scenes, settings. So much awesome. From the fiery, dark caverns of Surfur to the golden-ish city of Asgard to the Victorian-ish house of Dr. Strange to the windswept cliffs of Norway and on over to the junk- and refuse-ridden planet of Sakaar. This movie is a visual feast in addition to its wit and excellent characters.
I mean, I really, really liked this movie. Laughed through the whole thing, but it’s got some great poignant moments, too. It’s a fast-paced romp/adventure with great characters and great dialogue and it was exactly the escapism I needed.
More of this, please. MUCH more.
Happy Friday, friends, and may the odds be ever in our favor.