Review for Thor Ragnarok
I recently reviewed Doctor Strange, and I made some noise about not quite clicking with the MCU, daunted by such a large franchise of interconnected films. I said that when it came to the MCU, I tended to opt for the origin stories, and the films that looked as if they stood alone to a greater degree. And now I’m reviewing Thor Ragnarok, the third film in a hero franchise, and very much a piece in the Avengers puzzle. That demands some justification. The first thing is that Thor Ragnarok got some stunning reviews when it was first released, some of the best for the MCU movies. The second thing is the setting, and intergalactic theme that mirrors two of my favourite MCU films, The Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The third thing is the Thor character himself. One who passed beneath my radar when I was of a comic reading bent. Chris Hemsworth’s interpretation of the character caught my attention when I saw the first film, portraying the Norse, hammer wielding god of thunder as an endearing goofball. There is a straightforward comic charm to Thor that really appeals, so all that in combination convinced me to try the third film in that particular franchise as my first non-Guardians MCU Blu-ray. That and the fact it was in a two-fer with Doctor Strange in a supermarket.
We begin in a place of continuity, with events following the last Avengers movie having led Thor to a lava world, facing a fire giant named Surtur. Defeating Surtur seems to ensure that the prophecy of Ragnarok has been averted, that Asgard won’t be destroyed. Returning home to inform his father, Thor learns that the prophecy is instead at hand. His previously unknown sister, Hela, the Goddess of Death is about to be released from her exile, and she’s in a bad mood. It’s got to the point where he has to stand with his brother Loki against her, and even that’s not enough. Thrown out of the Bifrost, Thor finds himself at the other side of the galaxy, on a garbage planet at a nexus of wormholes, indentured as a gladiator and being forced to fight none other than The Hulk in mortal combat.
Thor Ragnarok gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc and you have the choice between DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround German and French, and DD 2.0 English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. It’s another fine release, a pristine transfer, rich with colour and detail, and audio that will knock your socks off, while keeping the dialogue clear and audible throughout. It’s hard to find the nuances when comparing transfers of big studio blockbusters, and Thor Ragnarok is no different. You can put all that to one side and just marvel (no pun intended) at the imagination and skill of the filmmakers, the wonderful costume and set design, and the seamless digital and practical effects. The highlight in this film has to be the garbage world of Sakaar, a Technicolor comic book riotous melange of colour and texture, that looks so much better on screen than it does in the behind the scenes featurettes.
You get 1 disc in a BD Amaray case. I failed to get the Limited Collector’s Edition sleeve this time, which of course means I will go and buy the film all over again. Or catch the little snit that stole it out of all of the Marvel sleeves on the supermarket shelves and give him a thick ear.
After trailers for Black Panther and the Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 video game, the disc boots to an animated menu.
You can choose to play the movie with a tongue-in-cheek Taika Waititi intro to the film which lasts 1:44.
You get 5 Behind the Scenes featurettes which run to a total of 34:24.
The Gag Reel lasts 2:18.
Team Darryl is the continuation of the comedy skit on the Doctor Strange disc, which sees Darryl get a new roommate. This lasts 6:08.
Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years – The Evolution of Heroes lasts 5:23.
There are 5 Deleted Scenes which lasts 5:43, a couple of 8-bit Sequences running to 3:15, and finally the Audio Commentary with director Taika Waititi. It’s one of those wacky commentaries so you’ll have to be in the mood for it.
I came at the Thor franchise out of order, watching the first movie and then a couple of the Avengers ensemble pics, which all make the most of the character’s out of water, culture clash humour. This third film, Ragnarok may not be set on modern day Earth, but it holds onto that fish out of water element, sending the Norse God into the distant reaches of the galaxy. It was only after I watched the disc that I caught the second movie on a TV broadcast, and on the strength of that second film, I may not have initially been as enthused about the third, as The Dark World takes place mostly in Asgard, and as such is played straight; there’s less of a comic edge to it. A weak villain also means that it doesn’t quite land as a movie.
Thor Ragnarok on the other hand builds on the sense of humour of the first film, while giving it the kind of big budget and scope that makes it rival the biggest of the other Marvel franchises. This time, the culture clash isn’t on Earth; instead it’s the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which itself is known for its sense of humour. Although the Guardians don’t appear in Ragnarok, it is very much their world, the same comic book colours and world design, and that off-beat comedy. This is a film that quite rightly doesn’t take itself too seriously.
I haven’t read Western comic books with any devotion since I was a child, but even I’m aware of the Planet Hulk imagery, and seeing Thor Ragnarok recreate that storyline is a hoot. You don’t really need to see Avengers Age of Ultron to understand why Bruce Banner is suddenly halfway across the other side of the galaxy, as this film gets its important points of continuity set out through dialogue.
There are points of drama in the film, emotional moments, and despite the comic overtones, it keeps things real enough to keep people invested in the story. It’s a whole lot of fun to see Thor out of his depth on Sakaar, with the brilliantly camp Grand Master as a colourful antagonist. There’s a wonderful cameo from the late Stan Lee, and once Hulk enters the picture, it’s a laugh riot. There’s also a great call back to the first Avengers film. At the same time, Hela is establishing her rule on Asgard, and Cate Blanchett brings another, dark camp sensibility to her portrayal, raising the malice until it absolutely strains the bounds of credibility without snapping. It helps that she gets a comic foil in Skurge, the Bifrost ‘janitor’.
Of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films that I have bought, Thor Ragnarok is the most continuity dependant, relying on several films that have come before, and setting up plenty more to come but it somehow manages to stand alone despite that, working well as a film in its own right. That’s a good thing, as I’ve now discovered that I have no intention of owning Thor Dark World in my collection.