Thor: Ragnarok - Avengers: Infinity War Marvel MCU Movie Marathon
As with all my Marvel marathon blogs, there will be spoilers here.
Thor: Ragnarok is one of those interesting birds. I think I liked it more when I first saw it than in this viewing, although I still very much enjoyed it. There were lots of ideas and visuals that I very much loved, while others that I questioned.
In the film, as a result of Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) trickery, Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) was exiled to Asgard and, by the time Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds him, Odin's time has come. His death, however, releases his first child Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who he placed in exile after he decided to become the protector, rather than the conqueror, of the Nine Realms. And, this is when all hell (or Hela) breaks loose.
I absolutely loved Cate Blanchett as Hela. She chewed up the scenery and you could see that she was really enjoying herself in the role. She was able to be terrifying, yet add humor to the role. My problem with Hela is that I felt she was too powerful. She basically mowed down the whole Asgardian army in a minute. And, anybody that powerful starts becoming less interesting as a villain because then you don't believe things like her not being able to find the hiding Asgardians or how to get off Asgard without using the Bifrost.
My guess is that they wanted to make her so powerful to signal a Ragnarok event, but to also have the moment at the end when Thor visits Odin in his head. Odin basically tells Thor that Mjolnir was a tool to help him focus his power and that he is the God of Thunder even without his hammer. So, at the end, we see him more evenly matched with Hela. Even then, she still is too powerful.
Anyway, while Hela is trying to get ready to conquer the Nine Realms, both Thor and Loki are trapped on a distant planet called Sakaar ruled by a elder being called The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who runs the Contest of Champions where contestants battle in a gladiator style fight.
The casting of Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster was nothing short of inspired. He is both nothing like the Grandmaster in the comics, yet exactly like the Grandmaster in the comics if that makes any sense. In the comics, Grandmaster is a blue skinned Elder of the Universe who runs competitions of cosmic proportions. He and the Collector (who we saw in Guardians of the Galaxy) had often challenged each other in what they called the Contest of Champions where they basically used heroes and villains of Earth as pawns on their chessboard. I think what Goldblum manages to capture is both the eccentricity and hubris of the comic book character. Whatever the case might be, I thought he was perfect even if he didn't look like the comic counterpart. I just loved him.
Thor is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as a contestant for the Grandmaster. The Grandmaster puts him up against his champion who just happens to be...drum roll...the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
This part of the movie mirrors the classic Hulk story "Planet Hulk" by Greg Pak in which a group of heroes send Hulk into outer space to no longer be a danger to Earth. He ends up on the planet Sakaar (which is the same name of the Grandmaster's planet) where he is forced to become a gladiator, but is also seen as a hero.
The gladiator battle scene in the movie did not disappoint. We all love to see a Thor and Hulk fight because they are matched in strength. There is some great humor in the scene. One of the funniest lines (when Thor describes Hulk as "a friend from work") was suggested by a Make-A-Wish child which I thought was just wonderful. And, Thor's trying to use Black Widow's lullabye on Hulk was hilarious, especially when Hulk grabs Thor and slams him on the ground like a ragdoll (to which Loki cheers). My only question again boils down to power levels. Thor is able to take a severe beating from Hulk from being tossed around to being punched in the face several times. Yet, the shock device the Grandmaster uses can easily stop him. Why didn't Thor's thunder just obliterate that device?
In the comics, Hulk enters a pact with other warriors which they call the Warbound. Among this pact are Korg and Miek who are both characters in Thor: Ragnarok, played to a much more comedic effect. Korg is actually voiced by director Taika Waititi himself.
I'm not sure if I liked the way they did Valkyrie in this movie. Its not that they cast a person of color. I thought Tessa Thompson was great in the role. I just didn't like that they didn't make her look anythng like her comic counterpart. Marvel, for the most part, has not been shy about making their characters resemble the comic character. I'm not talking about her ethnicity, but her costuming. At the end of the movie, where I feel I should be excited to be seeing THE Valkyrie in her traditional garb, she looks nothing like her. I would have loved to have seen a little more of the costuming. I get that they were going for a different kind of story and I enjoyed Tessa Thompson's performance as a warrior so broken that she's become a drunk in hiding on another planet. She plays her with such glee that I'm willing to let my being unsure of the portrayal go.
Interestingly enough, it does look like they are going to introduce this Valkyrie into the comic books in the title Exiles which features heroes from different Earths.
I enjoyed seeing the development of the relationship of Thor with both the Hulk and Bruce Banner. He relates to them in two different ways. He is more hesitant of Bruce Banner because you never know when the Hulk is going to come out. With Hulk, its straight forward for him. But, he finds him frustrating because its like dealing with a giant child.
Bruce does not remember the two years he spent as the gladiator champion Hulk. It scares him and he is afraid of losing himself to the monster. But, when he is most needed, we see that Bruce is truly a hero to let himself become the Hulk to help Asgard. I hope they will continue to explore this duality in future movies.
We also see in this film the continued development of the brotherhood between Thor and Loki. Loki is always the deceiver. When Bruce asks how he stands on killing people, Loki tells him it depends of the moment. And, that is who he is. Unpredictable. But, no matter what Loki does to Thor, Thor still loves his brother. That said, he knows who his brother is and, rather than seeing the unpredictable, he sees the predictable. He is able to see through Loki's schemes. And, even still, he wants Loki to be better. He tells him, "You may be the God of Mischief, but you could be so much more."
But, Loki can't help himself. Even though he helped save Asgard, he couldn't help take the Tesseract (The Space Stone) at the end of the film. This, of course, draws attention to Thanos who is looking for the Infinity Stones and leads him to intercept them at the end.
On the comedy in the film, I thought, for the most part, it was successful. Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster was amazing and the comedic tone often accentuated Thor's trademark bravado which I liked quite a bit. There were times, though, I thought it was a little much. Korg was often funny, but his story about his starting a revolution on his homeworld was ridiculous. I didn't like them using humor to show Thor scared. I never think Thor should show fear unless on a more personal level, such as losing somebody he loves. But, to me, he is never afraid of death.
Speaking of fear, I also didn't like the way that the Asgardians were portrayed. To me, the Asgardians are a warrior stock not afraid of death. Not just the armies. All of them. They would have all battled Hela to the death if they felt it just. So, I didn't like how the remaining were all running away from her.
Also, I thought it strange that they went full Jack Kirby on Sakaar, yet they went Lord of the Rings for Asgard. Asgard, in the comics, was just as colorful and amazing a Jack Kirby creation could be. The first Thor movie is the only one that I think got close. Even Heimdall, who is total Kirby, looked less Kirby than the other two films. Thankfully, they didn't hold back on Hela. I was surprised at how much she wore her crown which is amazing looking.
I hated Skurge (Karl Urban), which is a shame because I like Karl Urban and thought he would be cool in the role. But, they basically portrayed him as a simpering idiot that follows Hela mainly out of fear. What a waste of a great character.
And, how sad was it to see Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Zach Levi) so easily defeated? I could not believe it. Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), at least, got a chance to fight. But, what a sad demise of the Warriors Three. And, what happened to Sif (Jaimie Alexander)? What of her fate? I would imagine she would have fought Hela, but it was too bad that we didn't get to see her in the film.
I loved the Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cameo. Part of this scene was featured as the mid-credit scene in Doctor Strange. You can see he has become quite adept at his sorcery. Maybe by Avengers: Infinity War he will be the Sorcerer Supreme.
Stan Lee Cameo: Barber on Sakaar that cuts Thor's hair
Again, I really enjoyed this film. I definitely hope we see more of the Grandmaster in the future. Speaking of characters in the future, the trailers for Avengers: Infinity War have not shown Valkyrie. What happens to her? Anyway, I think it much better than Thor:The Dark World, but, because of its inconsistencies, I still think Thor is the best of the franchise so far.
And, now, on to Wakanda for the last film before the big event - Black Panther!