Another year, another series of MCU films. I have been reviewing the films for quite a few years on this site now and in that time I have now reviewed seven films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with at least two more years to go of this phase, it doesn’t appear to be dying out any time soon and that is not to change the fact that Marvel is currently working on a fourth phase, which has already confirmed a Spiderman sequel in the works as well as Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
Thor Ragnerok arrives at an interesting time, it’s the last of the films featuring the original Avengers characters to reach a trilogy, excluding the Incredible Hulk since that film did so poorly, that they never bothered to make any sequels to that character. It also marks another interesting point for the MCU since the Thor series is the only one of the films that has not had the director return to reprise their directorship across the franchise. James Dunn has done both of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Rooster brothers did the latter of the two Captain America films and John Favaro did the first two Iron Man films, but Thor, well it seems like they keep shifting directors, though the reasons why is probably because none of the films are really held in that high a regard. Yes as much as no one can imagine the Avengers without Thor, some of his films haven’t done too well, even among Marvel fans.
The first film was directed by Kenneth Branagh and is often considered one of the weaker films of the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I personally don’t mind it, I think it’s a decent film, it’s a good introduction to Thor’s character and his world and it introduced him into the MCU pretty well. Granted, there is not enough time of actual Thor in the film, but for what it’s worth, it’s actually quite good. Less could be said for its sequel, Thor 2 Dark World, directed by Terminator Genesis director, Alan Taylor, who presumably got the job after his credentials on Game of Thrones. Dark World often topped a lot of the weakest MCU films list, but I wouldn’t say it’s the weakest, personally I think the weakest MCU film is The Incredibly Hulk, simply because, unlike Thor Dark World, it’s almost entirely unforgettable and unnecessary, but I have to admit that the Dark World is an ultimate missed opportunity especially considering that it had the potential there and a stellar cast including Christopher Eccleston, however, I freely admit it’s not one of the better MCU films, but I certainly think you could do worse in a Summer Blockbuster, as proven by the fact that Alan Taylor went on to direct Terminator Genesis and the less said about that awful sequel, the better, if you want to know more, read my review of it.
Ragnerok was announced very early on in the phase three announcements as a real lead in for the upcoming Avengers Infinity War and was later announced that actor and director Taika Waititi would be directing the film. Now Taika Waititi might not have made a lot of films that you have actually seen, but he is a pretty decent director, having directed films like What We Do In Shadows, several episodes of the In Betweeners and a film last year called Hunt for the Wilderpeeople starring Sam Neil which I really enjoyed and would recommend, which would certainly explain the largely New Zealand cast in this film.
Thor Ragnerok though has a challenge, considering it has to conclude what has being considered one of the more interesting yet not entirely beloved series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to an extent set up Infinity War, which has been hyped to an absurd degree and after this there is only one more film to go with the upcoming release of the Black Panther movie. How does Thor Ragnerok conclude the four films though?
Oh, by the way, there may be brief spoiler warnings for the mid credit scene of Doctor Strange, so if you haven’t seen that movie and haven’t seen the mid credit scene then I should warn you in advance, oh and spoiler warning for end of Thor Dark World, I can’t talk about this film without mentioning about what happened at the end of that film.
Taking place after Thor, (played by Chris Hemsworth) has rather unsuccessfully traversed the Galaxy in search of some more of the infinity stones following his vision in Avengers Age of Ultron, Thor and his attempt to stop the cataclysmic events of myth and legend, Ragnerok has defeated Surtur (played by Clancy Brown). However, he returns to find that Asgard isn’t exactly how he left it and Odin, (played by Anthony Hopkins) has been replaced by his still alive brother, Loki, (played by Tom Hiddleston). After discovering it, the two travel to Earth or mid-guard as they call it, to strike him down only to find that Odin is at the end of his life and with the end of his life gone, there is nothing to stop their older sister Hela, the God of War, (played by Cate Blanchett) from escaping with the goal of taking over Asgard. With Thor and Loki out, having had Thor’s hammer destroyed, Thor is stranded in another realm that is ruled by the Grandmaster,(played by Jeff Goldblum) in order to compete in the combatant arena. However, his first opponent is the champion, The Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo. Thor aims to recruit a team in order to take Asgard back from his sister.
Yes, describing the plot of this film is a mouthful. Normally with the MCU films I don’t have to go into incredibly detail, but there is so much going on in Thor Ragnerok I had to extend it out a bit more. Now granted, it’s not as if Thor Ragnerok is a very complicated film, it’s actually two very linear plots that are more jumbled together. The first plot is really around the potential fall of Asgard as well as Hela taking over and the other plot is about Thor creating the rise-up against the Grandmaster. Ok, so the Grandmaster, how do I put this. So, really, this film has two villains, the Grandmaster and Hela and they are both competing for screen time. The films biggest problem is that the primary plot is actually not given enough time. Hela could have actually been one of the most interesting MCU villains to date, she is quite an interesting character, especially considering I do have some knowledge of the character, since I did read her solo series when Marvel released its Marvel 2.0 series, having her be reintroduced in several other series prior to this. People that watch this movie may be staggered to find out that in the comic she is actually a member of Guardians of the Galaxy, yes that is one of the interesting points about making her the villain of this film, at this point in the comics, she is a lot more of an anti-hero, but then again Marvel and DC seem to do this with any villain that gets even remotely popular. Just look at what Marvel is doing with Venom at the minute and what DC has been doing with Harley Quinn.
Loki not really a villain this time around, he is more just there really, I mean he does have a more pro-active role, but his role of being a villain is almost entirely gone now, this is what happens when you make villains too popular, they stop being villains! Granted it works in some cases, the Terminator films are proof of that, but they at least never forget to give Loki his mischievous side, he is the trickster god after all. Though, forget your regular cast of the Thor films, the majority of them are gone. Natalie Portman decided not to come back to the film so Jade Foster has been written out of the plot, though mind you what she could have done with this plot is unknown. Alan Scarsgard is entirely absent from the film despite the fact he had a prominent role in both the prior Thor films and both the prior Avengers films and in fact, most of the warriors three are gone, Idris Elba’s Heimdall is the only one that returns, granted he was the one who was most popular, but this has now finally eliminated the possibility of having a film with Thor teams up with the Warriors 3. Eric Rodrigues is going to be p….. when he does his honest review of this.
The new cast is pretty good. We have a Valkyrie who is played by Tessa Thompson who has been in two films that I have really liked including Dear White People and the Rocky sequel Creed and once again, she does a fantastic performance, seriously, Tessa Thompson is an actress you really want to watch out for. Her character is a bit generic, but I quite like her. I kind of hope she is turning up again in Infinity War. The Marvel cameo’s though aren’t exactly limited at this point, as usual, it’s an MCU film and with their large Universe now they seem to like to put cameos in with whoever is around, as I mentioned, the mid credit scene played a factor in this, so expect to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange early on in the film, though don’t expect much out of it as he doesn’t really do much in the entire time, despite the fact that the mid credit scene teased the idea of Dr Strange playing a much more active role. And, of course, there is Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, who by this point is becoming one of my favourite parts of the MCU. It’s actually quite good to see Ruffalo back in the role considering that Hulk has been entirely absent since Age of Ultron, having disappeared after events of that film, though not much explanation is given as to why he is in one of the nine realms now. Initially he is kind of there to make a load of Hulk references, especially with the way his armour is designed, but I really like him in this movie, in fact the bromance between him and Thor is excellent once again and the two play off each other very well.
Now, all of my comments make it sound like I actually don’t like this film. Far from it, I actually think this is the best Thor film to date. It has a sized plot, it has the most amount of Thor on screen doing what he does best and has a decent character arc for its hero. I do wish the villains were better, though Jeff Goldblum’s Granmaster is pretty good, even though it’s just Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum, so you know exactly what you are getting for your money. It’s a very dam decent film which I really got into.
The story obviously has it’s niggles here and there, but it tells a very consistent story and if you’re used to the MCU films, at least you know what you are getting. While Hela may not have enough screen time to be a dominating villain, at least Cate Blanchett does a decent job with this character. So while DC may have beaten Marvel to making a good female Superhero film, I am surprised people are not talking more about the fact that between this and Sigourney Weaver in the Defenders, this year’s Marvel has given the first two female villains in the MCU, though I must be honest, considering how many Thor films we have had I am surprised Amorra the Enchantress hasn’t been in any of these movies. Surtur also feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. This character was built up big time in the Marvel Animated series Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heros and was even teased to be the main villain of the third season of the show which would also depict the battle of the Ragnerok, basically, this guy was teased to be an Avengers villain, though he works pretty well as a Thor villain. Incidentally that show never got a third season because any time Marvel has a successful animated series, they seem to want to replace it with one that is bad! Which made even less sense in that case considering there were several plot threads that hadn’t been tied up. The problem with Surtur in this film is that he is basically there to be in an early battle and doesn’t really show up again for most of the movie, what a let down! Let me say, other than Grandmaster, there were other new characters I liked. As I say, I liked Grandmaster. I liked Topaz who is played by Rachel House of Hunt for the Wilderpeople fame, plus I kind of like Skurge who is played by Karl Urban. I am obviously not going to complain that Chris Hemsworth got tired of wearing the wig and chose to play Thor with a haircut, but I would be disingenuous if I didn’t say that felt a little bit lazy. But I did manage to care about the characters and I really enjoyed this one. Despite the fact that they are not on screen long, the villains are much better than the last film and the plot and setting is much better than the last film and has a very likeable supporting cast. I would even mention director, Taika Waititi motion capped performance as Korg who is freakin hilarious.
If you are going in for a good Summer Blockbuster, this is a good one to do, it is definitely going to hold the tide over until Star Wars. If you enjoy the MCU films, this one works pretty well, it is a very good popcorn film in terms of it’s plot.
Now for the performances. Chris Hemsworth, once again, is fantastic in the title role and Tom Hiddleston just loves playing Loki and you can see it on screen. Jeff Goldblum, well, its Jeff Goldblum, no more needed to say about that. Carl Urban delivers a fantastic performance, though it took me a while to realise it was him under the bald wig. Mark Ruffalo has retained being my favourite actor to play the Hulk so far. Anthony Hopkins certainly does a better job her than he did in Transformers, though he still hasn’t earnt my forgives for saying that Michael Bey is a genius! There will be repercussions for that Hopkins, I don’t care if you played Hannibal Lecter.
As for the new cast standouts. Tessa Thompson is fantastic as usual in her role and Taika Waititi and Rachel House deliver excellent performances. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be growing into his role as Dr Strange in his brief cameo and well, that’s about it for the cast. It’s another decent one and I don’t think you will be missing any of the previous film’s cast too much, though I certainly would have liked them to have more mention than they did have.
As for the effects, well they are pretty dam good. I actually liked the motion capture for Surtur and for some of the other characters and of course the Hulk motion capture is fantastic. The effects are pretty standard. You are used to them by this point. So not much more to say on that one. The Marvel films look good and the fight scenes are actually fantastic in this one, these are some of the best fight scenes in Thor so far, the MCU films have really great action scenes and this one does not fail to disappoint, though I think the Led Zeppelin immigrant song is a bit over used, though that being said, that’s only because I am wondering why they have not used the song Twilight of the Thundergod in any of these films!!
I saw the film in 3D and if you have the chance, I think you should see it in 3D. While many of the shots are rather gimmicky for the format, they do actually work. Though I was very surprised to find out this was a post conversion to 3D considering that those films tend to avoid shots deliberately for the 3D effect, which is why they often don’t work as well, but it’s a dam good post conversion. Don’t get me wrong, you are not missing out if you see the 2D version, but this film fortunately avoids setting its scenes in dark environments, which serverley hinders 3D.
Thor Ragnarok is my favourite of the Thor films so far and I think it is a pretty good film. It has a consistent running plot, if a bit jumbled and some really good character arcs. I haven’t been able to go into detail on them for avoiding spoilers, but let’s just say, with those character arcs, is what makes this the best of the Thor films in my opinion. The sets are good, the fight scenes are good, I wish the villains though were a bit better, though Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster hams it up big style and sells the film. It’s one I can highly recommend, especially if you have enjoyed the MCU up to this point and you have seen the previous two Thor films. I also appreciated the fact that the film did not spend too much time building up Infinity War and decided to be its own thing, which is when the Marvel Universe is at its best. So, that’s why I think this film works out well and is worth your time. While I don’t think it’s the best MCU film this year, I do think it’s proven to be a very good year since I think Spiderman the Homecoming was the best of the three films released. Give it a watch, it’s definitely worth it, oh and stick around for the credits, because there is both a mid-credit and post-credit scene. The first is a set up for Avengers Infinity War and the second one concludes a plot line from within the film, they are both worth sticking around for.
One mini-review this week. I know it’s a long time since I have done one, apologies, it’s down to a lot of the Vlog work I have been doing. But, I had to see this film, it’s Jigwaw.
Jigsaw: Now, when it comes to Jigsaw, I am a fan of the Saw films, so I am coming from that perspective. Jigsaw was a very big surprise to me since the Saw films were rather definitively concluded by the end of the final chapter, and I must be honest, I didn’t want any more films, mainly because the Final Chapter is one of the weakest films of the lot. Jigsaw is also a pretty decent Saw film, if you like the Saw films. If you don’t like them, this isn’t going to do anything for you and if you didn’t like the way the Saw films went, how can I put this, I don’t think you will like this one. It certainly does not exactly go back to what made the first film really good, but I would say it is on a level with Saws 4 and 6, as in, pretty good, not great. It’s certainly better than Saw 5 and 7. The biggest problem with this film, predictable! This film is very, very predictable if you are aware of the Saw films up to this point, though most times in Saw films I don’t see the twist coming, but by this point I am so used to them, I actually called it very far in advance, especially considering that they hammer in the lines of dialogue that you are expected to pay attention to and they recycle plot twists that they have used in previous films. The film ends with a set up for possible future films though at this stage I am not sure I want to see any more, but I will go and see a 9th film if that’s made. While I am on the subject, why is it with films are dropping their number titles, even Fast and Furious is doing this, being called the Fate of the Furious. It’s like these films are ashamed they have made so many of these. Hey guys, if you are not going to keep the numbering system because it confuses us and leads us into a false sense of security, maybe its proof that you have tired out the franchise and are making too many of these!! A prime example of this is the fact that if I ever complain about which of the Transformers films I think is worst, no one knows which film I am on about because the titles are so confusing. Now Saw is doing if, for christs sake, go back to the numbers, it was easier, just call it Saw 9 if you make it!!!
Well, that’s it for this week.
If you liked our review of Thor and you want to see a more in depth detailed review or see a different kind of review, then check out mine and Ren’s Vlog review of the film and we also do a spoiler and a non-spoiler review, so take your pick. Yes, we will make one this time, unlike Kingsman where we ran into difficulties.
Time to move on, next week I review another Agatha Christie adaptation of her most popular work. It’s the Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it, oh, and yes, I forgot to mention, none of Thor’s catchphrases have been in any of these movies, what a wasted opportunity!
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
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