Thor: Ragnarok reviews hail the Hela-funny film, but not the Marvel formula
Trust the Taika touch
As with brothers Anthony and Joe Russo on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and James Gunn with Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok got the Taika touch — that’d be Taika Waititi, a rising filmmaker in the industry with titles like The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows. While the latest film for the Asgardian Avenger won’t hit U.S. theaters until Nov. 3, the first wave of reviews are in and critics largely praise this much-needed elevation of the Thor trilogy.
The first Thor and its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, don’t usually make the cut when the internet’s resident rankers pinpoint their top 10 Marvel movies. But many hail Ragnarok for its infusion of Waititi’s signature stylings, Hemsworth’s comedic skills, and the film’s dazzling visuals. Still, it’s not without its problems.
“With the exception of Deadpool and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, Ragnarok may be the only Marvel-hero movie that feels like it’s first and foremost a comedy. And on those terms — and those terms only — it’s a triumph,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor in a plot that fused together elements from the Ragnarok and Planet Hulk stories in the comics. Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett), has risen to claim Asgard for her own and Thor’s first tumble with her leaves him blasted through space to the planet Sakaar, where, now hammerless, he’s forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena run by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). There he finds the Sakaar superstar, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and the two must find a way to work together with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and new character Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) if they hope to save Asgard.
Read some of the first reviews below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“What neither Hemsworth nor his director can overcome, though, is Ragnarok’s meandering and narcoleptic story. It’s the sort of rote, paint-by-numbers slog (occasionally broken up by numbing, pro forma smashy-smashy smackdowns) that makes so many Marvel movies feel like Xeroxes of other Marvel movies. I get the why-mess-with-success impulse. Especially when there’s so much money to be made in movies like this. But even the most diehard comic-book fan has to be getting a bit exhausted by a narrative formula that’s become as thin and watered down as skim milk. The stars and directors are doing just fine; the writers (in this case Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost) need to aim higher.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“Hey, comicbook fans, it’s another Thor movie, and that can only mean one thing: It’s almost time for another Avengers movie! While you wait, Marvel Studios hopes to loot another half-billion dollars or so from the world’s wallets with this outlandish amuse bouche featuring the God of Thunder and his Abs of Steel, with yet another confusing plot crudely bastardized from Norse mythology in which most of the action takes place on a parallel world you care nothing about. Like the previous two Thor solo movies, this one is pretty much skippable, although it’s not without its pleasures — most notably, the fact that Thor’s not so solo this time around…”
Sheri Linden (The Hollywood Reporter)
“There are moments that might bring a viewer back to the day’s news: a citizens’ uprising, an exodus of refugees. But amid the strife and the battles — on land and sea, in arenas and in the air — it’s the loose-limbed laughs that amp the story’s comic-book formula. In the evanescent Ragnarok, even the shock of grievous bodily injury evaporates before our eyes. What will linger when the weapons are withdrawn is the knowledge that you’ve been prepped for the inevitable next chapter.”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
“But while Waititi definitely figured out a way to make a fun Thor movie, I’m not sure he entirely figured out how to make Thor a particularly interesting guy. The reality is this movie is so colorful and zippy and packed with outlandish supporting characters, that Hemsworth’s job is relatively easy. He just needs to look great, kick ass, nail the one-liners, and ride off into the sunset (or Avengers: Infinity War, whichever comes first). Thor: Ragnarok is sort of like a giant flatscreen TV hanging on a wall with an enormous hole in the middle of it. The TV is beautiful, but it doesn’t fix the hole. It just covers it up.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“Thor: Ragnarok is by far the most unusual of the Marvel movies – a crazy, colorful, ambitious, hilarious ride through the cosmos – even surpassing the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as the former holder of that title. And it’s by far the funniest. It’s not even a question that Thor: Ragnarok is the best of the Thor movies and it’s certainly up there as far as the best in the MCU. Who knew a Thor movie could be this wonderful? I guess Taika Waititi did. And please let Taika Waititi make whatever other movies he wants from now on.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“While Marvel movies have contained flashes of humor since Robert Downey, Jr. first ran his mouth in Iron Man — and yes, Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel are both boisterous joy rides in their own right — Thor: Ragnarok never goes too long before landing another fresh punchline. That’s a welcome change to this series-within-a-series, six years after Kenneth Branagh’s sturdy Thor gave the Norse god-turned-Avenger his first standalone. Chris Hemsworth has always carried a whiff of self-awareness about his muscular, hammer-toting hero through each new Marvel spectacle, but the humor often emerges from the way others react to his cartoonish masculinity; this time, he’s in on the joke, his overconfidence leading the way as if he’s absorbed some degree of Iron Man’s charisma and filtered it through his own theatricality.”
James Dyer (Empire)
“Marvel’s most unorthodox hire to date, the director of What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople was never going to deliver a standard cape-and-tights yarn. But the extent to which he’s been allowed to push the longboat out — sailing right through the bay of humorous asides and deep into the straits of absurdity — is nothing short of extraordinary. For the first time in 17 (count them) movies, Marvel has delivered something that isn’t an action movie leavened with humour, but a full-bore comedy using blockbuster spectacle as a backdrop for gags.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“By far the best of the solo films starring Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding warrior, Thor: Ragnarok is a fantasy romp infused with director Taika Waititi’s signature goofiness (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It’s zany to a fault, though: The adventure leans hard into the campy Flash Gordon vibe and slapstick humor, so much so that when the third act save-the-world stuff comes, it doesn’t feel completely earned.”
Germain Lussier (io9)
“Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest Marvel movie to date. In fact, it may be the funniest superhero movie ever. From the first scene until the very last, it’s a non-stop cavalcade of jokes wrapped around an epic, sweeping space adventure. The whole thing will make you absolutely giddy. There’s only one problem with the film being so funny and such a spectacle, though: The laughter and grandeur overshadows almost everything else. Ragnarok is missing the emotional core that has elevated many other Marvel films.”
Kyle Anderson (Nerdist)
“Thor: Ragnarok is funnier than all other Marvel movies to date and has a specific tone that might throw off some fans. That said, it’s not AS funny as it maybe needed to be to truly stand out as something totally different. I laughed a lot, I enjoyed myself greatly, but the plot was much more pedestrian than the rest of the movie might lead you to believe. But this is top to bottom Hemsworth’s movie, and in his fifth time playing Thor, is at his very peak, and that’s quite the heroic feat.”