The third entry in the Thor branch of the greater Marvel movie franchise is a vast departure from the serious and dramatic nature of its predecessors, with good reason as the Thor movies have been seen as the weakest in Marvel’s slate. Ragnarok fully embraces its new tone, reinventing Thor into a comedic space opera, making it the best featuring the character in the title role but not without its problems.
Thor: Ragnarok tells the story of the impending apocalypse of the title character's home of Asgard; an event knowns as Ragnarok. To prevent this, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is thrown against villain of the film, Hela; the Goddess of Death, and after an initial defeat Thor is stranded on the planet Sakaar, where much of the movie takes place.
This is also where the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo) appears in the movie, as Thor Ragnarok attempts to weave the famous comic storyline Planet Hulk into its narrative. While seeming like an odd fit at first both Thor and Hulk find a buddy cop-like chemistry as they attempt to escape Sakaar and save Asgard.
Throughout the movie, Thor attempts to assemble a team of misfits including former warrior Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, who now finds salvation at the bottom of a bottle rather than on the battlefield, which serves as basis for an investing and interesting arc for the character.
The weakest of these misfits, surprisingly, is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. While his performance is as instantly charismatic as in previous movies, this once great villain is now turned into a parody of himself, constantly the butt of jokes about his lack of character progression.
This is where Thor Ragnarok hits its biggest issue, it attempts to be a comedy whilst also portraying real stakes and action. At times it struggles to conflate the two, resulting in many instances of humour undercutting the seriousness of the situation the characters find themselves in.
This, combined with slow exposition in the beginning and a forgettable and frankly unnecessary short lived inclusion of Doctor Strange, creates a disappointing first act.
However, the film manages to pull itself together with a beautifully realised environment of Sakaar, evoking the imagery and music of an 80’s space opera: a design employed by Marvel’s other cosmic series Guardians of the Galaxy to great success.
It also manages to solve its disconnect between humour and seriousness of its plot by establishing real stakes and motivations for the characters throughout its second half, leading to a gripping and entertaining spectacle in its finale.
Thor: Ragnarok manages to overcome the bumps in the road coming from its newfound emphasis on comedy the plague the first act to become an thrilling, comedic ensemble space adventure with both a satisfying conclusion and set up for Marvel’s impending Infinity War.