THOR: RAGNAROK is the latest MARVEL STUDIOS movie and the fifth entry in Marvel’s Phase Three which started with CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. This highly anticipated movie is directed by New Zealand native Taika Waititi (Hunt For The Wilderpeople, What We Do In The Shadows), who is another in a great line of directors picked for the Thor trilogy, which includes Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor of GAME OF THRONES fame. This movie combines elements of the Norse Mythology story Ragnarok, the Marvel comic “Planet Hulk” and the ongoing movie saga of Thor Odinson. KletusCassidy and Humphrey Lee are going to take a psychedelic trip to the cosmos and peal back the delicious onion that is THOR: RAGNAROK.
HUMPHREY: Thanks for humble introduction, sir, and thank you all reading this for taking the time to read what I’m about to make a car wreck, because that’s what I do. That said, let’s get right to it. After seeing this movie, Senor Kletus, do you still have a dick? Because I’m fairly confident I laughed mine off watching it. The film, that is.
KLETUS: That’s none of your business! Yeah, there are definitely a lot of laughs in this movie but in the context of this odd Thor/ Hulk space adventure if felt totally natural, I’ve read a couple things that suggested the movie was too comedic but I didn’t feel that way at all. In fact, I think that this is one of the most naturally fun and hilarious Marvel movies since the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Did you think the movie went overboard with the comedy?
HUMPHREY: Overboard, not quite, but to skip ahead just slightly ahead to probably the only folly I had with this movie, I do think it undercut the more somber bits a little. But I guess here is where we should do a little bit of the rundown on this movie. This is, obviously, the third entry in the THOR franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and given how the previous two movies are regarded as enjoyable enough but at the bottom of the Marvel Cinematic Heap, something needed to happen to liven things up. And I don’t think you get any more lively than director Taika Waititi. This is a movie that features Hela, Goddess of Death, coming back to Asgard to wreck absolute shit all over the place, Thor finding himself enslaved and hammerless on the gladiator planet of Sakaar where he is reunited with fellow Avenger, the Hulk, and on top of all of that there is some weighty familial shit with brother Loki and his father Odin, so things overall look extremely bleak for the God of Thunder.
And yet it’s fucking hilarious! Somehow Waititi was able to take godly death and carnage and some “brink of extinction” plotting and make it the funniest goddamn movie of the year. To the point that in selling it all, yeah, I think just a time or two too much he may have gone for a joke instead of letting things having an emotional beat to sink into the audience. But the movie is so good overall because of his comedic styling, I can’t hold it against him.
KLETUS: Not every joke hit but the ones that did were great. Overall I enjoyed them; especially the cameo from you know who (not Stan Lee and no spoilers, you all will have to see for yourselves what we’re talking about). I agree about the previous THOR movies; both have lacked something that I have yet to put my finger on. It’s like a Bacon Cheeseburger with no cheese, it’s still pretty good and it WILL fill you up but it’d be so much better with that slice of melted pepper jack. Waititi is exactly what the franchise needed liven things up, which was putting Thor in a story only he (and Hulk of course) could be a part of and survive. I think that maybe the previous two movies lacked a sense of the scale of Thor’s world as well as a story big enough for the God of Thunder. Seeing the trailer and knowing where THOR: THE DARK WORLD and AGE OF ULTRON left off, as well as the after credits scene in DOCTOR STRANGE, I felt like this movie had a lot of ground to cover and Waititi put it all together seamlessly. The movie never felt too long of too crowded unlike a certain DC movie that crammed a bunch of storylines down your throat with little to no cohesiveness.
HUMPHREY: Right on a lot of accounts. Not all the jokes hit but by sheer volume alone myself and the audience for the night laughed throughout at least half the screening to the point of missing even more jokes, giving me the much welcome motivation to see it again as soon as possible.
But yes, it was a welcome change of pace for both the THOR movies and how the MCU has been. Not that they’ve been lacking in humor, far from it, but it went above and beyond to the point where I would say it’s a comedy movie with some action and not the reverse the MCU is usually. A lot of the Marvel movies have been pushing hard on their INFINITY WAR plot threads and while THOR: RAGNAROK plays its part in developing the overall shenanigans INFINITY WAR is aspiring to, it mostly beats to Waititi’s drum and is still very much a THOR movie.
And it’s very irreverent about it all, though, as Waititi gets to – shockingly given his off-kilter style – hammer out (pun intended) some major events for the universe as it marches to INFINITY WAR. The fates that befall the Asgardians alone would be big news for the universe, let alone that Waititi gets to be the one to amp up Doctor Strange’s power levels for the upcoming mega event in his five minutes or so on screen, gets to casually put those Asgardians full force in the path of the Infinity War, and, of course, there’s that goddamn amazing Hulk, who also is deeply, fundamentally changed for this movie and the War to come.
KLETUS: Oh, I loved Doc Strange in this movie; he reminded me when Spider-man would interact with him in the comics, where he was just in his own world, doing his own thing, while Spidey stressfully and unsuccessfully would try to get his attention and explain how he needed his help. Also, the gloves! My god the gloves! Marvel seems to have a trend going with their big three where we are starting to see that it’s not the weapons the heroes carry but the person behind those weapons that matter. In IRON MAN 3, we saw Tony Stark doing a lot of heroics outside of the suit and even getting the arc reactor removed from his chest, showing that he no longer NEEDS the suit. In CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Cap loses the shield and his job with the government but continues his fight for good and in this movie (as seen in the trailer) THOR loses his hammer yet still proves he is a god and a god of thunder at that. So as to what you were saying about setting up for INFINITY WAR, I feel like this trend is part of that and when the band gets back together we’ll see all the players reinvigorated and ready kick Thanos’ ass…I mean they’re gonna need some sort of release right??
I also like that with each Hulk appearance we learn a little more about the struggles Banner is having keeping the Hulk at bay and Thor’s attempt to calm Hulk was also hilarious!
What did you think about the villains? The Grandmaster included…
HUMPHREY: Oh the villains. Hell, not even the villains, just all the new actors and characters in general. As we’ve a little haphazardly covered here, there’s a ton going on between the Thor/Loki/Odin stuff, the slave fights on Sakaar stuff, and the Hulk stuff while we haven’t even really addressed all the new characters and how awesome they all are in this film.
Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is sublime. It’s vintage Goldblum and just oozes off kilter charm into a movie that is so big and brash, meanwhile he’s riffing his “ah’s” and “uhm’s” and just having the best line execution. Meanwhile, the catalyst for this all, Cate Blanchett’s Hela come back to Asgard to claim/destroy her birthright after millennia of exile (as we find out just ten minutes into the film she’s daughter toi Odin in this take, not Loki) is so malevolent and reveling in it that she is somehow the sexiest thing I have seen in my life, which says a lot about the bad choices I have made in my time on this Earth.
And then let’s not forget Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Karl Urban’s Executioner who all have their scene stealing moments. Thompson is just pure hot mess and then all swagger as she has her time and arc throughout the movie and Urban’s character development is actually very personable as it plays out in fits and starts over a very crowded movie.
That is really the only downside I found with THOR: RAGNAROK is that it’s a damn busy ass movie and stampedes very quickly from plot point to point and set piece to set piece. The brilliance of it, though, is I don’t think Waititi short changes anyone on their big and little moments, it’s just that everyone is so good at what they’re doing you’d like them to get a couple more minutes at doing it. I could honestly go for spinoffs for all of them after this movie (those that survived, anyway. Drama!)
KLETUS: I really want to see the Grandmaster and the Collector share some scenes together; I think it’d be strange and funny as hell! Jeff Goldblum was great and fit very well in this movie.
Also, Yes! Cate Blanchett was perfect and the way she chewed scenery kind of reminded me of Maleficent, Ursula or any of the stronger Disney villains that seem to just float through a scene, wreaking havoc and taking joy in every moment…I can’t think of anyone that could have done a equal or better job (maybe Addams family era Anjelica Huston). They changed her slightly but I think the added elements of other characters such as Angela (Neil Gaimain’s Image creation now at Marvel) who is Odin’s secret daughter, The God Butcher, and the traditional Hela, which worked well in solidifying how she fit into the Marvel movie verse. Honestly, she’s probably one of the best Marvel villains to date and definitely one of the most powerful. We also have to give props to one of the best voice actors out there, Clancy Brown as the voice of Surtur. The entire cast in this movie is great, maybe one of the best overall casts in any Marvel movie.
Valkyrie was great and badass, I think we even catch a glimpse of the blonde Valkyrie in the flashback with Hela! Karl Urban was also fantastic and his arc in this movie is lifted right out of a Thor issue, in fact there were a lot of other references that I caught; Unworthy Thor, The God Butcher storyline (both from Jason Aaron), Ultimate Hulk vs Wolverine, Loki: Agent of Asgard, What We do in the Shadows and even Ace Ventura!
Well I believe this was the longest Marvel Studios movie to date and you nailed why, there were a lot of plates spinning in this movie but again it never felt like too much, although I can understand if this was a problem for some people. I also really love how RAGNAROK embraced and celebrated all the Jack Kirby cosmic weirdness from the 50s/ 60s, the colors, the set designs, the aliens and the weapons, all screamed, “Hail King Kirby!” and it was awesome and well warranted!
HUMPHREY: Actually, I think this movie is only middle of the road length wise, but with so much going on it somehow managed to handle all these plots, give all these actors and characters their own theme and arc, and neither feel overly long nor brief. Waititi is honestly working some serious mojo on this movie and I honestly don’t know how he pulled it off. I am even led to understand there was a cut that was going to be less of a run time than this at one point, but he also could have ran enough material to go another twenty minutes if they’d let him. I honestly don’t know which I’d be more intrigued to see, if either. I feel another twenty minutes and the movie may have crumbled under the breadth of its own humor and any shorter a run time and elements like the character and world building definitely would have suffered.
Now that we’ve kind of hit all the major facets of this movie but haven’t gone into super detail on it, is there anything that you mainly felt worked and didn’t? Honestly, the humor really did drive this movie for me. I actually thought the original THOR was one of the best of the MCU until they started hitting their stride with CAP: WINTER SOLDIER and then the quality shifted dramatically against it. Kevin Branaugh, though, crushed it with his casting and the approach to Asgard and its inhabitants which carried the second movie – that I think is overall watchable but the standout worst MCU movie – through simply by having those actors in those roles again.
But how much Waititi made this movie a grander in an apocalyptic and godly and cosmic scale while somehow grounded the hell out of it with the levity and irreverence the humor brought is just masterful. And it really did set this movie apart from all the other MCU fanfare, even from something like an ANT-MAN which also towed that line of being more comedy/action than action/comedy, and I think would have obliterated it had Edgar Wright remained as directed. But, as I’ve touched on already, the humor may also be the biggest drawback in a sense because its occasional cutting off some of the poignancy left it a little off balance from a, like, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY that hit both home so well. It’s a funnier movie by far but could have used just a smidge more introspection to put it on GUARDIANS’ level, which I still regard as a top three MCU movie.
KLETUS: I double-checked; it’s not even close to the longest movie…my bad. I agree, at points the comedy outshined some of the more emotional moments but in my opinion, it didn’t make the movie any less enjoyable but I could understand if people described the movie as a little cheesy.
The third act in a lot of superhero movies can leave a lot to be desired but I love how Marvel is now making a conscious effort to make the end of their movies not just, “good guy punches bad guy…the end.” DOCTOR STRANGE and THOR: RAGNAROK have endings that involve more strategy and outthinking the villain rather than just kicking their ass, now there’s definitely a lot of good guys vs bad guys fighting, which is amazing in this movie (Hela vs the Asgardians was amazing), but the final battle and end result in this movie is something unique.
As much as I love Hemsworth and think he’s perfectly cast, I really think Tom Hiddleston is the glue in the Thor movies and his performance in every movie is great, including this one. The Thor/ Hulk friendship really shined here and is becoming a really great aspect of the Marvel movies. I look forward to seeing where their relationship goes in the future, it’s kind of similar to the Thing/ Hulk relationship where they fight all the time but also have a mutual respect for one another once the dust settles.
I think Waititi’s take fits though, the Marvel cosmic realm is out there, wacky, and silly at times and I think the best way to handle it, is to not take it too seriously and make it fun, as you mentioned, the same way GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY made it work. This same sort of comedy wouldn’t really work in a Captain America movie but somehow when you deal with ridiculous cosmic beings and stories, humor can be the best way to introduce these things to some audience members who may not be familiar with the weirder side of the MCU.
HUMPHREY: It’s been the strength of Marvel Studios, especially over how WB/DC have handled their comic property movies that they continue to get these dynamic directors who overlay their sensibilities on top of what Kevin Feige and the producers see as part of their Master Plan. It’s absolutely to their credit that they would go out to get someone like a Waititi and trust him to throw all this stuff in his mind blender and having the Hulk/Thor relationship be such a weird buddy comedy or Hela’s takeover be so Disney villainess as you perfectly put it before.
That said, do you think his type of vision would work again in the MCU – probably on THOR again or most likely a new property – or was this best as a one-off? I wonder if this was a perfect storm for him of getting a property with “nothing to lose” and all these perfect toys for him, including Chris Hemsworth who, quite frankly, is showing him to be a hell of a comedic talent. He already had glimpses of this in his Thor portrayal up until now, but this and the Ghostbusters the man has proven himself to be so irritatingly charming and possessing of great comedic timing. And Hiddleston as Loki has a lot of the two as well so having them as your leads was definitely a boon to Waititi’s directorial tendencies.
Also, I agree that even though the action wasn’t exactly plentiful, what we did get really hit the power levels and amplitude that these titanic characters should. Between the aesthetic of the film, the set/production designs, and the nonchalant, over-the-top ridiculousness of the whole movie, Waititi was definitely embracing his inner Jack Kirby. I wonder how far his reverence for these stories and characters goes that he would have it in him to move to another property or if this was just the perfect storm for him.
KLETUS: Well Marvel seems to be adding a little more humor in their movies (maybe CIVIL WAR excluded) but I don’t think they’ll make the mistake of forcing all of their movies to have the same vision and tone. That’s kind of what went wrong with the post Nolan WB/DC verse, they tried to force Nolan’s darker more serious tone to all of their movies and that didn’t work out so well.
Kevin Fiege and company definitely have a clear vision (see what I did there!) of what they want the Marvel movie-verse to be (even to the point of breaking ties with directors), but I think the choices for director have been pretty inspired for the most part and it seems like MARVEL STUDIOS allows these directors to put their particular style in to whatever property they take over (especially with GUARDIANS 1 & 2 and RAGNAROK).
Marvel Studios seems to have a dedication to make fun movies and if you’re laughing that kind of means you are having fun, so this more comedic style definitely works for them but like I said, I don’t think they’re going to force this sort of vision on other characters. I would definitely look forward to another Waititi Thor movie but his style may also be useful kick starting some other obscure characters…like Nova or oooh Hercules! I kind of hope they keep all the past directors around and allow them to work on different Marvel characters kind of like how they rotate writers in the comics.
HUMPHREY: I feel like we got some of the funniest entries in the MCU this year because Feige and them know shit is about to get dark so they’re bringing the levity while they can. Not that I expect things to get DCU dark, even with INFINITY WAR, but it’s not going to be a picnic. That’s sort of why I wondered if Waititi would have a place for the near future just because the characters that lean more on humor already have their production teams in place and I dunno if we’re getting another THOR or any new characters that would welcome his directing/writing style in the near future as the War plays out. Though I think I would literally jump for joy if they handed Waititi the keys to the Spider-Man kingdom from here on out. Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy HOMECOMING but given how many cooks were in that kitchen with something like half a dozen screenplay credits, maybe it could get even better somehow with a cleaner production path under one set of hands.
So, I dunno, anything you feel we missed here? I think we did pretty admirably not really going over the top in spoilers since the movie is so fresh, but we did not get super in depth on anything but how funny the movie is, but it’s so goddamn funny that kind of should be the focus right? Acting choices and execution were top notch, the style and visual aesthetic were gloriously retro-chic, and I thought it really had a good flow, even if it did just keep a constant head of steam throughout with barely any slowdown.
I’m actually trying to figure out just where I want to put this thing in the grand scale of Marvel films. It didn’t have the emotional punches that the latter two CAPTAIN AMERICA films and the first GUARDIANS did and that make them the cream of the crop for me, but man, that may be it. And that first thrill of seeing the team come together in AVENGERS still carries a lot of weight for me but even if I put that up before it, RAGNAROK is still a top five MCU production for me; impressive considering how good Marvel Studios product has been nearing 20(!!!) films now.
KLETUS: Agreed, while INFINITY WAR will have some fun elements in it, the end result is going to be somewhat solemn. Waititi on SPIDER-MAN would be perfect, I do think John Watt did a great job and made the best Spidey since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2…so I feel like he’ll get another swing at it (damn I’m on a roll!) but Waititi would be a natural and welcome edition to the franchise.
I think we covered a good amount and any more in depth we’d definitely run into major spoiler territory. So maybe we shouldn’t go much further down the rainbow bridge. The lightheartedness of this movie is part of it’s charm and if this level of comedy attracts more kids to the theater, then I’m all for it. Young people seem to be really excited by what Marvel is doing and I feel like that’s really important. I remember going to conventions in 2006-2007 and I rarely saw kids dressed as Marvel superheroes and now I feel like its the most popular costume idea for kids 13 and under. So some of it may be a little cheesy to some of us old nerds but if I was 10 and saw this movie I’d already be begging and annoying my mother to buy me the DVD for Christmas.
I’m glad you said that because I too think this movie is in the top 5 MARVEL STUDIO movies, AVENGERS is #1 for me but after that it’s hard to decide, IRON MAN and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY are definitely up there as well. As I was walking in to the theater I was saying to my friends, “we are going to see the THIRD THOR movie,” which is amazing to me that we’ve come this far, I applaud Marvel for sticking with their plan and moving forward even though some of their movies aren’t all home runs. THEN NEXT SUMMER WE ARE GOING TO WATCH AN ADAPTATION OF INFINITY GAUNTLET!!! I’m so excited I feel like a kid waiting for these movies to drop (Black Panther looks phenomenal as well)…I guess what I’m trying to say is bravo Marvel…bravo!
HUMPHREY: Hopefully, our powers combined aren’t somehow more climatic than what should be one of the biggest fanboy festivals of all time, though given how little enthusiasm there is for that movie less than two weeks away, we may be a proverbial hit compared to the best the DCU has to offer. Maybe Joss Whedon got the project handed to him in time for him to work some of his whimsical AVENGERS magic on the movie, which those productions desperately need and WONDER WOMAN was the first to achieve to build at least a little momentum leading into this release.
But that’s a different product altogether and this is THOR: RAGNAROK and it’s flippin’ great! Go see it! Twice even because you’ll laugh so much you’ll miss stuff! And because Cate Blanchett should be worshipped like an actual goddess with all our attention (or Chris Hemsworth if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess). This has been Humphrey Lee and Kletus Cassidy and I guess we have a date for two weeks from now. Time to prep my popcorn container with the hold cut out of the bottom. Cheers!
If you’d like to hear more from Kletus Cassidy (I know, why would you right?), you can listen to him and his good buddy Steve discuss comics, comic news and more on the SANCTUM SEQUENTIAL podcast now on iTunes. Email questions, comments and hate mail here! Thanks!
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.