Welcome to One Year Later, a new series where we examine popular, newsworthy, divisive or misunderstood movies one year after they’ve been released to see how they’ve fared in an extended re-review. Our first entry comes from the 2017 smash hit film Thor Ragnarok, directed by Taika Watiti. The film was met with critical acclaim and made boatloads of money, $853, 977,126 worldwide to be exact. So the movie was well received and was seen as a pallet cleanser for the character, who was known for being stoic and brooding as oppose to being the comic relief character. After not enjoying his time on Thor: The Dark World, Chris Hemsworth knew he had to shake things up. So turning the next Thor movie into an interstellar 80s buddy-cop inspired flick with tons of quirky humour was decided upon. Now that Infinity War has come and gone, how does Ragnarok fair after seeing the movie a few more times since release?
In case you’ve never seen Thor: Ragnarok, the plot follows the titular God of Thunder as he works to prevent the upcoming Asgardian apocalypse known as Ragnarok from destroying his home and his people. Further complicating matters is the return of his surprise sister Hela, played by the great Cate Blanchette, who is, in fact, the Goddess of Death. Thor is eventually stranded on the planet Sakaar and sold into slavery to become a gladiator while his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gets to preside as a friend to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldbloom), the Jeff Goldboomish ruler of the planet. From here, Thor must team up with his brother, a runaway Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who is the gladiatorial champion of the planet in order to save Asgard from his sister. What makes the movie so unique, as you know, is Taika Waiti’s direction. While this movie could’ve been your standard action superhero film, this one is a weird, eccentric and otherwise out there comedy film that’s so unexpected for the character.
So how does it fair one year later, after the release of Infinity War? To be honest, not as well as I had hoped. I enjoyed Ragnarok when it first came out but didn’t love it. Despite some costume and special effects issues…and set design issues, I still think the first Thor movie is the best one. This film is no doubt more fun than any of the Thor films, standing alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy films on the fun meter. But the film also can’t seem to find an identity of its own and it compromises it’s drama way too often which can make it hard to care. Quite often when there is a dramatic moment happening, such as the destruction of Asgard in the finale, Thor’s home for all his life, instead of having that moment resonate for Thor, Waiti opts to play for the gag and tells a joke right in the middle of Thor watching his home burn, courtesy of a character played by Watiti himself. Perhaps not the best of times. Waititi’s character, Korg, also has a habit of defusing some emotional moments through the film, whether it be Thor having a conversation with Loki or deflating the emotional weight of the finale, where the Thor theme plays and Korg does for a joke that literally cuts off the music. The movie can also be inconsistent, especially when it comes to Thor himself. The opening scene feels more like a sketch comedy but then most of that kind of humour vanishes and he becomes stoic and brooding again. That is until he arrives on Sakaar, where his demeanour flip-flops between angry to quirky and comedic. It can be a bit disorientating at times and makes the movie feel like two films edited together.
That idea of two movies is further reinforced by the Asgardian subplot concerning Hela, who has taken control of the throne and is fighting an insurrection led by Heimdall (Iris Elba). Cate Blanchette is no doubt having a blast playing the Queen of Evil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the character of Hela ultimately comes across as one dimensional and dull. All she wants to do is destroy. There is literally nothing else to her and after a while, it can get old. Fast. Thank goodness Blanchette is a good actress and at least makes the performance enjoyable to watch. The film tries to make us care about Hela due to the familial connection, but since she was never brought up in the MCU and her arrival was so abruptly dumped on us and Thor, she feels largely like a plot device that will get the characters from A to B back to A. On the flipside of that plotline is Karl Urban as Skurge. He’s largely there for comic relief but his lines actually work well since he’s a side character. He’s recruited into being Hela’s executioner but he’s clearly struggling with the idea. Prior to that, he was the gatekeeper of the Bifrost and such, travelled the cosmos collecting “stuff”, such as two guns from “Tex-Ass” called “Des” and “Troy”, put them together…they destroy. Served with Urban’s New Zealand accent and his line delivery, attitude and reactions are some of the best things in the movie.
Likewise, a comedic plus in the movie comes from Jeff Goldbloom, who was essentially hired to seemingly play Goldbloom unleashed. The Grandmaster is weird, he’s kooky, maybe even a little crazy, but he’s downright entertaining and is played with all the Goldboomisms we’ve come to expect and cherish. He’s not a villain in the film, but rather an obstacle for Thor and company to get through. Speaking of company, let’s talk about that. I loathe what Waiti did to Loki. The God of Mischief used to be a force to be reckoned with and was the big bad in the first Thor film, the first Avengers film and had an interesting role to play in The Dark World. But here, he’s reduced to being a comedic punching bag. He’s thrown around like a ragdoll, bested, and sullied throughout. When he does get to pull a signature Loki trick, Thor (Waiti) stops it, saying those tricks are old and we can see them coming. So instead of coming up with something new for Loki, he’s relegated to being humorous and being kicked around a lot. How the mighty have fallen. Fairing better though is Tessa Thompson, playing a runaway Valkyrie (female Asgardian warrior unit) known as Scrapper 142. She’s a drunk, living away on Sakaar, catching people to sell as gladiators in return for money which she spends on more booze. Her arc and performance is a standout in the film and I’d personally love to see a spinoff film with her character.
Visually speaking, the film is top notch. Bright colours make a change of aesthetic for an MCU, with greens, blues and reds capturing the eye. A flashback with Valkriyes fighting Hela on Pegasus looks like a renaissance painting and Thor fighting on the Bifrost with all his electrical prowess is wickedly entertaining. I think the movie could have been more entertaining though if they kept the Hulk out of the marketing campaign. The gladiatorial fight between Hulk and Thor was supposed to be THE highlight of the movie but ended up feeling kind of empty due to us knowing the combatants and knowing that it doesn’t matter who wins. Imagine not knowing Hulk was in the movie and him smashing through the gates, the excitement and surprise that would’ve instilled? On the topic of Hulk, let’s talk about him. Hulk is great in this movie. He’s a pouty man-child and has learned to speak some basic English since arriving on Sakaar two years ago. His moments are equally funny, touching and epic. On the other hand, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner suffers here as a character. He’s been living as the Hulk for two years, killing people (like Doug) in the arena. None of this is an issue for Banner when he comes back. He has a few moments of spazzing out due to the passage of time, but then all issues are cast aside.
Now let’s talk about Infinity War. It’s the direct follow up to the events of Ragnarok and is directed by the Russo Brothers. When watching the MCU in order, Ragnarok stands out quite a bit due to the sudden change in tone for Thor. But when watching it right before Avengers, that is even more noticeable as Thor’s humour has been scaled down in the Avengers flick, making his character all in all more inconsistent. It’s true he’s funnier than he’s been in other Avenger films, but it’s still not the same as his humour in Ragnarok. Likewise, Infinity War actually undid a lot of the significant moments in Ragnarok, making us question the importance of that movie. Thor loses his eye and ends up symbolically becoming his father? Undone. Thor’s people lose their home and must find a new one? Largely undone as Thanos attacks the refugee ship. Thor is told he doesn’t need a hammer? Thor needs to forge a new hammer. Banner states that if he becomes Hulk again, he’ll become the Hulk forever, yet is proven to be untrue ten minutes into Infinity War. These were important moments in Ragnarok and Infinity War treats them as inconsequential. I’m not sure if that’s Waiti’s fault for not communicating with the Russos or the Russo Brothers for ignoring Waiti’s film, but Ragnarok is the film that suffers for it as it ends up feeling irrelevant for the character and for the greater story being told.
Overall, Thor Ragnarok is a fun film chock-full of great moments. But the film is never consistently awesome and has begun to show it’s age sooner than most films. It’s not as funny as it was when it debuted and since most of the film is built around that humour, it’s stumbled a year later. Even more frustrating is that the events of Avengers: Infinity War have made this film feel less important and upon rewatching it, I couldn’t help but count the number of big moments that would be reverted or dismissed within hours of on-screen time. The film just doesn’t feel as weird and unique as it did the first time and now it feels like it’s largely inconsistent and went for the gag over the emotional payoff more often than not. But what do you think? Has Ragnarok aged well and am I crazy or have you noticed similar problems with the movie too? Let me know in the comments!
There goes it for my first entry in the One Year Later series. Up next, The Last Jedi. Does it deserve the hate or have fans blown things out of proportion? Stay tuned!