Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson
Swift shot: Forget Wonder Woman, there’s a new badass babe in town, well, in Asgard anyway. Wait until you meet Hela! Cate Blanchett prevails as the goddess of Death. She was incredible as the virgin queen, Elizabeth, but watching her transform into Hela is what most people will remember about Thor: Ragnarok. Hela is the first leading female villain for the Marvel feature films. Most of the film is a slapstick buddy comedy along the lines of Lethal Weapon, with a few too many inside jokes, but when shit gets real, it gets pretty intense and is an action flick worthy of the Avengers franchise.
Thor (Hemsworth) is on a quest to retrieve the crown of Surtur (Clancy Brown) as the film opens. As you might recall, Heimdall (Idris Elba) has left the teleportation chamber, or I mean the rainbow bridge portal that is the most direct route to Asgard. In his stead is one weasely wannabe bad-ass named Skurge (Karl Urban) who eventually beams Thor back to Asgard. And after Thor’s triumphant return, he immediately unmasks his brother Loki as an impostor on the throne, well, at least he waits until a play featuring the “heroic Loki” concludes (which stars a cameo I would never reveal nor have expected, given this isn’t a DC Universe film). The play’s the thing wherein he’ll unmask the king, I suppose, either a nod to Shakespeare or Game of Thrones, you decide.
Now that Thor has returned and realizes dear old dad isn’t on the throne, he persuades Loki to reveal where Odin is resting. How he comes to that place is clever and ties in another new Avenger who shows them both the way off the planet once they’ve concluded their business. This guy isn’t too keen on Loki sticking around after his last snowbirding adventure to Earth wound up making the wrong kind of headlines.
Upon Loki and Thor meeting with Odin, he explains that he is leaving, for good this time, and that he has been keeping a secret from them both. They have a sister, Hela who is pardon the quip, “hella” bent on claiming the throne and dominating the entire known universe of the Nine Realms, as she and Odin used to do before he banished her for her ruthless ambition. And speaking of dominating, when she does that little trick with her hair, it certainly gets your full attention.
Not a moment after Odin leaves them, Hela makes her introduction, and it’s one for the cinematic ages, if you ask me. Right up there with the Wicked Witch. She is every bit the match for Thor and scares the living shit out of Loki, who flees the scene and takes Thor with him, against his wishes. This leads to how Thor ends up stranded on a new planet, Sakaar that couldn’t give two shits about his god status.
In fact the decadent Sakaar has their own God, Grandmaster (Goldblum) who enslaves unfortunate wayward travelers to battle in his giant arena. Are you not entertained? Well, you will be, once you meet some of the other gladiators, as Director Waititi takes a turn at voicing one of the funniest characters, a rocky looking dude called Korg. His matter-of-fact approach to existence is amusing.
Unless you missed all the trailers, you know that Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has also been captured and is now fighting for Grandmaster as his undefeated champion. Thor is determined to bust out of the arena with Hulk (or Banner – he isn’t picky), leave Sakaar, and reckon with his deranged sister, but he has to put his trust in Loki, again.
Thor has also been trying to convince his captor, a fellow Asgardian who goes by the handle Scrapper 142 (Thompson) that she needs to come back to Asgard and help him usurp Hela. This feisty scrapper is content right where she is, drinking and enslaving people to fight to the death. She’s not exactly a sympathetic character, now that I think of it. Hell, she’s a slaver! But, I guess that aside, she does manage to redeem herself in the end, and we get a bit of her backstory which explains why she has issues with other people.
While Thor is making his escape off Sakaar, Hela is basically slaughtering her soldiers and people that don’t agree to call her queen. She reminded me a bit of Voldemort in this way, she didn’t relish killing her own kind, but if it was necessary, no matter. As lethal as she is beautiful, Hela can only be defeated through the most unthinkable means. And when Thor realizes what it will cost Asgard to see her destroyed, he must make the most difficult decision of his life – and one that goes against everything that he holds sacred.
While there is plenty of violence, there isn’t much sexual content (if any, really) so I am confident calling this a family friendly action film. It’s nice to see the tone change in this one, where you can tell that the director didn’t take things so seriously, which is pretty much what he is known for actually.
You will chuckle at the choices Thor makes, the colorful characters he picks up along the way, the buddy jokes between him and the “strongest Avenger” and they manage to tell a pretty compelling story about how the sins of our past can haunt us and the difficult realities of surviving in a dysfunctional family. I mean, consider Thor, his dad is the strongest force in Nine Realms, his adopted brother is always trying to kill him, his mom is dead, and now he’s just been told he isn’t the heir to the throne, he has a psycho sister that he must deal with, all while trying to keep the audience laughing along. And, the funny thing is, he does!