While they’re not the worst Marvel movies, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2 would’ve been so much better without the cheesy visual tricks and cheap reliance on bad music. But while Thor Ragnarok has an even more obvious soundtrack, a similarly silly score, and just as much needless slo-mo, it somehow all works to make this the best Thor movie yet.
Inspired in part by the Planet Hulk comics — though only one aspect of the plot, and even then, only loosely — Thor Ragnarok has our second favorite Asgardian [The Cabin In The Woods‘ Chris Hemsworth] on what is easily the worst day of his life. Which is how he winds up on an alien world, in a death match against The Hulk [Now You See Me‘s Mark Ruffalo], while Hela, The God Of Death [The Lord Of The Rings‘ Cate Blanchette] is busy redecorating Odin’s throne room.
What follows is not only a fast and fun action movie, but also the funniest of the Marvel movies. Not just because it has the most jokes, which it does, but because those jokes are actually humorous, not the groan inducing kind we got in Ant-Man or, well, the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies.
Thor Ragnarok also has a spry and clever script that takes the story in some unexpected directions, while also doing a good job of tying it to the other Marvel films — Thor and others — in noteworthy ways. While the beginning makes it seem like it’s just going to be a really long set-up for next year’s The Avengers: Infinity Wars, it then takes an interesting turn, and ends up telling an engaging story that stands on its own.
It also helps that Thor Ragnarok also has a fantastic cast, with Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston [I Saw The Light], Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins [Silence Of The Lambs] as good here as Thor, Loki, Bruce Banner, and Odin as they were in Thor, Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers, and The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
But matching them note for note in Thor Ragnarok are Blanchette, who’s as fierce and regal here as Connie Neilson was in Wonder Woman; Creed‘s Tessa Thompson, who’s tough, snarky, but still supremely likable as Valkyrie; and Jeff Goldblum [Jurassic Park] who is, well, super Goldblumy here.
Though the one that almost steals Thor Ragnarok out from under all of them is director Taika Waititi [What We Do In The Shadows], who does the voice of Korg, a Ben Grimm-like rock alien who hilariously delivers some of the movie’s best lines with the nonchalance of a disaffected teenager.
It’s just too bad that some of the cool cast members from Thor and Thor: The Dark World weren’t in Thor Ragnarok as well. Not only would Darcy [Two Broke Girls‘ Kat Dennings] fit right in with Valkyrie and Hela, but so would Lady Sif [The Blindspot‘s Jaimie Alexander], especially in the inevitable team-up fight scene.
As for why the same elements that undermined the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies don’t also take down Thor Ragnarok, well, while both have bad and artsy slo-mo, Thor Ragnarok has less of it, and uses it differently, more like what was done in 300, where it was like a panel of a motion comic. It’s just not as irritating for some reason.
Also, while the score that DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh did for Thor Ragnarok sounds like it was taken from a bad ’80s sci-fi movie — hence why some have compared this movie to 1980’s Flash Gordon — it actually works. Well, sometimes. Maybe half the time.
Thor Ragnarok also uses Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” a couple times. But while it is the most obvious song to use in a Thor movie — so much so that I’m surprised Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones haven’t had cameos in all three — its driving propulsion works here. Though, admittedly, that could be because I like “Immigrant Song” way more than any of the songs in the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies.
In the end, Thor Ragnarok is easily the best Thor movie, and the most Guardians Of The Galaxy-esque of the non-Guardians films, though it’s better than both of those. And while it’s not the best Marvel movies — a distinction that still belongs to Iron Man, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier — nor is it so good that it made me reassess the earlier Thor movies the way Winter Soldier made me appreciate Captain America: The First Avenger a lot more, it does show that you can teach an old dog some new tricks.