Sound Off! Thor: Ragnarok

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, grab your mythical hammer and discuss Thor: Ragnarok, which premiered in the United States on Friday, November 3, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Merrin, Nancy O’Toole Meservier, Shara White, J.L. Gribble, Nicole Taft, and Betsy Whitt as they talk about Thor: Ragnarok. [Note: Spoilers in the final section, after the giant red letters!]


Merrin: My gut reaction to this movie is really just one thousand exclamation points followed by some guttural screaming, so I’ll try to reign some of that in. Um…I loved it?!!!! It’s my new favorite Marvel movie by far!!!!!

In all seriousness, I love that it never takes itself seriously, which is honestly what I’ve been waiting for from a movie about a dude flying around with a giant hammer. So incredibly far from the Shakespearean drama of the first movie (which makes sense since it was directed by Kenneth Branagh). And, definitely several steps above what Joss Whedon made of the Avengers’ movies. It pokes fun at itself, at its history, at the Marvel universe in general, and all while forwarding the plot and plugging up holes I’d almost forgotten existed.

Chris Hemsworth (who is always amazing, let’s be real) was perfection at the blend of comedy and seriousness. I knew he could do comedy after watching the new Ghostbusters, but I was still charmed by the mix he was able to portray. Tessa Thompson was amazing as the last of the Valkyries and their onscreen camaraderie was splendid. I’m relatively certain that Jeff Goldblum was just playing himself, but I’m not mad at it. This movie even made me finally see the appeal of Tom Hiddleston, which I wasn’t sure could ever be done. Also Cate Blanchett can rule my kingdom any day. I will definitely give her the Ring.

One thing that could have made it even better for me: I wish Hulk’s appearance had been a surprise. Think of how completely hilarious it would have been if we’d all been wondering who the crap this hero could be, and suddenly it’s Hulk and we get Thor’s joyful yell. Talk about a studio stepping all over its own joke.

But that’s a really small gripe and not of much consequence when compared to how great the rest of the movie was. It was funny, it was sad, it had great action sequences, and it didn’t throw out any of the character development we’ve seen from Thor across the movies. And he still has more to do, which is probably the most exciting thing of all.


Nancy: Over the past several months, as footage from Thor: Ragnarok was being released, I found myself of two minds. On one hand, the trailers looked pretty badass, and I was excited to see how Taika Waititi would shake up the Thor franchise. On the other hand, I really like the first two Thor movies (yes, including Thor: The Dark World. Don’t judge me!), and was worried that too much shaking up would strip the movies of the aspects that I’ve loved the most about them

And now that I’ve seen it, I think its safe to say that the Thor franchise is in good hands.

Thor: Ragnarok is, to put it mildly, a damned fun movie. Filled with quirky characters, and plenty of laughs, I can’t deny that I found myself smiling for the much of it. But it’s not all fun and games. There are some genuinely serious moments to be found here as Hela, Thor: Ragnarok’s villain, reveals Asgard’s dark, colonialism-fueled past. A past that she is all too eager to return to.

The dark and light aspects of Thor: Ragnarok come together well, all things considered, but there are a few times when the humor can rob the more serious moments of much of their weight. This is the most obvious near the beginning of the film, as we switch back and forth between Thor’s wacky adventures on Sakaar and Hela’s conquering of Asgard. These dark moments (which are also undercut by some questionable CGI), include the death of beloved characters. I couldn’t help but feel that the way that some of these deaths were handled were really lacking in respect to the characters already built here. And it’s these deaths in particular that stand out like a sour note to me, putting a bit of a damper on what was otherwise a really entertaining movie.

Fortunately, the further I got into the movie, the more consistent I found it to be. I’ve always been of the opinion that Chris Hemsworth is a genuinely funny guy, and it’s great to see him let loose here. The same goes for Tom Hiddleston (Loki) who proves to be as talented with broad comedy as he is with subtle emotion. I really enjoyed the new characters, too, from the complex warrior Valkyrie (played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson), to the laugh-out-loud funny Grandmaster (played by the perfectly cast Jeff Goldblum), to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, who proves to be one of Marvel’s strongest villains yet. Interestingly, the character that surprised me enough was Karl Urban’s Skurge. Initially, I kind of viewed him as a throwaway character, but felt that he had really proven himself by the end.

When it comes to Thor: Ragnarok, there’s no denying that I have some serious complaints about it and didn’t enjoy the film as much as I did Marvel’s two other offerings this year (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming). But by it’s end, I found a lot in Thor: Ragnarok that worked for me. I’m sure that, just like the first two Thor movies, it will prove to have a lot of replay value in my household.


Shara: Thor has quietly and surprisingly become one of my favorite staples in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) over the years, and I always look forward to the latest installment. And the trailers for Thor: Raganorok promised to be a helluva good time. And I did have a good time. Lots of quippy one-liners, Loki being Loki, the tension between brothers and an arc of growth, and Thor once more having to deal with being without his hammer for some reason (spoiler alert: Hela destroys it, though it’s not a spoiler if you’ve watched any of the trailers). The inclusion of Hulk/Bruce Banner was welcome, as I always find that character more accessible when he’s in a supporting role and not the star of his own film. And Idris Elba as Heimdall was given his own arc, which was great and well-deserved.

I also loved both of the women cast in the film. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie was more than a welcome addition, and Cate Blanchett was a formidable villain, and I’m glad they didn’t spoil that particular surprise in the trailers, though I suppose if you follow Norse mythology it’s not much of a surprise at all.

Yet, I’m not over-the-moon regarding this installment. Maybe it was the fact that Hela’s and Valkyrie’s Asgardian outfits looked nothing like believable armor and everything like something designed to show their boobs off (Seriously, Valkyrie’s outfit when she was a scavenger was better). But mostly, it was the humor. At times, it was spot-on, but more often than not, it felt shoehorned it and poorly timed. I mean seriously, there were times when I was thinking, “Don’t do the joke, don’t do the joke…damn it.”

I know Thor: Ragnarok took place primarily in space, so I suspect the writers were trying to tie the tone with Guardians of the Galaxy, but what made the humor of Guardians of the Galaxy work so well is that it started out with that humor built into the core ensemble. It was part of the franchise’s DNA from the start, and certainly with the characterization. In Thor: Ragnarok, I felt like the humor came at the expense of the characterization at times, and it didn’t always jive with the tone of the scene, and between the two, it stretched credulity. Without going into specific spoilers, a great example of it working was when Korg, voiced by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi (whom you may know as Viago from What We Do in the Shadows) tried to give the Asgardians hope toward the end of the movie. A great example it not working was also by Korg, right before the credits rolled, which made the tone of the movie end on a weird, rambling, odd joke instead of the more heroic punch it needed.

No doubt I’ll re-watch this. There’s plenty to enjoy, and maybe some of the cringe-worthy jokes won’t be so bad upon re-watch (the constant use of “Devil’s Anus,” anyone? Do we really think Bruce Banner would keep saying it without at least catching himself and wincing?), but I wish the writers had trusted the tone of the previous two movies a little more and learned from them. Thor: Ragnarok has a lot going for it, but it’s got a lot of issues too.


J.L.: At this point, I consider myself incredibly spoiled by the excellent quality of Marvel’s superhero films. Unfortunately, I seem to have reached the point where there are now so many of them that I am judging them against each other rather than against action blockbusters as a whole. So, it was very strange, coming out of the theater after seeing Thor: Ragnarok, to realize that I didn’t love a Marvel movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fun. It was funny. It was pretty (both in terms of characters and setting). But my immediate reaction was “That was an enjoyable way to spend an evening with my husband” rather than “When do I get to see this movie again, preferably as soon as possible?”

I realize, from the spoiler-free reactions of many of my friends, that this might be an unpopular opinion. There was plenty to enjoy about this film, and I’m admittedly hard-pressed to point to anything as an example of what made this a “bad” movie. Because it certainly wasn’t a bad movie, and there were elements about it that I loved. I appreciated learning more about the history of Asgard. I quite loved how this film tied Asgard into the greater universe beyond Earth/Midgard as a whole, as presented in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. There was excellent further character development between Thor and Loki, which has been a fantastic evolving relationship over the course of now four films.

Honestly, I feel silly criticizing the few elements that I didn’t like. I loved the humorous bits, but some of them felt out of place or dragged on a few beats too long. The Hulk got some much-needed character development, though the character of Bruce Banner got the short end of the stick for it. And while I had no great love for Jane Foster herself, I’m incredibly dissatisfied with how a relationship built over the course of two films was so brutally dropped, though mostly because it means no more Darcy (Korg was great, but no replacement).

Even though I’m not rushing out to see this movie again, I am still excited for Black Panther in a few short months. If anything, Thor: Ragnarok served as a satisfying interlude that gets us closer to Avengers: Infinity War. Considering my favorite scene in the entire movie was the exchange with Dr. Strange, I have no worries that future films might disappoint.


Nicole: What can I say?

A-

While the first movie was ho-hum, the second being vastly superior, it’s pretty clear that for the third Thor movie they decided to take things in a…different direction.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. I even wore my shiny purple lipstick for the occasion. While there were plenty of moments within the script that had me thinking, “Really guys? This is what we’re doing?” in terms of dialogue and certain character actions, overall I had a good time. You get to see more and more elements of the Marvel universe coming together as Thor bumps into Dr. Strange (that was a fun little surprise), Hulk, and visits a planet one might associate more with Starlord than Thor. And I’m glad they recapped the events of Ultron to give you an idea of just how the hell Banner ended up on that planet doing gladiatorial fights because I’d completely forgotten. And the mid-credits scene is a massive, “Oh boy” indicator that very soon some serious shit is going to go down in that universe.

As past Thor movies have leaned slightly more toward the fantastical rather than science fiction side of things, occasionally tipping to the other side, here we find ourselves in much more of a Guardians of the Galaxy-like setting. From the technology to the colors, the characters to the….*sigh* okay, let’s not discuss some of the dialogue. But it definitely brings a different flavor to what we’re used to from the past, like Avengers and Iron Man. Science fiction element aside, the Guardians-esque style also meant a lot of things felt less serious. You didn’t have a sense of impending doom the way you did in the other films, which I felt was kind of a disappointment. And when the hell did Thor get so loose and cheeky? But again, mild quibbles, and as long as I have a good time in the theater, that’s what counts. Especially when you get Loki being Loki, Heimdall being a badass, and did I mention Loki?

Being a soundtrack junkie, it was a pretty solid piece of work, especially since I’d never heard of Mark Mothersbaugh before today. I wasn’t blown away, given that the whole synth-80s style is coming back in force (see soundtracks for Stranger Things or Party Hard) now that it’s clear people like it and artists have more toys to work with, but it worked well for the movie, and I enjoyed how he took the original Thor theme and jazzed it up a bit. And in case you wondered if Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” from the trailer made it into the movie — yes. Yes, it did. And it’s pretty great.

Speaking of the trailer, I appreciate what they did in regards to what they showed us. You go in thinking Hela will instantly incinerate Asgard — but she doesn’t. You’re left wondering how that comes about until the very end. Well played, trailer makers.

Oh, and one final thing — I totally forgot Hela was Cate Blanchett for the entire movie. I feel that’s saying something.


 ~ SPOILERS BELOW ~

Betsy: What a fun movie. I went into the theater knowing that this Thor movie had more improvisational humor than its predecessors did, and I was looking forward to that. I also was predisposed to dislike Cate Blanchett as supervillain-goddess-of-death Hela, because the preview clips I saw reminded me too much of Galadriel-gone-bad. I’m happy to say that I liked her performance far better than I expected; the trailers must have caught her at all the worst moments for me. I do wish her agenda was more complex than “MOAR POWER! MOAR DEATH!” I mean, I get that she was imprisoned because of her ever-increasing push for conquest, but I feel like they missed an opportunity for the audience to relate to her by not making more of the betrayal of being erased from history. This gets mentioned as a bit of backstory, but honestly it seems to have more of an emotional impact on Thor than on Hela, who should be just as shocked as her brothers that her story is not known, if only as a warning to others. She just scoffs and goes about her business of killing everyone — which I’ll address in a bit.

In contrast, Loki’s destructiveness is at least overtly for the sake of proving his greatness to Odin, to rub his father’s face in the fact that Odin underestimated and dismissed Loki (at least in Loki’s mind), and for that Loki is a much more interesting villain every time we see him. Of course, the movie even pokes fun at the fact that Loki’s modus operandi has become quite predictable after multiple appearances, while Thor has actually grown and changed quite a bit since our first encounter with him six years ago. And then (!) Loki actually throws in with Thor’s plan and legitimately helps save the people of Asgard…at least as far as we know. He could still have taken the tesseract from Odin’s vaults before they were destroyed.

Back to Hela killing everyone…it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, she springs out of her prison ready to claim her birthright as Odin’s firstborn, and then seems to forget that she needs people to lead if she’s going to be a queen. If you kill everyone who would swear fealty, you’re not a ruler, you’re a murderer. Wars are hard to fight without an army. Yes, there’s a nod to a solution with the eternal flame reviving the heroes of Asgard’s past, but there cannot be an endless supply of those, and subsequent battles show them incredibly easy to re-kill. So then, not really more than a stopgap measure, reviving dead warriors, which once again calls into question Hela’s reasoning about killing nearly all the living Asgardians she encounters.

But I started out by saying it was a fun movie, and it really was. Most of the main characters had multiple moments that made me laugh out loud. It’s everything I look forward to in a Marvel movie: bombastic fight scenes and chase sequences, the fate of a world in question, the very lives and fiber of people’s selves in the balance, and more than a few jokes.

8 Comments

  • Betsy Whitt November 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Merrin: I TOTALLY agree about the studio ruining one of the best moments of the film by showing us ahead of time that Hulk was the champion. I almost mentioned it but I was already over word count in my spoiler-riddled submission….

    Reply
    • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      That is a really great point! I think the studio went for the laughs for the trailer rather than concealing the surprise, and maybe they felt due to REASONS they couldn’t keep it a secret anyway, but how awesome would that have been to keep it a surprise? SO AWESOME.

      Reply
  • Nicole Taft November 7, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Merrin: ” I’m relatively certain that Jeff Goldblum was just playing himself, but I’m not mad at it.” LOL I *almost* said that in my reaction!

    Nancy: I get what you mean about the killing of certain characters. It was VERY abrupt and felt a lot like, “Ok, you know what? We really don’t need you guys around anymore…like….at all. So instead of just pretending you don’t exist, kthxbye.”

    Shara: What? Why on earth wouldn’t the anus joke be funny? /sarcasm *bangs head against wall*

    Betsy: Normally I’m not a betting woman, but I would put down a TON of money that Loki took that thing out of there. 😉

    Reply
    • Shara White November 7, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Yeah, I read that Sif wasn’t in the movie because Jaime Alexander couldn’t make the schedule work with her tv show, and now I’m like, “THANK GOD.” That means she’s alive somewhere because she wasn’t in the movie to get unceremoniously killed off. I read that they were TRYING to show what a big bad Hela was, but the deaths of Thor’s companions were so abrupt and without thought that I feel the writers/director should’ve re-thought those moments.

      Loki totally took the tesseract. It’s an infinity stone!

      Reply
      • Nicole Taft November 8, 2017 at 12:56 am

        I was wondering why she got left out. Now I know it’s by happy accident and not on purpose. Interesting to see how they’ll handle that. And you’re right, it was super abrupt and should have been handled better. Being Thor’s guys, I feel like they all should have been able to be there until the bitter end to make it more poignant. Sort of goes along with the whole “none of this feels serious” thing they had going on.

        Reply
        • Shara White November 8, 2017 at 7:05 pm

          Yeah, I think by trying to make sure we knew HELA WAS SERIOUS BUSINESS by killing characters we cared about, they missed the boat. I don’t feel it had to be at the end, but maybe in the scene where she’s challenging the army and they fight her because she’s announced she’s killed Thor and they’re defending him or something.

          Reply
  • Lane Robins November 7, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I managed to see it though not until Monday night. I thoroughly enjoyed myself but I’m not sure it’s going up there in my favorites. I felt like it tilted just a little too much toward making the joke, which meant that the Hela scenes, for me, felt weirdly tonally wrong. But tonal issues have been a problem with Thor from the very first movie (Asgard, all Pomp and Circumstance; Earth, let me hit you with my truck and call the hammer Mew mew). And I loved Hela, so I was kind of irked that her scenes felt weirdly flat compared to the humorous ones. I think on rewatching (which I will definitely do), some of the jokes are just going to grate.

    That said, adored Valkyrie, loved Loki this time around, Ruffalo is welcome in any movie I watch, and Cate Blanchett finally felt like a great villain.

    Reply
  • Ron Edison November 8, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Thor 1 was so meh we didn’t bother to see Thor 2, but this was outstanding. Our favorite Marvel flick since Deadpool and Ant-Man. Probably the first superhero movie I didn’t notice long-winded destructive action scenes I would fast forward through at home. Generally not fond of Hulk but he was perfect here. Loved the Hulk/Loki/Thor interaction vis a vie The Avengers. Not comfortable with the change to Thor’s image (no helmet, short hair, and the eye thing) but I can adjust. The Asgard setting was much improved over the sleek metal/spacey/pointy imagery from Thor 1 that seemed to say nothing of Norse culture.

    Reply

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