Student Feature: An Intergalactic Road Trip for the Ages – A Review of “Thor: Ragnarok”

Below is a review of the recently-released Thor: Ragnarok, written by Lewis University student Jerry Langosch. 

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Since 2008 with the release of Iron Man, Marvel Studios have been, like clockwork, pumping out energetic, focused films in their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). They tell the tales of their plethora of superheroes and villains to the tune of millions of dollars in production costs, but billions in return from the box office, with 2012’s The Avengers being the shining star (making $1.5 billion on a $220 million budget). The Thor franchise, though, sticks out from the most from the bunch, as it is rooted in real Norse mythology. And though it is a tall order to hand over such material so heavily-rooted in mythology to any filmmaker, Marvel’s decision to put New Zealand’s Taika Waititi behind the third entry in this series is, astonishingly, the best move that the company has made in tapping directorial talent to date.

Taika Waititi (who shows his personal comedic taste as the walking, talking rock-person Korg in the film) feels right at home within the Marvel Universe, and takes his comedic chops to their absolute limit with the king of Asgard and his big green friend, Hulk. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) has likely always been this funny, and the same can be said about co-stars Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki), but nowhere else in their many previous appearances in the MCU do they successfully land jokes as often as they do here. The onslaught of laughs coming from this film truly taps into the strengths that Marvel is known for with their strong leads, but unfortunately it also makes their long-standing problem of generic, dull villains even more poignant.

Hela, the primary villain of the film (played by Cate Blanchett) is stronger than the villains that have tried to vanquish Thor before her, and though her personal strength is immense and her abilities are shockingly mighty, she continues the trend of duller and duller evildoers with every film Marvel churns out.  Her game, which she plays well and with certain cause, is to destroy Thor’s home of Asgard. However, the pacing of the film trips over itself anytime she makes an appearance. There is a lighthearted and goofy 1980s vibe to the entirety of the film, from costume to set design, and when Hela steps in to begin her coup, everything falls as flat as her black-accented dress. That being said, the film is unapologetic for the good and the bad, and it works to its advantage.

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The humor throughout the film may be the largest takeaway on this outing, but in order to accomplish every punchline, some subtlety is also sacrificed. Furthermore, there are certainly moments in the film that garner nothing more than an awkward chuckle due to the tender nature of the topics at hand, such as accepting death or doing your best to change a deep-seated character flaw. The Thor films have always felt particularly emotionally heavy-handed, and this film fails to connect to its predecessors in that way, outside of an early scene in which Anthony Hopkins returns as Thor’s father, Odin.

Waititi skillfully creates a world that is charming on the eyes, and yet necessitated by the survival of the planets’ legions of scrappers. He wraps it all up in an unscripted dialogue-infused bow, thanks to wonderful performances by both Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, leader of the planet and its famed warriors, and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, an ex-Asgardian turned alcoholic mess seeking nothing more than to make a living on this gladiatorial playground.

Thor: Ragnarok is the second-to-last film that will be released before the long awaited Avengers: Infinity War, which is proposed to be the culmination of the entirety of the MCU to date. And yet, this film is unapologetically uproarious in nature and only seems to care about the universe at large toward the end of the third act, leaving the self-contained story to thrive on its own. Thor: Ragnarok still deals with the same pacing and villain woes that plague many of Marvel’s previous output, but it will be remembered as the best of the Thor trilogy, as well as the funniest entry in Marvel’s now seventeen-film long series.


Bio:

Jerry Langosch is a senior at Lewis University majoring in computer science. He is graduating this December and is currently a part-time IT Specialist with West Liberty Foods in Bolingbrook. When not working or in class, Jerry spends time playing with his golden retriever, creating pop culture costumes with friends, and keeping up with modern film production. A few movies that inspire his taste in film include The Prestige, The Shining, and The Graduate

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