Marvel continues to shake up genres with each release in its cinematic universe, and while you’d think they might run out of steam by the 17th outing in the franchise, “Thor: Ragnarok” might make you believe they’re just getting started.
Joining the ranks of the “fun” ones, like “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Ragnarok” showcases the titular Thor on a buddy-space adventure, with Chris Hemsworth in the lead role for his latest turn at the wheel of the character, joined by Mark Ruffalo’s incredible Hulk this time as the duo transcend the universe alongside the indomitable Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the more mischievous than usual Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
Director Taika Waititi takes the helm of the third installment in the trilogy for a a laugh-a-minute romp that feels very different than the previous two standalone films. The character of Thor may be the most vastly confused character in all the MCU, as Hemsworth’s performances have always been spot on, but considerably different from title-to-title under different direction and writing. The Thor from the original two films is played quite differently than the one from the two Avengers films, and now comes full circle with a third version with “Ragnarok” – one I hope stays around for subsequent appearances.
It’s silly – and it’s supposed to be. From Jeff Goldblum’s appearance as The Grandmaster to Waititi’s own performance as the warrior Korg, taking the film seriously is to do it an injustice. There’s no geopolitical plot at stake. The only looming threat of urgency comes from Thor and Loki’s sister, Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, who cares little for Thor’s hammer and more for Asgard’s throne.
While humor has always been a thread through all of the Marvel films, dating back now a decade to the original “Iron Man,” “Ragnarok” goes in a different direction – using the action almost as a B plot to showcase stronger performances from its versatile cast. The action scenes are somewhat lackluster, save for the climactic battle of Asgard, but you don’t really feel like you missed out on anything when you’re trying to keep up with the sight-gags and improvisational dialogue.
Like his newfound powers in this film, Thor’s strengths of both humor and heart came to light in “Ragnarok” more than ever before. Like his hammer, he doesn’t need to be beholden to his portrayal in “The Dark World” or “Age of Ultron.” The character’s necessity was always there, but the combination of Hemsworth and Waititi brought it to light and we can only hope it sticks around for however long the former continues to play the role.
Releasing on 4K Ultra HD and BluRay Tuesday from Walt Disney Home Entertainment, the film boasts a plethora of special features that are almost as special as the look of the film itself. “Thor” looks vibrant on 4K and is my first title to watch under the format through home video. The greens and yellows that were used in the marketing material for the lead-up to the film decorate the front of the box and go beyond, with crisp imagery and sound for the physical copy’s release.
Inside, you’ll find lots to occupy you after you finish the film:
- Director Taika Waititi’s audio commentary and introduction are worth watching the film immediately after you finish it the first go-around for a heaping help of insight and comedy into the production. So far, it’s been the most essential Marvel commentary thus far, in my opinion.
- Also featuring Waititi is the featurette “Finding Korg,” where we learn more about his role in the film.
- If you’re curious about the1980s look and feel of the film, check out “Journey into Mystery,” which breaks down the influences of the movie and where it falls in the timeline of the overall MCU.
- The Grandmaster’s planet of Sakaar gets its own special look in “On the Edge of the Known and Unknown” discussing the world and its inhabitants.
- Going back to discussing the multiple incarnations of Thor in the franchise, “Getting in Touch with Your Inner Thor” features Hemsworth dissecting the character and his evolution of performances.
- “Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie” showcases the performances of Tessa Thompson (who steals the show in “Ragnarok”) and Cate Blanchett providing their insight on their roles.
- “Team Darryl” brings back the role of Thor’s ex-roomie as he now has to live with Goldblum’s Grandmaster.
- A pair of 8-bit sequences highlight animatic storyboards featuring graphics from the ’80s.
- Five deleted scenes are included on the set, including one with Michael Rooker’s Yondu from the “Guardians” films.
- What’s lacking in this department is the film’s Gag Reel, which sadly clocks in under three minutes. I can only imagine there’s an entire alternate cut of the film with outtakes, given Waititi’s style and flare.
- “Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years – The Evolution of Heroes” is exactly what you’d expect as this release is most likely the last before “Avengers: Infinity War” hits theaters, presumably before “Black Panther” does. You can catch a series of interviews with cast and crew involved with the MCU.
Overall, “Ragnarok” was a risk that paid off, both theatrically and on home video, resulting in one of the most re-watchable offerings of the MCU that’s as fun as it is farce. I can’t recommend it enough.
W. Derek Russell
W. Derek Russell is a newspaper reporter, columnist and TV/Film critic who hosts podcasts such as "...with Brian Austin Green" and "Starkville's House of El."