At this point in the series, I’m likely talking to devotees when discussing Thor: Ragnarok. There are at a minimum 4 other movies you’d need to have pretty decent knowledge of to understand most of what’s going on here (Thor, Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron). However, I would argue that there’s a lot for a novice to understand and enjoy in this movie, even if your only point of reference is your friend’s Facebook photos of their kids’ costumes.
Our main hero Thor (played again by Chris Hemsworth) is still doing his evil-fighting best, trying to understand why he’s been having dreams about his home, Asgard, burning. He finds an evil fire lord and we see their initial hilarious conversation while Thor hangs all tied up in chains. Suffice it to say that Thor believes this is the guy who will be responsible for burning down Asgard and he’s come to stop it. Since, as a movie-goer, we know that this is the opening scene, and it can’t possibly be that simple, we take great delight in observing their banter.
Of course, it’s much more complicated. Based on the trailers alone you know that Cate Blanchett plays the evil Hela and wears a helmet of horns (my only gripe with this whole movie was those horns actually), but how could she possibly defeat Thor? Well, as with most things, Thor doesn’t know the whole story. Figuring out how to defeat the power Hela wields, and finding a team to help him, is what makes this a superhero movie. What makes it a good movie is that there are issues that us non-superheroes can relate to.
Thor has to rely on a brother who constantly betrays his trust. He must convince people who have turned their back on him that his mission is worthy of them risking their life. He has to do this all while surviving on a new planet called Sakaar, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), think Jabba the Hut meets Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element, who runs a gladiator inspired coliseum.
Thor: Ragnarok is definitely the funniest of the Marvel movies (rivals Guardians of the Galaxy for humor). Korg, a rock man gladiator, played by director Taika Waititi, has a high pitched New Zealand accent, and seems to run the coliseum fighters. Within fight scenes we get digs at Thor (he bristles at “lord of thunder” rather than “God of Thunder”) and some references to previous movies with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Korg and Hulk are both trying to do their best in their circumstance, but mostly their deadpan comedic delivery just make Thor seem over-serious in comparison.
People around Thor are mostly lost in their own worlds, Tessa Thompson surviving as a garbage collector on Sakaar, Hulk winning these gladiatorial fights and ignoring the Bruce Banner within, and even Idris Elba as Heimdall trying to save Asgard’s people. But with humor and cooperation (and a really great score), Thor can unite them towards a greater good and entertain us in the process.