The early years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, later branded as “Phase I,” saw each founding member of the Avengers team getting a uniquely-flavored solo film well before the release of “The Avengers” in 2012. 2008’s “Iron Man” provided a shiny offering of gadgetry and snark; “The Incredible Hulk,” also from 2008, offered fans more action that deep thought and 2011 gave fans “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Thor was handled by storied Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh, allowing for nods to the more tragic tales by the Bard despite a fish-out-of-water approach to narrative that also complemented the first Captain America. Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo film for Thor, seems to portray a thunder god who has outgrown the characterization of his appearances in “Thor” and The Avengers.
Thor: Ragnarok sees Thor pairing up with recurring antagonist and adopted brother Loki as the pair gather allies like Valkyrie and The Incredible Hulk to tackle the Asgardian Goddess of Death itself and her army of corpse soldiers. Ragnarok eschews the trappings of a costume drama in favor of a raucous, hedonistic trip as Led Zeppelin and ’80s-style electrosynth plays in the background. Chris Hemsworth commented that were he to reprise his role, he would want it to be something exciting and distinct from the five other times he’s chucked Mjolnir and called down the thunder. Ragnarok more than delivers in just its opening scene; Thor is explaining how he became captured to a long-decayed skeleton.
The film exudes with energy that is no doubt helped by a sense of joy in its lead actor, its director and its three screenwriters (Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost). These people enjoy Thor’s cosmology but are not above poking fun at it; one need only to bask in Jeff Goldblum’s portrayal of the Grandmaster to gain that impression. Such a change in direction may be just the thing for Thor. Neither of the Asgardian’s solo ventures were grossing films within the MCU; “The Dark World” is actually the worst-rated of all MCU films by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Where The Dark World was a desaturated and confusing mess of a film, Ragnarok is supersaturated with energy and color. The tonal shift is certainly welcome for Hemsworth; ventures outside of Marvel, such as the rebooted “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call,” show that he can competently perform in comedic roles.