Updated: Jan 2, 2019
Like Suicide Squad and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok joins the pantheon of films surpassed by their own trailers. In the case of Suicide Squad, that trailer mesmerized audiences with Harley Quinn, El Diablo, and Deadshot bashing bad guys to the tune of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But the trailer was written and edited on a superior level to the actual film. With the second Avengers film, Marvel’s trailer presented Ultron as a sinister Pinocchio, a villain that would finally give their cinematic universe and heroes a credible, memorable villain. Instead, Age of Ultron, like Suicide Squad, was fun, but disappointing.
Ragnarok’s trailer was memorable and popular. Marvel created a flood of anticipation when it released the film’s trailer online on April 10; within 24 hours, it had 136 million views. People were clearly clamoring for the release date.
It appears expectations were too high. But there’s still much to admire.
First off, I felt the film had a rocky start. The first action scene pins Thor between a crowd of henchmen. The scene is meant to impress us with the strength of THE MIGHTY THOR, but the action is generic and boring. Worse, that first action has horrible visual effects. That is mindboggling because the rest of the film’s visual effects and production design are perfect. Thankfully, the movie surged in quality after the lackluster fight; in particular, the heavily promoted fight between Hulk and Thor was a standout, gladiatorial throwdown. Hela’s one-woman invasion of Asgard and Team Thor’s fight against Hela were eye-catching too.
On the positive side, this is clearly the best film in Thor’s trilogy, largely thanks to the casting. Cate Blanchett, the First of Her Name, Winner of two Academy Awards, Destroyer of the Spanish Armada, creates the MCU’s best villainous depiction. (Well, that’s technically Loki, but we don’t count anti-heroes.) Anyway, Hela’s hella cool. She impresses you from the moment she shatters Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Blanchett imbues every glance with spite and her character’s history. Moreover, when she explains her purpose and her vision, the entire Thor franchise became infinitely more intriguing.
At the end of Thor: The Dark World, Loki (Tom Hiddleson) faked his own death and seized Asgard’s throne by disguising himself as Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Ragnarok picks up with Loki continuing to rule as Odin. Here, Anthony Hopkins expertly plays Loki pretending to be Odin in an act of actor-ception. Hopkins’ performance as Loki-as-Odin easily matched the Grandmaster’s one of the best in the film. Tom Hiddleson, Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, and Mark Ruffalo each have their moments as well. However, the core heroes aren’t as hilarious as Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster or his bodyguard played by Rachel House. Goldblum has a string of well-articulated jokes in each of his scenes. Ragnarok might be worth admission just for him.
Still, the excitement from the trailers is rarely re-captured. Ragnarok is hilarious, especially in the beginning, but Hela has a minimized presence, and the script drops some of the most intriguing themes she raises. Resurrecting those themes would have been worth the time compared to a shoehorned extended cameo by Dr. Strange. Whereas the first trailer promised an epic clash between the warrior Valkyries and Hela, the film barely shows footage of the battle. The second trailer teased a magnificent fight between Hulk and a fire demon called Sutur, but anyone waiting for that heavily teased fight will be incredibly disappointed.
Overall, Ragnarok is an enjoyable film, but the timing of other superhero films this year make it look mediocre. In comparison to the humor and action in Logan, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman: Homecoming, Ragnarok can’t hold up; it entertains, but it’s formulaic, and in a year where directors are trying to make a niche for each superhero franchise, Ragnarok joins the rest of the standard superhero pack. You should see it anyway.