When you look at a fraction of Chris Hemsworth’s c/v, Cabin in the Woods, Blackhat, and the criminally underrated, and Oscar-worthy (I will fight anyone on this), portrayal of F1 legend, James Hunt in Rush, you realize that Hemsworth is worth far more than those shirtless scenes that show up in every Thor movie that gets made.
The man can act.
So it’s easy to understand why when he admitted during the press tour for the new film, Thor: Ragnarok, that he was getting bored of Thor. Let’s face it, up until now, 4 movies that have not given Chris Hemsworth a lot to play with in Thor as an actor. Always the brooding and powerful warrior who’s given half the screen time of Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. But this is the thing about Marvel, sometimes, they do listen. And this is where Taika Waititi comes in. Waititi is an extremely funny and talented actor and director from New Zealand. I know what you’re saying; “I’ve never heard of Taika Waititi”. You remember the mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows? Then you’ve heard of Taika Waititi.
And what Waititi, a director with a career includes low budget television such as Flight of the Conchords, and the feature film that you should do yourself a favor and watch, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople brought to Ragnarok was something that’s been missing from Thor since the credits of the first film, heart. Thor: Ragnarok is easily one of the best films Marvel has made because they let Waititi play up the fact Chris Hemsworth is legitimately a very funny guy. Anyone who’s seen the new Ghostbusters can tell you that. Hemsworth played the new teams ditzy receptionist and was legitimately the most entertaining part of that movie.
Waititi’s focus on the comedy allowed for 80% of the dialogue in the film to be improvised. And it’s because of this that the relationships in this movie, for the first time since Iron Man, felt completely natural. It’s by keeping the balance between the scripted and improve that Waititi was able to allow the audience to truly connect with these characters. This was the most surprising aspect of this movie for me. This was a Marvel movie, yes. So you got the pretty, pretty, lights. But every now and then Waititi gave us these little moments between characters that, despite being short, were immensely powerful and extremely natural. It’s funny what happens when you actually give a damn about these characters.
Ragnarok finds Thor being forced to fight his way out of the gladiator pits of a lost planet to prevent the total destruction of Asgard at the hands of Hella, the goddess of death after she’s destroyed his hammer with her bare hand. It’s a smart story that Waititi handles well because of that fact that he came from a background of strong character work. Bryan Singer once said in response to a question about going into a big budget effects movie when you have had no experience when he booked X-Men by saying, “You become an expert”. And you mostly get that feeling from the film. With the exception of some green screen work, the film is visually stunning. Odin’s throne room finally feels as God-like as Anthony Hopkins in the role. This feeling of easy that Waititi gave his characters translated into his action sequences as well. The build-up of Hulk vs Thor 2 has been years in the making and delivered in every possible way as Waititi brought his extremely strong character sensibilities to the action to give it a feeling I don’t think Marvel has had in their films since the first Thor.
And speaking of Thor, if Chris Hemsworth had to hang up what’s left of his hammer after Ragnarok, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. His performance in this film is possibly one of the most engaging, natural, and funny performances Marvel has ever had. At the core of a story about gladiators and the destruction of Asgard is a story about Thor finally understanding and coming to terms with who he is and the power he has. And Hemsworth has shown time and time again those shoulders can carry the weight of drama just as well the rest of this insanely talented cast. And I have to give a lot of credit to Waititi for allowing the natural chemistry between Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston to come out. When Loki came around in the first Thor movie, he was the villain. Every bit the brother of Thor in his search for identity, Loki’s been on a search for vindication and both his and Hemsworth’s stories come to a truly great finale. This may very well be Hiddelston’s last time donning Loki’s helmet. And he ensures to go out on top with a performance that is truly a quite touching performance that feels authentic to anyone who has fought with their brother. Here’s the thing about Loki, he’s a magician, he plays tricks. But he’s still an Asgardian. So if this is his last time as Loki, Waititi and Hiddleston make sure to show just how well Loki can handle himself in a fight. For me, the true climax of this movie was the rivalry between Thor and Loki more so than Hela. And this movie delivers. What made this ending work is purely thanks to Waititi leaving the scene entirely just these two great actors and cutting out almost everything you would expect in a Marvel movie, music, effects. In a sense, you truly feel Marvel has been listening to its critics with Ragnarok.
Moving along with Marvel listening brings us to a practically unrecognizable Cate Blanchett as Hela, the goddess of death. Marvel has had a long-standing problem with finding great villains in their films. Almost immediately Waititi lets Blanchett play when she tells Loki to kneel at her feet. She enjoys her time on the screen as much as I did watch her chew up the scenery. What surprised me the most about how the story and Waititi treated Hela is that she genuinely felt like she could kill Thor. I was leaning forward in my seat in a comic book movie. I cannot give Waititi enough credit for his handling of the conflict in this story.
Mark Ruffalo successfully plays two different characters with an extended time as Hulk and as super nerd Bruce Banner. Banner and Thor have never had that much time together in the Marvel film history. And when you watch Hemsworth and Ruffalo, you start realizing how much of a shame that is because these two are so much fun to watch. I don’t know if you know, but Tessa Thompson is really short, she’s 5’ 4”. But when she’s walking down the rainbow bridge with her swords out you will truly believe she’s about to kill every one of the hulking warriors in Hela’s army coming at her. Thompson embodies the spirit of the Valkyrie in every possible way while managing to stay grounded and real.
If I had anything bad to say about this film is that there is just a little too much going on in this story. This is a story that has everything from a gladiator match with Hulk, a gigantic wolf, a demon made of fire, Idris Elba, and Karl Urban. There is so much going on at such a fast pace that you have to be on it when you watch this movie. But really, this is more nitpicking for the sake of it. Thor: Ragnarok is a damn good movie and one of Marvel’s best films and more than worth 5 out of 5 stars. I promise you, you will want to see it again.
The real question is going to be is Chris Hemsworth’s contract is over in the next Avengers movie, Infinity War Part 1 (and probably 2). Ragnarok finishes Thor’s story so well that bringing him back for Avengers will feel like a “just cause” moment more than anything of any real significance. But here’s the thing Marvel listens. So it’s probably a safe bet Thor’s part of Infinity War will be epic. But the problem will always be with the ending of Thor: Rangnarok being as good as it is, there’s no real need for that epic ending.