I’m going to start by saying, in the strictest sense, it’s hard to say any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been “overlooked” relative to the movie industry as a whole. After all, this is a franchise that earned something like a bazillion dollars (more like 22.55 billion, but whatever) at the box office through its (as of this writing) 23-movie run. So when we say Thor: Ragnarok is unfairly overlooked we are merely speaking relative to the entire franchise.
Much like I said when discussing The Incredible Hulk’s demise, the MCU movies fit into a lot of different boxes. There are ensemble cast/ popcorn fests, espionage flicks, origin stories, space cowboy stuff, offshoot stories, and much more. It’s a cinematic feat to have pulled off what the MCU did in their 20 years.
So what I mean is that Thor: Ragnarok likely doesn’t come up when someone mentions the top-10 “must watch” movies in Marvel because it doesn’t have a ton to do with the broader universe and, in a lot of ways, exists outside of the core structure. That being said, it’s one of the defining movies of the MCU and maybe even it’s boldest and best film. Let’s take a look at why.
It’s A Bold Pivot For The Character
The first intentional piece of what makes Thor: Ragnarok so great is the shift away from the Thor we saw in The Dark World. That movie had a ton of problems and might be the worst in the franchise. It landed like a missed swing hammer thud with critics (the lowest Rotten Tomato’d movie in the MCU) and signaled a need to change the God of Thunder’s trajectory.
Thor: Ragnarok acts almost like a reset, shifting where they were going to take the character, setting the stage for what he would become in the final two acts of the Avengers movies. Thor is impatient set inside a fish-out-of-water (or God-out-of-Asgard) setting that plays on a number of his insecurities.
Chris Hemsworth is sensational as Thor. Gone are the table-thumping bravado scenes from the original Thor and they even momentarily ditched the brooding tone in The Dark World. What’s it’s replaced with is a character with few expletives to give dropped off in what essentially becomes a bottle movie compared to the rest of the franchise.
This shift is important because it paves the way for the “Fat Thor” we get in Endgame. Sure, the tortured soul is still there, but between his drunken madness when getting moved back into the Avengers mix, to redeeming himself in the fight against Thanos, to the conversation with Quill in the end as they are jockeying for ship leadership, Ragnarok helped round out a much more complete and “human” character arc. There’s no way they get there with Thor if we go right from Dark World, or some other standard adventure into Infinity War and Endgame.
Thor needed to get dropped off somewhere new, pick up Hulk along the way, “work some stuff out” with Loki. But all of those things are secondary to essentially coming out of this movie as an entirely different character. The Ragnarok pivot was as crucial to the entire MCU as any other single move the franchise made.
It’s The Only MCU Family Movie
Last summer, while at a family cabin in the woods, we fired up the outdoor projector, got into the picnic seating and had a choice, as a family, of a ton of movies. Thor: Ragnarok was the vote winner. The mix of folks ranged from diehard MCU fanboys and girls, to “never seen any of them” to preteen kids. I’d argue that it’s the only movie in the MCU that will appeal to such a large cross-section of viewers.
Sure, some of the others are fine in this realm but more often than not you are going to have hurdles to clear. You may need a backstory explanation about the world. Or new viewers will have to understand the characters motivations and history. Or even without that, you’ll need to gear up for tons of large set piece fighting and action scenes.
But Thor: Ragnarok is simple in its focus. Thor is trying to get off of Sakaar and Hela is razing Asgard with the help of Skurge (Karl Urban who is awesome). After that, there’s some Hulk smash, hijinks with Loki who you only need to understand is his brother, incredibly colorful scenery and tons of one-liners. The relatively limited action keeps the story humming and the variety of characters are appealing to kids. Some other MCU movies fit this bill, but Ragnarok is the best of the bunch.
Thor: Ragnarok Is The Funniest Movie In The MCU
I’m saying this with the understanding that Guardians of the Galaxy was the first to really start adding an almost-strictly comedic tone to the Marvel world. Sure, Iron Man had the playboy snark that kept things light from the get-go. But Guardians took it to a different level with the interplay of Quill, Drax, Rocket, and Groot’s use of limited syllables to drive the laughs. Ant-Man quickly followed suit with Rudd adding a different layer of blase Rudd-ness to the affairs.
But even those stories had dramatic elements to them that still kept them somewhat “grounded” for lack of a better word. Quill has some pain in his background struggling for the hero moments and Ant-Man plays on a familial bond in its third act. Ragnarok suffers no such illusions.
From start to finish the only goal for director Taika Waititi and writer Eric Pearson (who took over the script later in the game) is to dial up the funny. Even the antagonists exist mostly in a comedic realm. Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster isn’t really a bad guy as much as a bored and maniacal egomaniac. And while Cate Blanchett as Hela is dastardly, she’s evened out by what we see through Urban as Skurge’s eyes.
And finally, the secondary characters steal scenes throughout. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie lording power over Thor and Hulk’s backstage brooding all play perfectly. And finally, there’s Korg.
Yes I’m devoting a whole section of this Thor: Ragnarok ode to Korg. He deserves it. From a number of total lines:hilarity ratio, Korg is easily the funniest pound-for-pound character in the MCU. Drax is close I suppose, but he does have his moments of sadness. Maybe you want to argue Baby Groot, but his comedic energy comes more from the other characters interpreting his lines and the hijinks he gets up to. So since I just made up this stat on my own, I’m handing it to Korg.
Voiced by Waititi, Korg has gems like:
- “My name is Korg. I’m kind of like the leader in here. I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors!”
- “Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate.”
These, combined with his ability to, in one line, distill Thor down to his soul essence when he says, “It sounds like you had a pretty special and intimate relationship with this hammer and that losing it was almost comparable to losing a loved one.” Make him one of the best bit parts in the entire MCU. Maybe the best.
Thor: Ragnarok Really Is The Best Marvel Movie
Thor: Ragnarok is a masterful film, artfully wedged into the middle of greatest movie franchise in history. With so many Marvel movies out there, it can be easy to skip over when making the “best of” list, but that’s a mistake. It’s daring character choices and comedic approach could make it the flick that sticks around the longest in terms of broad appeal.