What We Liked (And Really Liked) About Thor: Ragnarok

Illustration for article titled What We Liked (And Really Liked) About Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok dropped last Thursday night, and Mike Fahey and Gita Jackson had a chance to see it shortly afterward. We sat down to talk about the movie’s great jokes, Space Jeff Golblum, and where Ragnarok ranks for us amongst the other Marvel movies.


Gita Jackson: Hi Fahey! We both got a chance to see Thor: Ragnarok, the latest movie in a Marvel franchise that I don’t think a lot of people are the biggest fans of. I actually hadn’t seen Thor: The Dark World prior to seeing this one.

Mike Fahey: I saw most of The Dark World, but kept falling asleep!

Gita: Helpfully, we get a quick recap of that movie in the beginning of Ragnarok. What a delightful movie. I really enjoyed it.

Fahey: I stayed awake through the entire thing, the first for a Marvel Thor movie! I’m going to be all exclamation points this time around. Except for just then! I’ve not been so happy leaving a Marvel movie in a long time. Exclamation point.

Gita: Before our screening they showed a trailer for Justice League, a movie that is somehow coming out next week. I love pretty much all the characters featured in that trailer, having been a hardcore DC fangirl in a past life. But after Ragnarok I found myself lamenting that more superhero movies aren’t this fun. And I don’t mean “funny” or “clever”—you could tell that everyone on set loved making this movie, even if the movie wasn’t all that deep. It was like living inside of a 70s metal band album cover.

Fahey: Or an 80s boys cartoon, from back in the days when cartoons were aimed strictly at either boys or girls. Oooh no, I got it, it was like peeking inside my Trapper Keeper from middle school, with the drawings of superheroes and the name of the band I wanted to form in all sorts of fancy fonts.

Gita: I also wanted to start a loud band with a cool logo, and maybe I would have if a character like Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie had been in a movie this cool when I was young. This movie was written by the three screenwriters who brought us the first two Thor movies, so it feels like, to me, the person who should get credit for this change in tone and quality is the director, Taika Waititi. Have you seen What We Do In The Shadows?


Fahey: I have seen it multiple times, and I eagerly await We’re Wolves, should that happen. His influence is incredibly strong in this film. I mean, the rock guy in the arena might as well have been in What We Do.

Gita: God he was hilarious.

Fahey: Oh wait, that was [Taika Waititi].

Gita: lmao

Fahey: Thanks, IMDB! I think we owe a lot of this film to how well the “Thor in Australia” short we got to explain where he was during Civil War was received.

Gita: I definitely agree. I mean, I always thought the best bits of the first Thor were all the fish out of water comedy things. But they never seemed to gel together into something memorable. That short, however, got a really good performance out of Hemsworth and finally gave Thor a characterization that I cared about. He’s kind of a dumb jock, but a nice dumb jock.


Fahey: It’s much different than his portrayal in the comics. Comic book Thor, at least in my experience, is more… godly. He’s a being from mythology, filled with pomp and gravitas. Hence Kenneth Branagh handling his first appearance. But I don’t think that version works on film.

Gita: Yeah, I was excited for Branagh to give us a Shakespearian superhero movie, but that kind of didn’t work out.


Fahey: What’s really funny about this interpretation of Thor is we’ve sort of seen it before. Back in 1988 there was a TV movie called The Incredible Hulk Returns, featuring Thor as a beer-guzzling surfer-looking bro.

Gita: Huh! I mean, it kinda works. And the character design does scream “beach bum.”


Fahey: But enough of my derailing! Thor! Ragnarok! The jokes don’t stop!

Gita: It was remarkably funny. Chris Hemsworth is a really funny actor. Lord, even Benedict Cumberbatch was funny. Ragnarok worked precisely because it was willing to not at all take itself seriously. Even in moments when the movie was grappling with real themes—familial relationships, the destruction of your homeland—it was kind of winking and nodding at the audience.


Fahey: How did you feel about the stakes, in the face of all of the funny being thrown all over the screen? We have Hela, Odin’s long-lost daughter, returning home to claim Asgard as her own after centuries in exile. She decimates an entire Asgardian army single-handedly. Cut to funny Thor stuff.

Gita: After two Thor movies, I honestly had no reason to care about Asgard as a place. I was rooting for Thor to leave Skaar because it just seemed like a hellhole, but when it came to scenes with Hela, I was mostly down to just watch Cate Blanchett be a cool goth. Asgard being a real place was always a weird sticking point for me. Why should I give a shit about their monarchy when it seems like mostly Odin creates problems and then leaves weird cryptic clues for Thor to solve them?


Fahey: Cate Blanchett was a very, very cool goth in a very fetching outfit. As for Odin, I really enjoyed him in the early moments of the movie, when he was watching the play. How about that play?


Gita: Man, I loved that play. The cut to the chorus singing the theme from The Dark World was incredible.

Fahey: And Chris Hemsworth’s brother playing Thor was a nice touch. Of course that wasn’t Odin. Wah wahhhh. The “Oh shit” when Thor shows up kind of gives it away. You know, the problem with discussing this movie is I want to go through each and every joke individually. Let me just get it out of my system: “The sun’s getting real low.” “I’ve been falling for 30 minutes!” “The hammer pulled you off?” “I’ve got a surprise for you, ladies.” I’m not doing ‘Get Help.’” “Yeah! That’s how it feels!” Okay, I am done.


Gita: It was like a series of very good sketches woven into a really enjoyable movie. The next gag after the play was the bit with Doctor Strange, where Strange keeps entering the frame from the opposite side he leaves it. That’s a self contained gag right there. But the structure of the film makes each set piece work as a segue into the next.

Fahey: Yes, it all came together so well, flowing from one moment to the next. The only sequences that dragged even slightly were the Hela/Executioner bits.


Gita: How did you feel about Skurge, as played by Karl Urban?

Fahey: I feel that had we met him before he would have mattered more. He was written like a character we’re supposed to know, but we don’t. I mean, I love Karl Urban, and I have since The Chronicles of Riddick. It was good to see him, and he plays Skurge’s conflict well.


Gita: Yeah I think Urban was really trying his best. He does a great significant look to the middle distance. On the one hand, I’m glad that Urban got a short arc to play with, and there was a B plot that tied into the overall plot, which is about choosing to be a hero even when all is lost. On the other hand, it kinda sucked that we didn’t get more Idris Elba. There’s a part of me that would have cut Urban entirely for more Elba chopping dudes in half with a sword.

Fahey: My wife would have appreciated that very much. Did you get a little choked up at Hulk shouting “Hulk friend stay!” when Thor was attempting to leave Skaar?


Gita: Oh man, yes. This movie also handled the weighty task of making me care about the Hulk’s movie incarnation, and it really did it for me. The Hulk, as a superhero, is all about how we handle our emotions, and it’s very on the nose. Banner was hiding all the rest of his hurt behind Being Mad, so when he finally had enough of Another Feeling it all collapsed and he stopped being the Hulk.

Fahey: As much as he’s portrayed as a rage beast in the previous movies, the comics have touched on so many facets of the Hulk/Banner relationship and Hulk’s emotions, so it’s nice to see us getting more of that. It’s what the two named Hulk films have lacked. Anger isn’t the only primitive emotion. Love’s in there too.


Gita: Mark Ruffalo’s performance in this movie, where he is the Hulk for a pretty long time, made me really want another stab at a Hulk movie. He did a great job playing the Hulk as basically a giant, petulant child.


Fahey: Plus, Hulk has a great ass.

Gita: Yeah, good butt too.

Fahey: I was going to say how he reminded me of one of my children re: petulant child, but now that we’ve talked about his butt I will refrain. Instead, let us talk about the Grandmaster.


Gita: I love that dude.

Fahey: Space Jeff Goldblum is best Jeff Goldblum.

Gita: What a great performance from Goldblum.

Fahey: I don’t know if it was even a performance. It’s like he’s always belonged out there, among the stars, and he finally came home.


There are a couple of things we need to touch on from a more technical standpoint, I think. The scene where Odin, Loki and Thor are standing on the cliff overlooking the sea. What the hell was with that lighting?

Gita: I couldn’t tell if it was bad green screening or what, but it was definitely noticeable. Waititi has never done a movie this big before, so there were a couple technical snags.


Fahey: From one angle it was obvious they were there, and from the other it looked like they were streaming video of Norway on Twitch. And the other thing, which I know you want to talk about, is that music.

Gita: As I waited for the post-credits sequence, I thought to myself, “Man, that score was great. I wonder who did it.” At that very moment, Mark Mothersbaugh’s name appeared on screen.


Fahey: From Yo Gabba Gabba fame?

Gita: And Rugrats! He even did some killer music for The Sims 2. Obviously, he’s the dude from Devo. And man, Ragnarok’s score gets really Devo.


Fahey: So much synth it made me feel like a kid again. Bring back the obvious synth I say. At times it even gave me Kung Fury vibes.

Gita: My favorite was when it would transition from Big Superhero Orchestral Score into Synth Heavy 70s Cheese. I honestly can’t wait to listen to this on the train. Or maybe at the gym. It’s probably good gym music.


Fahey: The spaceship battle when they were leaving Skaar? The music felt right out of Flash Gordon.

Gita: Yes!

Fahey: Where do you think Thor: Ragnarok stands in terms of all the Marvel movies so far?


Gita: Before Ragnarok, I’d say that my favorite Marvel movie was The Winter Soldier, closely followed by the first Guardians of the Galaxy (the second was alright too). Now I think I prefer Ragnarok’s fun over The Winter Soldier’s angst. It’s just a damn good movie. How about you?

Fahey: I was Guardians all the way in terms of entertainment, and The Winter Soldier as a drama. Thor: Ragnarok is an entirely different beast. It’s the sort of movie that, if I still watched television on a regular basis, I would stop and watch every time I stumbled on it while flipping through the channels. Is there such a thing as an instant cult classic?


Gita: If there is, Thor: Ragnarok is definitely that.

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I wonder, with Guardians and this new Thor being critically praised for their use of humor, are superheroes supposed to be adapted as not being taken seriously, or as near-full on comedies? Personally I’d be a bit bummed if that’s the case, because while a loooot of superhero movies are angsty or overly-serious, I think going 180 with the tone isn’t doing it for me. I liked this movie A LOT, but I kinda got tired of nearly every dramatic moment being undercut by a joke right after or in the middle of the scene. It’s funny the first time, but has diminishing returns. Maybe I’m just a grump, but I’m curious what other people think.