It has been said that there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. It seems that another axiomatic item can be added to thre list, movies part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will return incredible box office receipts. Cumulatively the profits Marvel and their parent company, the Walt Disney Studio, range in multiples of billions of dollars. Such astronomical sums were once reserved for describing the Gross National Product of entire nations, not a group of tightly inter connected films. One of the recent offerings, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, had a budget of approximately $180 million which admittedly sounds like a huge amount of working capital until you include a domestic box office of about $300 million with the global contribution approaching an additional $600 million. What is truly amazing is the simple fact that the movies of the MCU transcend mere fiscal juggernauts, they consistently are ranked among the best example of movie making artistry currently crafted. Like many fans I have been an ardent supporter of Marvel Comic’s properties over their perennial rival, DC. Chief among the reasons has always been Marvel’s inherent commitment to telling a humanistic story, undeterred when challenged with infusing the super heroes with the foibles and trepidations that all of us must face, in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ the nearly invincible god of thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stripped of his powers including the characteristics and items that has always defined the core of his existence. This pathway through his narrative is directly inspired by folklore and myths common to the human experience. A scholarly consideration of how such themes are expressed can be found in Joseph Campbell particularly his seminal work that deconstructs the hero’s journey. It isn’t necessary to be consciously aware of the deeper scholarly and philosophical components, they are so ingrained in every culture that the effect is to experience an epic tale of defeat, triumph and transformation. These plot points are traditionally encountered before the hero faces the ultimate challenge, one that often proves fatal for some in the forces of good. This is to prepare the Merry Marvel Marching Society for a grand conclusion of a decade of films, in thre upcoming ‘Infinity War’.
In the aftermath of the Battle between the Avengers and the advanced artificial intelligence, Ultron (James Spader), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) began a quest throughout the galaxy to locate the remaining Infinity Stones, objects of unimaginable power. The audience is brought into the story in medias res, as Thor is bound in a mesh dangling in midair. He is on the fiery realm of Muspelheim, prisoner of the demon Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown). Cinematic theory requires that the first scene grab the attention of the audience, provide the initial exposition and establish the general tone of the film. The director, Taika Waititi, accomplishes a remarkable achievement in efficient storytelling. As Thor hangs in the net speaking directly to the viewers, he explains how he came to such a precarious state. In response his captor details what his nefarious plans are including his destiny to initiate the annihilation of Asgard, Ragnarok. The narrative economy is extraordinary. The density of exposition is far greater than typically seen, even in part of the MCU. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this brief yet effective scene was the introduction of the trademark Marvel humor. As the embodiment of evil annihilation, Surtur, is gloating over the captured and weaponless god of thunder, Thor keeps turn at the end of the tether suspending him. Thor repeatedly apologizes as the rotation brings him from facing his adversary. The deconstruction of such a relatively minor scene reveals that it is the epitome of Mr. Waititi’s filmmaking style. The level effectiveness of his work on this movie is especially interesting considering his last excursion into the super hero genre was the lamentable flop, ‘Green Lantern (2011). Some have described this movie as the funniest in the MCU canon.it might appear to be a disconnect for a story about the end of an ancient civilization. A moment of reflection will reveal that a few laughs are precisely what was needed at this point in the decade long story arc that will finally culminate in the soon to be released and highly anticipated ‘Infinity War’. It is well known that some of the most beloved characters of the franchise, as well\as decades of comic book fame, will not survive that film. Before such s dark instalment of the narrative we all could use some laughs.
Crucial to the success of Surtur’s destiny of Ragnarok is his crown. After vanquishing the foe Thor chains, it on his back returning to Asgard to place the deadly item in Odin’s treasure room for protection. Upon arriving Thor notices a huge stature honoring his trickster brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Adding to the surreal atmosphere his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins). The façade created by Loki in the previous Thor film is broken revealing that Loki, disguised as Odin, was ruling Asgard. When they track down the real all-father on earth the brothers watch as Odin dies, dissolving into the cosmos. His death breaks the bonds imprisoning Odin’s first born, his daughter Hela (Cate Blanchett), goddess of death. she, by birth order, is the heir to the throne of Asgard. Ms. Blanchett has a palpable, sensuous screen presence that dominates every frame in which she appears. The tendency with an archvillain, especially in female persona, would be to overplay the evil creating a melodramatic feel. The extraordinary abilities commanded by Ms. Blanchett soars beyond to a performance of carefully crafted menace. Hela truly enjoys her role as the goddess of death and after so many millennia imprisoned wreaking havoc is delightful, leaving her giddy with the carnage she causes.
More than any other Thor film in the MCU this one highlights the theme of the ultimate dysfunctional family. When the feuding family members posses godlike power the death and damage extend to the entire community, in this instance, all Asgard and ultimately, the galaxy. In many ways the entire last decade and three phases of the MCU release schedule has been a large game of chess, initially the early moves established the pieces, setting them in position. Next, lesser exchanges to gain positional control. ’Thor: Ragnarok’ has cleared the board of many pieces. Thor suffers loss, typical of the heroic journey, stripping away all the people and devices that previous defined the hero. Thor loses his comrades in arms, Lady Siff (Jamie Alexander) and the stalwart Warriors Three. His defining feature, Mjolnir, his hammer is crushed easily by Hela. Odin sacrificed an eye in exchange for wisdom. Thor is enucleated but gains the true understanding of the power inherent in the mantle of the god of thunder. This film also initiated the requisite connections between two outliers from the Avengers, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Another Avenger missing from ‘Civil War’ was Bruce Banner, he Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). They are reunited on the remote planet, Sakaar, ruled by one of the Elders of the Universe known as the Gamemaster (Jeff Goldblum). Previously we have seen his fellow Eternals, the Collector (Benicio del Toro), and Ego (Jeff Bridges), all closely involved with the ultimate plot coupon. Thr Infinity Stone. One of the breakout characters was a young woman called while on Sakaar Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), the last of the elite Asgardian warriors, the Valkyrie. This movie concludes the Thor trilogy and serves as the introduction to the grand conclusion, ‘Infinity War’. It is undoubtedly finny, provides plenty of fast pace action and displays a myriad of Easter eggs to keep the diehard Marvel fans busy with the pause and rewind buttons for the foreseeable future. One finale note. The film hasn’t been released as a 3D version here in the States. Fortunately, a region free release is available through vendors including Amazon.uk.