Countdown to Endgame #19: Ragnarok is Out of This World

As The Avengers: Endgame approaches, Team Midnight has committed to watch all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films released to date in chronological (story) order: 22 films in 8 weeks. Follow along with us.

Because of two key pieces of intel, the MMT science squad has ascertained that this film takes place after the Doctor Strange / Black Panther / Spiderman: Homecoming time frame. 1) When we encounter him in Thor: Ragnarok, Bruce has been Hulk for two years; you’ll remember that the last time we saw him was taking off in the Quinjet at the end of Age of Ultron. And, 2) Doctor Strange is already a master of the mystic arts and keeper of the New York Sanctum; the nerds imply that the Dormmamu business took place at roughly the same time as the Homecoming fight in Spider-man. So, Ragnarok is sometime after that all that.

MCU connects: The Tesseract (AKA Space Stone / blue) briefly appears in the Asgard vault, and we catch up with both Thor and Hulk, who are the only two Avengers who didn’t show up in Civil War.

Hero: Thor

“Believe me, I would love for someone else to rule. But it can’t be you. You’re just… the worst.”

Call him what you will: Lord of Thunder, Sparklefingers, The Hammerless, the Son of Odin is back protecting the nine realms – and now also doing what he can to prevent Asgard’s prophesied apocalypse.

Other heroes:

  • Hulk
  • Loki
  • Valkyrie
  • Heimdall
  • Korg and Miek

Villain: Hela

“I’m not a queen, or a monster… I’m the goddess of death.”

Hela is Odin’s firstborn; an unstoppable force of destruction whom Odin locked away in some kind of mystical cage. When he died, the lock broke – and Hela is back to continue in her conquest to dominate all others.

Villain Complexity Rating: 4/5

Hela is all the skeletons in Asgard’s closet, personified. Before they were peace-loving altruists, the Asgardians were merciless, warmongering conquerors led by Hela, she of the nightmare antlers, who rode into war on a giant black wolf. We get to see a glimpse of Odin the scary warlord in The Dark World, but Hela is something else entirely: pure violence, intent on dominating every other planet in the universe through bloodshed, brutality, and terror. Hela shines a light on the bloody history underneath Asgard’s greatness and reminds us that their golden towers and technological magnificence were built on top of endless piles of bodies. Like most golden towers are.

“What’s at Stake” Rating: 5/5

If Hela has her way, she’ll use the bifrost to take her undead army on a mission of universal conquest… murdering every culture she finds into submission. Way worse than the Kree, with universal implications. Remember, she is the Goddess of Death. If let loose, she’s got universal destruction in the bag.

What did our hero(es) learn?

Bruce learns how to fly a spaceship and fight aliens on other planets, Valkyrie reclaims her true identity and sense of purpose, Loki learns how to fight on the right side of history (mostly), and Thor embraces his true power as the God of Thunder.

Heroism Rating: 5/5

With no real boner moves, Thor crosses all the way over into megahero status in Ragnarok, insistent on trying to save the universe from Hela though he fully realizes that she is much more powerful and he can’t beat her. Though he is stripped of his beloved Mjolnir and is grieving the loss of his father, Thor recruits allies and fights his way out of Sakaar so that he can keep Hela distracted long enough for Heimdall to help the Asgardians escape to safety… And despite his late-game level up and the most triumphant series of lightning blast radial attacks – as well as a team of master badasses all doing the most – when shit goes sideways, Thor causes the apocalypse on his homeworld in order to destroy Hela. Destroys his whole home PLANET… taking all his people as refugees out into the vast emptiness of space and begrudgingly agreeing to lead them into the uncertain future.  Top marks.

Visual Aesthetic/CGI Rating: 5/5

Glorious fantasy neon delicious, Ragnarok looks great and sounds great and is bright and strange and detailed and so much fun. The fight sequences are spectacular, building the action through artful visual storytelling rather than subjecting us to the clash of CGI cartoons. The VFX team creates so many memorable images – such as the skyscraper-height 3D Grandmaster announcement projections in Sakaar, or Thor flying away from Surtur’s fire dragon – and some truly spectacular sequences – such as the misty, dawn-lit massacre of the Valkyrie corps, or Thor’s triumphant final act lightning blast power mode. All-CGI characters – such as Hulk and Korg – look amazing. The production design cohesively juxtaposes the grace, elegance, and lush palette of Asgardian life with the far-out hypercolor trash pit of Sakaar. And the MUSIC oh my GOD. As the rumor goes, Taika Waititi’s acceptance of this project was conditional on Marvel Studios’ ability to secure the rights for Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” (not an easy feat) AND they got Mark Mothersbaugh to write the score on top of that.  You gotta love deep pockets sometimes, sure – but in this cynical, capitalist world in which the lowest common denominator usually makes everything expensive at least 40% more bland and stupid, it’s miraculous that this one film made so many ultracool, stylish, fun moves. It’s such a treat.

©Marvel Studios 2017

Heroic Cinema Saturation Index

Betsy Rating: 5/5

I don’t even know where to start. I hate to say anything is perfect – because flaws are so universal and really, so charming – but I think Thor: Ragnarok may be perfect. Well, perfect at being a high-fantasy synthwave superhero comedy epic, which is a genre I never knew I loved so much but now it’s one of my favorites. (Are there any other movies in that genre? Hmm… Nominate in the comments.)  In Ragnarok, Thor’s adventure keeps the sense of grandeur and scale of the previous Thor movies, but reclaims the silliness that made the first one work so well. Taika Waititi’s tight, playful filmmaking appears effortless but is razor-sharp, grown from a specific visionary fever and shaped by an emerging master, totally the boss of this strange wonder. Odin’s reconciliation with his sons and death is deeply felt, and as both Odin and Loki-playing-Odin, Anthony Hopkins is at his best. Chris Hemsworth plays up the hammy goofiness that has always been there amidst the muscular handsomeness; Mark Ruffalo gets to take a break from Bruce’s endless cycle of Hulk-related tragedy – getting the space to actually enjoy being Hulk at his most grandiose and Bruce at his most neurotic… and Tom Hiddleston fan club in full effect here, as always, as Loki figures out how to join the good side of the fight without becoming the hero he really isn’t. And oh my god – Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, and Jeff Goldblum! I can’t, there’s too much.

With some of the funniest and most epic moments in all of the MCU, I love Ragnarok so much that I don’t really have anything interesting to say about it. Kinda feel like just watching it again actually. Maybe we should put it on… or maybe you should!

Justin’s Rating: 5/5

The opening 10 minutes of Thor: Ragnarok is as close to authentic comic book fun as I have ever experienced outside of an actual comic book. Thor’s generally cavalier air underscores his confrontation with Surtur in that pitch-perfect way we’ve seen from Hemsworth before, but the jokes are a bit more esoteric and ridiculous. The battle disposes with distracting CGI fighting in favor of epic slow mo shots of Thor looking cool and kicking ass, shooting lighting all over the damn place and doing trick shots with his hammer to The Immigrant Song. I love Taika Waititi’s films, especially What We Do in the Shadows and Boy, but I didn’t know he had this kind of thing in him. I fully expected to laugh, but I had no concept of his capacity for beauty and baronial spectacle. By the time the title card drops, Mark Mothersbaugh’s John Carpenter-esque score crescendoing behind Thor streaking across an alien hellscape pursued by a demon, I am reborn as a Waititi fanatic.

Ragnarok is a such a daring and fun stylistic departure from the previous films that it serves as more of a reintroduction than a sequel. And why not? This Thor is much more cosmopolitan and free than previous versions we’ve seen. Having severed ties with Jane Foster, he now roams the 9 Realms basically being a great guy and breaking off bad guys where ever he finds them.

This film corrects for The Dark World’s inappropriate solemnity by fully embracing the homeric hamminess and freaky cosmic nonsense that should have stayed the focus of the series, but it keeps its eye on the prize, never sacrificing storytelling for jokes.

Of course making a return is Tom Hiddleston as God of Mischief/worst brother ever Loki, whose classical acting chops have ever been the perfect foil for Chris Hemsworth’s empyrean bravado. This works better than ever, which is really saying something. New super friend Tessa Thompson steals nearly every scene she’s in as Valkyrie, the exiled badass royal guard turned scrapper/bounty hunter and Hulk handler. I am in love with this woman in this film, as is everyone, including Hulk. Oh and Jeff Goldblum is giving you all the Jeff Goldblum thangz as the Grandmaster and Cate Blanchett has the unadmirable job of being the only person trying to be serious the whole time – but she handles that business because she’s Lady Fucking Galadriel y’all.

Look closely and you’ll notice Ragnarok is brilliantly constructed as a kind of cinematic kolache, its savory, Asgardian exterior couching a creamy, nutella and banana cream center called Sakaar. Hela’s relatively straightforward villainy is fine, but without the Grandmaster’s technicolor birthday cake trash planet antics, it could have had that distinctly disappointing mouthfeel of an unfilled day-old. Thank Frigga this film strikes a pleasing balance between epic saga and screwball adventure, seldom straying too far in either direction.

My only real complaint is that it sags just slightly in the middle as Hela is doing all her wicked Hela things in search of Heimdall and the Bifrost sword. This is short lived, however, and ends with magnificent payoff in one of the best MCU battles yet.

There’s so much more to talk about here, like Waititi’s voice portrayal of Korg, the endearingly dull Kronan or Mark Ruffalo’s hilarious turn as a slightly more unhinged Banner, but I’m trying not to gush. Also, prophecies! Dark family secrets! It’s great!


You, lucky friends, can stream Thor: Ragnarok on Netflix! Or, you can pay a couple bucks to watch it on Vudu or the Google Play/iTunes app stores. Our highest ranked movie YET, we highly recommend it!

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