Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok was written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, and was directed by Taika Waititi.

Pearson previously wrote several Marvel one-shot short films, and eight episodes of the Agent Carter TV series. Thor: Ragnarok is his first theatrical screenplay. Kyle previously wrote a ton of Marvel animated series and films, including X-Men: Evolution and Thor: Tales Of Asgard. Again, this appears to be his first live action theatrical work. Yost has also worked on numerous Marvel animated series, as well as co-writing Thor: The Dark World and Max Steel.

Waititi is a talented actor, writer and director. He previously directed episodes of several TV series, including Flight Of The Conchords (which he also wrote), Super City and The Inbetweeners. On the film side, he wrote and directed Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople. He also co-wrote and co-directed What We Do In The Shadows (which I highly recommend).

This is the third Thor movie in the franchise, and the seventeenth (!) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So how is it? Overall it's a fun romp, somewhat reminiscent of the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies. It's definitely a huge tonal departure from the first two Thor films, which were ultra-serious and often downright Shakespearian. 
In an interview, Waititi named Big Trouble In Little China as a major influence on Thor: Ragnarok, and I guess I can see that. It cranks up the humor to eleven, turning the film into something of a cosmic buddy comedy.

And yet there's also some very dark stuff going 
on in this film. Major characters are slaughtered, Asgard's destroyed and Thor's permanently maimed by the end. Unfortunately these momentous events don't feel quite as serious as they should, as the funny often undercuts the gravity of the situation.

Waititi took a big risk with the Thor character here, as he eliminated virtually all his traditional trappings. He separates him from his home, his family and even his mane of flowing hair. Most important of all, he dispenses with Thor's magic hammer, which may or may not be the source of his power, depending on who you ask. 

This could have backfired for Marvel big time, but wiping the slate clean and starting over was just what the Thor films needed, as it seems to have energized the franchise. Too bad they waited until the third— and most likely last— film to do so.

With Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel seems to have fully embraced their comic book roots, and all the cosmic insanity that entails. Finally! I love the Marvel movies, but for far too long it seems like they've had trouble cutting loose. They've been playing it safe when it comes to the look of certain characters, as if they were afraid to be too weird and scare off the general public.

That all began to change with Guardians Of The Galaxy, which were filled with comic book silliness and outlandish characters. They've gone even further here with Thor: Ragnarok, which is heavily informed by the amazingly far-out imagination of comic artist Jack Kirby. His influence has always been somewhat present in the Marvel films, but as a comic book fan, it's amazing to finally see his designs translated into live action on the big screen. 

This is all a good thing, as I strongly believe the audience can handle cosmic weirdness, and won't be put off by it. Compare this to DC's movies, which seem embarrassed by their subject matter and try to distance themselves from it as much as possible. 

Not surprisingly, Thor: Ragnarok is a HUGE box office hit. It's grossed $310 million here in the States against its $180 million budget. It made an additional $530 million overseas, for a worldwide total of nearly $850 million!


The Plot:
After searching unsuccessfully for the Infinity Stones, Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) has been captured by the giant fire demon Surtur, who's holding him captive in his otherworldly, hellish domain. While chained over a bottomless pit, Thor has a casual chat with Surtur (really!), who tells him all the latest gossip from Asgard.

It seems Thor's half brother Loki is secretly impersonating Odin, and is now acting ruler of Asgard. 
Surtur also says he's planning a visit to Thor's homeworld, where he intends to start up Ragnarok, the Norse version of Armageddon. Thor decides he's heard enough, so he breaks his chains and slays Surtur after a brief battle. He then grabs Surtur's crown and calls for Heimdall to open the Bifrost Bridge back to Asgard.

Unfortunately the portal doesn't open, and Thor's forced to battle an army of Surtur's angry minions. Eventually the portal appears and he's teleported back to Asgard. There he sees that a royal guard named Skurge (played by Karl Urban) is now in charge of the Bifrost, after Heimdall was fired by Loki.

Thor enters downtown Asgard and sees what appears to be his father Odin, who's watching a passion play based on the events of Thor: The Dark World. Thor isn't fooled, and uses his magic hammer Mjolnir to force "Odin" to reveal his true identity in front of the assembled citizenry. "Odin" reluctantly morphs into Thor's half brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), and admits he's been posing as the ruler for several years now.

Thor demands to know where Odin is, so Loki teleports the two of them to Midgard, aka Earth. There Loki reveals he placed Odin in an old folk's home (!). Unfortunately when they arrive, they see the home's being demolished to put up a new building. Whoops!

Just then Loki mysteriously disappears. Thor assumes he vanished to escape him, but suddenly he's teleported away as well. In an effort to remind people this film takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor materializes inside the HQ of Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Why? Because Strange is concerned about the idea of a powerful and evil magical being like Loki running loose on Earth. Um... that's it? Thor assures him that he and Loki are only there to locate their father. Once they find him, they'll return to Asgard posthaste.

Doctor Strange accepts this explanation and decides to help them out, by magically teleporting Thor and Loki to a remote cliff side somewhere in Norway. There they see Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), standing at the edge of the cliff, staring off into the sea. He's dressed like a normal elderly human, wearing what I assume are Anthony Hopkins' own street clothes.

Their reunion is bittersweet though, as Odin tells Thor and Loki he's dying. He then retcons the entire series by telling 
them they have a sister they never knew about— Hela, the Goddess Of Death. She was actually Odin's firstborn child (not Thor), and was the leader of Asgard's army. Together, Odin and Hela conquered the Nine Realms and ruled over them. Hela wasn't satisfied with just nine measly little worlds though, as she wanted to rule the entire galaxy. When Odin realized his daughter was batsh*t crazy, he imprisoned her and erased her from Asgardian history. He warns Thor and Loki that once he dies, Hela will be released from her captivity.

Just then Odin dies, conveniently turning into a cloud of dust that blows away in the wind. Suddenly Hela (played by Kate Banchett) appears on the cliff top, which means she must have been waiting for him to kick off for hundreds of years. Thor hurls Mjolnir at her, but amazingly she catches the magic hammer with one hand. Even more amazingly, she squeezes and crushes it into pieces, causing a huge blast of energy that knocks Thor and Loki on their asses!

As Thor looks stunned at the remnants of his beloved hammer, Loki calls for the Bifrost and they're teleported away. 
Hela follows, chasing them through the magical energy tunnel. She begins fighting the two of them, eventually knocking them both out of the teleportation conduit. Thor and Loki spin off helplessly into space.

Hela arrives in Asgard, where she's immediately attacked by Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, aka the Warriors Three. So... I guess they were all just hanging out there, waiting for her to arrive? Unfortunately Hela slaughters them in literally five seconds, to show the audience just how powerful she is. She then turns to Skurge, who's still manning the Bifrost controls. She gives him a choice— join her or die. Amazingly, he submits like a whipped pup and kneels before her.

Cut to the planet Sakaar, a world where hundreds of wormholes fill the sky. Trash and refuse from all over the galaxy constantly pour through these wormholes, covering the planet with massive mounds of garbage. It's a magical place! Thor emerges from one of these wormholes and lands in a trash heap. He's immediately tased and captured by some local scavengers. He's "rescued" by female bounty hunter who calls herself Scrapper 142 (played by Tessa Thompson), who looks strangely familiar to Thor.

She throws Thor into her ship and takes him to a huge tower in the middle of a nearby city. There she hands him over to the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum), the ruler of the planet. The Grandmaster examines Thor and says he'll be perfect for his "Contest Of Champions." He's fitted with a neck implant that'll stun him if he gets out of line, and tossed into a holding cell with other prisoners, er, I mean warriors.

Thor's shocked when he suddenly gets a visit from Loki! Due to time-travel shenanigans when he fell out of the Bifrost beam, Loki arrived on Sakaar two weeks ago. He wasted no time ingratiating himself to the Grandmaster, quickly becoming a valued member of his entourage. Thor asks him to help him escape, so they can return to Asgard and stop Hela, but Loki refuses and leaves. Thor then meets fellow inmate Korg, a rocky alien who shows him the ropes. Korg says he wants to revolt against the Grandmaster, but can't find anyone to join his little revolution.

For some reason, Thor gets his hair cut (by none other than Stan Lee, in his obligatory cameo) and is outfitted with various weapons. He sees Scrapper 142, and finally realizes where he's seen her. She's a Valkyrie, a member of Asgard's elite female fighting force. He pleads with her to help him return to Asgard and stop Hela, but she's too busy drinking herself into a stupor to help.

Back on Asgard, Hela announces she's the captain now, and makes Skurge her official Executioner. She enters the ancient, underground tombs of those who once fought alongside her. She uses the Eternal Flame, one of Odin's magical treasures, to resurrect the dead army, along with her giant wolf Fenris. While she's occupied with this, Heimdall (played by Idris Elba), sneaks into the control room and steals the sword that controls the Bifrost.

On Sakarr, Thor's thrown into a massive arena, where he's to fight the Grandmaster's Ultimate Champion. After a lengthy announcement, the Champion bursts into the arena. To the surprise of absolutely no one who saw the trailer, he turns out to be— the Hulk!

Thor's ecstatic to see his old Avengers pal, but the Hulk either doesn't recognize him or doesn't care. He lumbers toward Thor and the two engage in an epic, super-powered CGI gladiatorial battle. The Hulk eventually pins Thor to the ground and beings punching him repeatedly in the face. In fact he punches him so hard he generates a flashback, as Thor hears Odin retconning the series yet again, saying his power comes "from within."

Lightning starts sparking from Thor's body, and he reaches deep inside himself and gathers the strength to throw an incredibly powered punch at the Incredible Hulk, which sends him flying through the air. When the Grandmaster sees his Champion is about to be defeated, he uses a remote to activate Thor's implant and stun him into unconsciousness.

On Asgard, Hela's army chases a group of citizens through a forest. Heimdall appears and cuts down the zombified soldiers. He then takes the citizens to a secret cave, where he's hiding as many Asgardian refugees as he can.

Cut to Hulk's quarters on Sakaar. For some reason, Thor's been tossed in there as well after the battle. Thor questions the Hulk, who says that after the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Bruce Banner took off in a borrowed Quinjet, and apparently headed into space (?). The ship then must have fallen into a wormhole and crashed on Sakaar. Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo) was immediately captured and transformed into the Hulk. He's remained in Hulk form ever since, for the past two years. 

Thor looks out the Hulk's window and spots the abandoned Quinjet. This of course makes perfect sense, as you always want to give your prisoners easy access to a means of escape. Thor tries to get the Hulk to go back to Asgard with him, but he refuses. Thor decides to leave without him, but is stunned by a powerful forcefield surrounding the room. 

While stunned, Thor is psychically contacted by Heimdall, who tells him Asgard is in peril. Heimdall, who can "see all," tells Thor he can return to Asgard by entering the largest wormhole portal on Sakaar. For comedy reasons, this giant portal is nicknamed "The Devil's Anus." Wakka wakka!

Valkyrie then enters the room for some reason, and Thor yet again tries to convince her to help him escape and return home. Is there anyone in the cast he hasn't asked at this point? She refuses of course, but he reveals he got close enough to her to pocket her remote, so she can't stun him. He then pulls the implant from his neck, jumps out the window and lands far below, right next to the Quinjet.

Thor enters the jet and starts it up. Unfortunately the Hulk follows, blundering inside and practically ripping the ship apart. Thor calls up a video of Black Widow reciting her "Hey, big guy. Sun's gettin' real low" mantra, which always calms the Hulk and causes him to transform back into Banner. The minute Hulk hears the words, he's calmed and transforms back into Banner.

Banner's royally confused, as he's been buried deep inside the Hulk's mind for two years and has no idea where he is. Just then, a giant hologram of the Grandmaster appears high above the city, offering a reward for both Thor and the Hulk. Thor and Banner don very inadequate disguises, as they move through the streets of Sakaar looking for another ship.

Meanwhile, the Grandmaster orders both Loki and Valkyrie to find the fugitives. Loki and Valkyrie get into a fight, and he uses his powers to make her relive the deaths of her fellow Valkyries at the hands of Hela. Angered, she easily knocks him out. A bit later she finds Thor and Banner (although she has no idea who the latter is), and takes them back to her apartment, where she has Loki chained up.

The four then reluctantly team up as they form a plan to escape from Sakaar. Thor tells Banner they could really use the Hulk's help, but he refuses to change, fearing it'll be years before he gains control again. Valkyrie frees Korg and the other prisoners and provides them with weapons. Korg's happy, as his long-planned revolution can now proceed. Thor and Loki sneak into the Grandmaster's hangar to steal a ship. Of course Loki has to try and betray Thor one last time. Thor places the implant on Loki's neck and stuns him, throwing the remote on the other side of the hangar. He gets in the ship and blasts off. He picks up Valkyrie and Banner, and there's a huge action setpiece as the Grandmaster's fleet chases after them. Eventually the three escape through the Devil's Anus.

On Asgard, Hela discovers Heimdall's secret hideout and blasts her way in. Fortunately he foresaw her coming, and leads the remaining Asgardians toward a waiting spaceship, which is docked alongside the Bifrost. Suddenly Hela and her dead army appear on the bridge, blocking their escape. Skurge and Fenris appear on the opposite end of the bridge, trapping the Asgardians between the two forces.

Just then Thor, Valkyrie and Banner arrive in Asgard. Valkyrie begins slaying Hela's warriors left and right. Banner sees the giant wolf threatening to kill the Asgardians, and reluctantly leaps from the hovering ship. Unfortunately he doesn't change, and lands in human form on the bridge far below. Somehow he isn't killed, and eventually transforms into the Hulk and battles Fenris. Valkyrie sees all this and realizes Banner was her pal the Hulk all along.

Thor makes his way to the throne room of Asgard, where he waits for Hela. Fortunately for him she eventually shows up, and the two siblings have an epic battle. Back on the bridge, Hela's forces are getting the upper hand. Just then another ship arrives, and Loki, Korg and the other prisoners join the battle.

In the throne room, Hela rakes her claws across Thor's face, blinding him in one eye— just like dear old dad! OK, that was unexpected. She pins him down, and just as she's about to deliver the killing blow, he has another flashback, once starring Odin. He does some more speechifying, retconning the series a third and final time. He tells Thor that his power always came from within, and Mjolnir just helped him channel it. He also tells him that
 "Asgard is a people, not a place." 

Thor then realizes what he needs to do. He no longer needs Mjolnir, as lightning begins to generate from his entire body. He uses this power to blast Hela, seemingly into oblivion. 

Meanwhile on the bridge, Skurge sees his fellow Asgardians dying by the dozens and has a change of heart. He grabs a couple of Earthly machine guns (don't ask) and sacrifices himself to give the Asgardians time to board the escape ship. 
Thor then flies to the bridge, where he starts taking out Hela's undead troops. Hela returns of course, as all good villains do, and starts to wipe out the remaining Asgardians. 

Thor thinks back to Odin's cryptic advice, and realizes that Asgard will survive as long as its people still live. He orders Loki to go to the treasure room, take Surtur's crown and throw it into the Eternal Flame. This will resurrect the massive fire demon, who will then initiate Ragnarok and destroy the entire city of Asgard, and hopefully Hela along with it! Seems like a pretty drastic measure, but whatever.

Loki enters the treasure room and looks for the crown and flame. Before he resurrects Surtur, he glances meaningfully at one of the Infinity Gems stored there. Gosh, I wonder if he'll try and steal it to give to Thanos in an upcoming Marvel film?

Surtur is reborn, and begins burning Asgard with his flaming sword. Hela tries to stop him, and he incinerates her as well. Thor and the others board the ship and blast off, as they solemnly watch Asgard explode.

Later onboard the ship, Thor is crowned the new king. He tells his citizens he plans to rebuild Asgard— on Earth!

In the obligatory mid-credits scene, the Asgardian ship is confronted by an even bigger spacecraft, belonging to Thanos. In the after credits scene, the Grandmaster is surrounded by his revolting subjects, and tries to talk his way out of trouble.


 We might as well get this out of the way first— Thor: Ragnarok does some heavy duty retconning in order to make its plot work. In particular it completely alters everything about Thor's magic hammer Mjolnir and his relationship with it.

In Ragnarok, Thor's understandably upset after Mjolnir's destroyed, as he believed it was the source of his power and he's now helpless. Odin then scolds him, saying, "What are you? Thor, God Of Hammers?" Odin tells him that his power has always come from within, and he gave him the hammer to help channel it.

Yeahhhhhhh... That isn't remotely like what he said in the first film. Back in Thor, Odin described the magic tool as "The mighty hammer Mjolnir, forged in the heart of a dying star. It's power has no equal, as a weapon to destroy, or a tool to rebuild (?). It is a fitting companion for a king."

A bit later in the film he punishes Thor for his arrogance, telling him he's unworthy of the power he possesses. He relieves him of his ceremonial Asgardian armor, then angrily yanks Mjolnir away from him, saying, "I now strip you of your POWER," as he banishes him to Earth.

So... which is it, Taika Waititi? Does Thor get his power from his hammer or not?

Thor: Ragnarok also massively retcons Thor's family tree, as we find out that he has a secret sister Hela, who was actually Odin's firstborn child.

• You may be wondering just what the heck "Ragnarok" means. It's basically the end of the world in Norse mythology, similar to Armageddon. 

According to Norse tales, at some point in the future there's a great battle, in which all the major Norse gods (Odin, Thor, Loki, Heimdall and others) are killed. With no gods left to stop him, the fire demon Surtur rises up, destroying the Nine Realms in flame. The world is then hit by various natural disasters, including a wolves that consume the sun and a massive flood that covers the entire planet. Once the waters recede, the world will be reborn and repopulated by two human survivors.

Supposedly Ragnarok is cyclical, and this destruction and rebirth has happened many times in the past.

Eh, don't laugh. It makes just as much sense as anything in the Christian Bible.

• This is the first Thor film to not feature Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis or Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig.

The first two are definitely no great loss, but it would've been nice to see Dr. Selvig again.

• When Thor arrives in Asgard, Loki (disguised as Odin) is watching a passion play based on his life.

In the play, Matt Damon plays Loki, Sam Neill plays Odin, and Luke Hemsworth (yet another of the Hemsworth brothers) plays Thor.

• During the play, "Loki" mentions the time he turned Thor into a frog.

This actually happened back in 1986, in The Mighty Thor #364. In that issue, Loki transforms Thor into a frog while on Earth. Frog Thor then teams up with another frog called Puddlegulp, and together they save an amphibian community from an invasion of rats. Yes, the 1980s were a strange and wondrous time.

Thor: Ragnarok features three members of superhero group The Defenders: Hulk, Doctor Strange and Valkyrie. The original Defenders lineup consisted of the Hulk, Strange and Sub-Mariner.

• Loki confesses to Thor that he dumped their father Odin in an old folk's home in New York. When they go there, they see the home's been demolished and have no idea where Odin is. Doctor Strange then teleports them to Odin's location, on a cliffside in Norway.

So how did Odin get from New York to Norway? Did he somehow teleport himself? Or did he book a plane trip there?

• While looking for Odin on Earth, Thor disguises Mjolnir as an umbrella. I'm assuming this was a nod to the early Thor comics, in which he briefly adopted the secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake. As Blake, Thor disguised Mjolnir as a cane.

I'm not sure why Thor bothers to disguise his magic hammer here in the first place. Even dressed in street clothes he's recognized by various New Yorkers.

• Doctor Strange abducts Thor so he can tell him he's worried about Loki's presence on Earth. But Odin's been on Earth for a couple of years now. Why wasn't Strange bothered by him? Because Odin's not evil?

• As fun as Marvel's movies are, they've all had the same problem— their villains are nearly always weak and dull. Thor: Ragnarok finally solves that problem, giving us a deadly and interesting villain in Hela. 

Much of Hela's success is due to Cate Blanchett, who seems to be having the time of her life as she absolutely devours the scenery.

•  If you've seen the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, you know that not only does it spoil the fact that Hela destroys Mjolnir, but she does so in what appears to be a city alleyway.

For some reason, in the final film the scene was reshot and she crushes the hammer in an open field in Norway. Why this seemingly arbitrary change was made, I have no idea.

• Welp, so much for the Warriors Three! They're killed in the early minutes of the film by Hela, who wipes them out with little more than a wave of her hand.

Marvel Cinematic Universe guru Kevin Feige claims that the Warriors Three were given "noble ends," in order to establish Hela as a formidable threat. OK, I get that, but there was nothing "noble" about their ends, as she wiped 'em out before they could even take a swing at her. There wasn't anything "noble" about that.

Seemed to me it was more like a case of "We Don't Have Room In The Story For All These Characters But The Fans Are Gonna Want To See Them So We'll Off 'Em In The Opening Minutes."

• Supposedly actress Jaimie Alexander really wanted to return as Lady Sif in Thor: Ragnarok, but was busy filming her TV series Blindspot. In retrospect it's probably just as well she didn't appear. The Warriors Three got all of five seconds of screen time before they were brutally murdered by Hela, so the same would have probably happened to Sif if she'd shown up!

• According to director Taika Waititi, around eighty percent of the film's dialogue was improvised. I'm genuinely surprised by that. I guess improv can work in a movie if it has the right director. Sorry, Paul Feig! (cue falling slide whistle)

Thor: Ragnarok is a hodgepodge of at least three different comic book storylines:

It takes bits and pieces from the Ragnarok and Surtur arcs which ran from through The Mighty Thor #337—#382 in the early 1980s.

It also uses elements from the Planet Hulk plot from The Incredible Hulk #92—#105 in 2006. In that story, the Hulk went on a massively destructive rampage, and the heroes of Earth banished him to another planet. While there, he was forced to fight gladiatorial battles for the planet's ruler, until the Hulk eventually took over.

It also borrows characters and settings from the Contest Of Champions miniseries from 1982. In that story the Grandmaster challenges Death to a game, using various Marvel superheroes as pawns.

Somehow the screenwriters managed to take these disparate elements and merge them into a reasonably cohesive whole.

• Speaking of the Grandmaster, in the comics he's a tall, gaunt alien with blue skin and upswept white hair. For some reason, the filmmakers decided not to go that route, giving us a tall, gaunt Jeff Goldblum with some heavy eye makeup and a tiny strip of blue paint under his lower lip.

I can think of several reasons why they went with a non-blue Grandmaster here: 1. The filmmakers didn't want to hide Goldblum's performance under heavy makeup and prosthetics. 2. Goldblum balked at being painted blue. 3. The producers didn't want yet another blue alien, since the MCU's already established the Kree and whatever race Yondu (from Guardians Of The Galaxy) is supposed to be.

• The Grandmaster's tower features a few Easter eggs as well. It's tough to see here, but his tower is covered with gigantic likenesses of various Marvel characters, who were presumably his former Champions before the Hulk arrived. 

Among the faces on the tower is Man Thing (Marvel's answer to DC's Swamp Thing), Beta Ray Bill (an alien who replaced Thor briefly in the 1980s), Ares (a pal of Hercules) and Bi-Beast. And no, Bi-Beast's name doesn't refer to what you're thinking. He's some sort of android with two heads that are stacked one on top of the other.

• The best part about Thor: Ragnarok is its production design, which is a love letter to the fantastic talent and creativity of comic book legend Jack Kirby.

According to director Taiki Waititi, this was intentional, as he wanted to incorporate as many of Kirby's designs as possible. Kudos to him for realizing Kirby's powerful potential and sticking to the source material!

Kirby's influence is most obvious in the look and design of Hela. The film very accurately reproduces her trademark antlered headdress, making it look like she stepped right off the printed page!

The Grandmaster's guards wear armor based on the Celestials. They don't really have anything to do with Thor, but they were designed by Kirby, so that's close enough for me!

There's another Kirby homage in the film you might have missed. In the Grandmaster's arena suite, there's a large mural on the back of the wall.

Part of the mural features artwork from a panel in Fantastic Four #64! I spotted that it was Kirby artwork right away, but I had no idea where it came from. Leave it to the internet to correctly identify the source!

• In the comics (as well as Norse mythology), Valkyrie is a blond, light-skinned female warrior. In this film she's played by Tessa Thompson, who's of African/Panamanian heritage.

According to director Taika Waititi, he didn't choose Thompson in a transparent attempt to diversify the cast, but because she was "the best person for the job."

Everyone who believes that, stand on their head. I don't have a problem with Thompson being in the film, but I don't for one second believe she was picked because of her "acting ability."

• When Thor and Loki fall out of the Bifrost Bridge's transport tube, they both end up on the planet Sakaar. Because of time travel shenanigans, Loki somehow arrives there several weeks before Thor does.

During Thor's arena battle, Loki seems genuinely surprised to see the Hulk appear. That seems unlikely, as the Hulk is the Grandmaster's ultimate Champion, and a bona fide celebrity on Sakaar. Heck, the arena audience even waves around Hulk signs and banners! Whoops!

Thor: Ragnarok marks the first time in the MCU that Lou Ferigno doesn't voice the Hulk. Instead he's voiced by Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner.

• When Thor asks the Hulk how he got from Earth to Sakaar, he says he flew his "borrowed" Quinjet into space, where it apparently fell through a wormhole and crashed on the planet. Later Thor spots the abandoned ship outside Hulk's window, sitting on the ground unattended. 

This of course makes perfect sense. It's in the Grandmaster's best interest to keep his new Champion on the planet, so of course he'd leave his fully-functioning ship right next to his room.

Yes, the Hulk's suite is surrounded by a force field, but we see that it only affects Thor— the Hulk's free to come and go as he pleases. I guess he must like it on Sakaar and has no interest in leaving?

By the way, apparently Quinjets are now space-worthy. I guess we saw one in space back in Season 3 of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I got the impression that was the exception and not the rule.

• While being held captive on Sakaar, Thor meets Korg, a member of the rocky Kronan race. 

Korg first appeared in the comics in Journey Into Mystery #83 (which was what Thor's book was called at the time). He later appeared in Planet Hulk, where he fought and eventually teamed up with the Hulk. 

This is the third time a Kronan has appeared in the MCY. There was one in Thor: The Dark World, and a very brief shot of one in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. 

• While choosing gladiator weapons, Korg offers Thor a three-pronged wooden spear, saying, "It's not much use to you unless you want to kill three vampires who are all clustered together."

That stilted bit of dialogue HAD to be a reference to What We Do In The Shadows, which concerned a group of vampire roommates, which was co-written and co-directed by Taika Waititi.

• One last thing about Korg— he's voiced by director Taika Waititi, who also played three other roles in the film. Waititi provided the motion capture for Surtur (who was voiced by Clancy Brown) and for the Hulk in a couple of brief pickup scenes.

He also did the mo-cap for one third of a three-headed alien in Korg's band of revolutionaries. That's Waititi playing "Haja" on the right.

• The Infinity Gauntlet first made an appearance back in Thor, where it contained all six stones and was a relic stored in Odin's treasure vault. Since then, other MCU movies have contradicted this, particularly Avengers: Age Of Ultron, in which Thanos actually possessed an empty Gauntlet, without any stones in it.

Fans have been bending over backwards trying to explain this continuity goof ever since. Was the Gauntlet in Odin's stash just a replica? Did Odin get taken and buy a fake Gauntlet on eBay? Or was it just a giant mistake on the part of the filmmakers?

Well, it looks like the problem's finally been solved in Thor: Ragnorok. As Hela strolls through Odin's treasure room, she spots the Infinity Gauntlet and shouts, "FAKE!" So that's settled then.

• If nothing else, this movie knows its comic book lore. Skurge's third act change of heart and redemption is recreated practically verbatim from Thor #362.

In that comic, Thor rescues a group of mortal souls from Hela's underworld. He's soon pursued by Hela and her army of demons and undead soldiers. Thor turns to make a last stand in order to let the innocent souls escape. 

When Skurge, a former adversary of Thor, sees his heroic sacrifice, he has a change of heart. He knocks out Thor and takes his place, picking up a couple of M-16s (that the American military loaned to Asgard) and holds off the demonic army long enough for Thor and the others to escape.

In the film, Skurge's storyline plays out almost identically to the comic. Oddly enough this relatively minor cast member has more of a character arc than his boss Hela!

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun, cosmic action romp that heartily embraces its wacky comic book roots. Unfortunately it may embrace the silliness a bit too much, which tends to undermine its more serious moments. It's also something of a love letter to comic artist Jack Kirby, bringing many of his amazing designs to life. The film gets more right than wrong, and is definitely a step up from the previous two installments. I give it a good solid B

But wait, I hear you say! How can I give Thor: Ragnarok a B and say it's better than Thor, to which I gave an A, and Thor: The Dark World, which I gave an A-? Well, that's because I tended to grade movies WAY too high in the past, a problem I've been working hard to solve the past year. If I was to grade those two films today, I'd give Thor a B- at most, and Thor: The Dark World a C, or maybe C+.

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