By Sam Rakestraw (High Point, North Carolina, US)

 

The theater in Carmike 8, though now referred to as AMC Classic since the acquisition by the company of the same name, was nowhere near crowded. There were about five groups of two to three people scattered around the seating.

I had picked the ideal time to see Thor: Ragnarok. It had been a good deal of time since its release so it made sense not too many people were still seeing it. I was in an aisle seat, bag of Sour Patch Kids and a large fruit punch in the cup holders at my side. By the end of the movie I had gotten through both.

Anyway, Thor: Ragnarok is the 17th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third Thor movie. A series of films which I have been following since Iron Man was released in 2008. By now, we’re far into the Avengers storyline and are now gearing up for the Infinity War climax which may bring the series to an open ended conclusion.

It’s been two years since we last saw Thor the God of Thunder, as always played by Chris Hemsworth, in Age of Ultron and we find him out on his own. After his father Odin dies, his evil sister Hela the Goddess of Death escapes from her sealed prison to take over his homeland of Asgard.

He attempts to fight her, but his signature hammer, Mjolnir, is destroyed and he becomes displayed in an alternate world called Sakaar where he is imprisoned and forced to fight in a gladiatorial event. The rest of the film centers around him trying to get off Sakaar and back to Asgard and stop Hela.

The first thing many noticed about this movie is the abundance of Marvel stars it has and introduces. Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki, Idris Elba as Heimdall and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. A few others from previous Marvel movies also make appearances; Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange. We also get some fresh new talent with Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster of Sakaar and Cate Blanchett as Hela. It’s casting like this that keeps the Marvel Universe fresh and a good way to tie everything in.

It was a Marvel movie, but what do I mean by that? What makes a movie and what does a movie have to be to be a Marvel movie? Sure, Thor: Ragnarok is true to the comics, the plot does new things (which I’ll get back to later), the action scenes are well made CGI or practical they keep you watching, but there’s so much more to it.

In the previous phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it was all about the superheroes making the jump from their respective comics to the silver screen, familiarizing the audience with them. It’s a gradual process that must be done right before jumping into it. By now, we’re all too familiar with these characters and ready to see what the writers truly got.

A lot of Thor: Ragnarok draws influence from the comic ‘Planet Hulk’ in which the Hulk is sent into space and lands on a planet where he is forced to fight in a gladiatorial event and ultimately becomes champion, doesn’t that sound familiar? Heck, even some of the characters from ‘Planet Hulk’ make an appearance; Korg the rock alien and Miek. Though both have rebooted personalities that are totally different from their comic counterparts, but they were great so really can’t complain.

It’s references like these that go a long way. I, myself, am an avid comic book reader and all these subtle hints registered with me. Judging by the reactions of the audience members, they got it too. Everyone is reading comics now and the producers know this. When Watchmen, based on a graphic novel by DC, was released in 2008, no one knew what to think. People were confused because not too many read comics back then. Now, comics are so much more appreciated and known in pop culture that superhero movies can go beyond just origin stories and generic Hollywood plots.

There were also a lot of laughs too. Thor: Ragnarok was one of those superhero movies where it was self-aware that it was being silly at times and they ran with it. I mean, the cosmic wormhole that is the only way off the planet is called “the devil’s anus”. They really had a laugh with that and I did too. Comedy has become an element in Marvel movies ever since Guardians of the Galaxy.

Earlier I mentioned the plot does new things. This is the part that I have the most respect for. As much as I hate to admit it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to end eventually. Not saying that we won’t have any more movies based on Marvel’s characters, but a series has to come to an end. The story has to be complete.

I’m stepping into spoiler territory right now, so if you haven’t seen the movie stop here. Thor: Ragnarok is a turning point in the continuity. Thor loses his hammer and his eye, Asgard is destroyed and some characters are killed off; the Warrior’s Three and Odin. Not since Captain America: Civil War when the Avengers split apart has a change this big happened. The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t like a show on television, it has no status quo to keep it from going stale.

Any change made in one movie will be acknowledged and built upon in the next installment. In the recently released trailer for Infinity War we see Thor with an eye patch, indicating that his injuries are carrying over. It’s an ongoing story that humbly demands to be followed from beginning to end.

I left the theater satisfied. Satisfied that I was able to see the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the feeling you get when watch the episode of a TV show you missed and now you’re caught up. I was also satisfied because I saw a good movie. Some of my fellow audience members agree:

“Best Thor movie.”
“Best Marvel movie.”
“I think we’re finally getting ready for Infinity War.”

They all answered in short answer like fashion as they made their ways to their cars after the mandatory post movie bathroom trip.

Rating: 5/5

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