Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
There are a multitude of things that hit you within the first few minutes of director Taika Waititi’s THOR: RAGNAROK. Though previous iterations have relied on more of a stuffy, serious tone, this third chapter with our beloved hero demonstrates a lighter, jovial escapism. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be immediately swayed by the crisp humor, sparkling aesthetics and epic soundscapes of Waititi’s refreshed vision of this character’s world.
Listen, I would doubt that there’s anyone who is not already planning their weekend schedule around when they’ll be seeing THOR: RAGNAROK, but in case there are… here are the definitive reasons you absolutely MUST catch this one in theaters.
A Cracklin’ Comedic Tone
There probably isn’t another superhero in the MCU who’s experienced the biggest variation in character than Thor and we’re now a few films deep into his quest for identity. Leave it to Waititi to change gears in the necessary manner. Hemsworth loved being able to dig into his character’s more comedic side. “We all had a vision and a want to do something vastly different than what we’d done before, and take it to a different place. That meant reinventing it – and it all came from [Taika’s] crazy, wonderful brain. [He pushed] us every day on set, constantly encouraging us to improvise, and explore, and take risks.” President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige said this tonal shift was a welcomed one. “We wanted a new sensibility. If you look at everything Chris has done as this character, there have been moments of humor throughout. We wanted to take Thor and to build on that.” In order to not get overwhelmed by the task at hand, Waititi chose to capture this in a simple way. “I knew my strengths were tone, character and relationships. I had to ignore the scale of this monster – this beast. It’s a huge, huge film. I just had to keep reminding myself what’s more important is what’s inside the rectangle, and usually, it’s two or three people trying to remember their lines.”
Marvelous scale, scope and soundscape
It’s almost impossible to ignore that THOR: RAGNAROK doesn’t look like any other Marvel film before it – but it also doesn’t sound like one either. These two elements heighten the atmosphere, gifting audiences with an awe-inducing product. Waititi mentioned that Marvel Studios was fully in support of carrying through his artistic vision. “They were very supportive right from the beginning. If you look at all the elements in the film, it’s pretty crazy. If you would describe all of the characters in this film to someone, it deserves to have all of that color and all of those crazy, curvy designs. It’s a bombastic concept that you can’t hold back from this thing. So it’s either all in, or nothing.” The wonderful, warm synth of composer Mark Mothersbaugh’s score augments the narrative drive. Waititi said of his collaboration, “We were extremely lucky to get him, and do the score. The music that I wanted to look at for Sakar was like kind of just good fantasy music with synthesizers, and arpeggiated rhythms. Mark is amazing at that. He comes in and does all that stuff. And in that particular scene, we played a lot of music even through the scenes.”
As the trailers have hinted at, part of the plot’s focus is on the Hulk/ Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) struggle with his identity. This is an essential parallel to hook into Thor’s similar journey. So it’s not exactly out of Ruffalo’s realm to want to do a stand-alone Hulk film. “I would love to do a Hulk movie. I think we all would love to do one. But about a year ago, before I even had this part, or were talking about doing this, Kevin had asked me to come over and have a script meeting. Basically he sat me down and he said, ‘What would you like to do if you had a stand-alone Hulk movie?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do this, this, and this; and this and this – and then this. And then this, and this, and this, and then it would end like this.’ He’s like, ‘I love that. Let’s do that over the next there movies, starting with THOR 3 and carry it on through AVENGERS 3 and AVENGERS 4.’” He later joked about Waititi making a super cut of this narrative arc. “Taika is gonna take all three of those movies and cut it into one movie.” Hemsworth, who shares the bulk of his screen time with the Hulk said, “I think, this is my favorite version of the Hulk, ‘cause we actually got to act together. We’d only really fought one another on screen in the previous films. And this time around, we got to just sort of improvise our way through it, and sort of invent this chemistry that we hadn’t explored before. Sort of build this new version of the Hulk, which was a little bit more articulate and vocal than he had been prior. There’s just so much more room for the humor.”
Women get to be fully-fleshed out badasses.
We’ve seen females like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Nebula and others sufficiently hook us with their intelligence, physical strength and skills. However, we haven’t seen such dynamic female characters like Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Hela (Cate Blanchett). Cate relished the opportunity to get fit and sport lycra. “To wear that much lycra was really exciting for me. I worked with Chris’ trainer, Zahki for 20 minutes a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but my god, it was intense. Zoey Bell who is, I mean, an extraordinary actress in her own right, and director in her own right. I was blessed every day with the fact that she was my stunt double.” Thompson was most worried about appearing as physically fit as possible. “The things that I thought about the particulars of Valkyrie had more to do with, like mass and size. For example, I thought, like ‘Oh, I’m – I’m short.’ Or like, ‘I’m not buff enough.’ Or how she’s arguably as strong as Thor. How do I stand next to a person like Chris Hemsworth and feel like that’s true.” The primary challenge for the Oscar-winning Blanchett was more about the physicality of her role than anything. “When I started, I had to manifest these weapons and I had to throw them, and I could see Taika’s disappointment as I threw it, I said, ‘Ha.’ And I had to stop making the noises, because I’d go, ‘Ha.’ And so I had to close my mouth. And so eventually Zoey suggested that I put some sugar, which was deeply humiliating – sugar packets in my hand so at least I could throw something and be real. And then – yeah, so Zoey helped me with little things like that. She was a great action director. So I moved from the humiliating to the exhilarating in a matter of five days.
THOR: RAGNAROK opens on November 3.