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Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok – the destruction of his home world and the end of Asgardian civilization – at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett). But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger – the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – and grapple with his silver-tongued adopted brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the fierce warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). (From Marvel’s official synopsis)

 Thor: Ragnarok
While it was never a given that any of Marvel’s properties were going to be hits, the company’s Thor films have always been the hardest sell, even in this modern era of colourful comic book adaptations. But the studio was determined to make the character and his Norse mythology-themed sci-fi world an integral part of their connected cinematic universe, which led them to making three very different films. The first film, Thor (2011), was released at a time when Marvel was still building its house plotting structure – one that would both introduce characters and establish their connections to the other films. They covered the awkward and busy storytelling, as well as their relatively modest production budget, with the sheen of class offered by director Kenneth Branagh. Branagh’s name drew A-list stars to the project and his skills for casting and directing actors helped position the tone for further adventures, even setting the stage for Joss Whedon’s vastly more popular Avengers (2012).

Following Avengers, Marvel was confident and willing to let the various franchises stand on their own. Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 (2013), Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) were all creator-driven and conceptually focused movies, yet Thor: The Dark World (2013) remained mired in production interference and creative indecision on the part of the studio. After Branagh and future Wonder Woman (2017) director Patty Jenkins both left the project, HBO series director Alan Taylor was brought on and produced a messy sequel that no one involved seemed to really like. Shortly after, Thor was mishandled in Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), where he was again used as as fodder for connected universe exposition.

 Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel was still invested in a complete Thor trilogy (not to mention the fact that most of the actors were already contracted for three movies), so the door was open for a second sequel that would conceivably adapt one of the Asgard-ending Ragnarok storylines (noting that the concept of Ragnarok was already an established piece of Nordic mythology). Given the ‘inevitability’ of the project, the success of quirkier movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man (2015), and, frankly, the fact that they could afford a flop, the door was open for the studio to experiment with Thor: Ragnarok. Meanwhile, Marvel hedged their bets by making the film a partial sequel for their other most troubled major character, the Hulk. Fans quickly figured out that this meant they’d be kinda/sorta adapting the beloved Planet Hulk arc from the comics (for those that didn’t read it, Hulk’s side of Ragnarok mirrors the beginning of the arc, but he’s a much different character at that point in the comics, so the similarities are mostly cosmetic). These unique possibilities multiplied further when unique New Zealand comedy/drama director Taika Waititi was hired to direct.

Waititi was one of the chief creative forces behind Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009), along with creators/stars Jemaine Clement & Bret McKenzie, and director James Bobin (who has since directed the Muppets reboot in 2011). He then made his first feature, Eagle vs Shark (2007, starring Clement), followed by a smash-hit Māori coming-of-age drama Boy (2010), and found international success with his vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows (2014). However, it was the film he directed after securing the Ragnarok gig, a second Kiwi-flavoured coming-of-age dramedy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), that completely sold me on the idea of Waititi as a truly special filmmaker. In fact, I’d highly recommend that anyone that saw and enjoyed Ragnarok seek out Wilderpeople, because, despite their vastly differing storylines, the two movies complement and enhance one another. The screenplay is credited to in-house Marvel staff Eric Pearson ( Agent Carter) and animated series/movie writers Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, but it seems clear from the outset that Waititi’s oddball sense of humour, affection for retro sci-fi, and love of improvisation overrode any studio-mandated story elements.

 Thor: Ragnarok
There are so many gags and outrageous circumstances being thrown at the viewer that the heft of the film’s drama can be lost – particularly when Waititi goes out of his way to challenge expectations and take the piss out of traditional comic book heroism (i.e. pratfalls, like the one where Banner tries and fails to induce the Hulk by leaping from a spaceship onto the Rainbow Bridge). However, whereas I’d agree that the central theme of Thor atoning for his father’s sins and moving on to take his place as a leader (a subject Ragnarok actually shares with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Black Panther) is tempered by tonal choices, I think that the underriding theme of Asgardian culture being tied to its people, rather than a physical landmass is quite poignant – especially considering the special meaning the concept would hold for the half Māori, half Russian Jewish Waititi. Connected themes about the violent nature of colonization and history’s habit of whitewashing brutality from its ledgers are not as successful, however, since they’re bound mostly to the Thor-less Asgard-set sequences.

When I first saw the film in theaters, I felt that, like most of Marvel’s films, it looked a little cheap and rushed, and perhaps lacked the grandeur of the Jack Kirby comics and French sci-fi it was trying to evoke. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was the inferior 2017 sci-fi comedy adventure, but had the more impactful imagery. Re-watching Ragnarok – specifically pausing while gathering screenshots for this review – I realize that Waititi actually did capture the spectacular opulence and scale of its inspirations. The special effects shortcuts and occasionally flat photography even fit the hyper-stylized, Kirby-meets-Moebius-meets- Tron look. The problem is that the speed required to tell a plot-heavy narrative and execute jokes is at odds with the pacing of the imagery. In fact, again and again, the only things keeping Ragnarok from being the perfect post- Avengers: Age of Ultron Thor/Loki/Hulk team-up are the editing choices. For another instance, the Sakaar and Asgard pieces of the plot are both entertaining, but Waititi and editors Joel Negron & Zene Baker never find the right rhythm to cut between them. I’m convinced that the elements were all intact, but that the film needed another two or three editing passes to get it perfect.

 Thor: Ragnarok


Thor: Ragnarok was shot using Arri Alexa 65 cameras with 65mm lenses. It was shown in standard and IMAX theaters, where the aspect ratio opened from 2.40:1 to 1.90:1 for some scenes, and was post-converted to 3D for other theatrical engagements. This 1080p, 2D Blu-ray, however, maintains a consistent 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer meets all the expectations of a major special effects event movie – tight details, hard lines, clean gradations, and consistent colours. It is particularly impressive in terms of the layered wide-angle shots, where the textured environments of Muspelheim, Asgard, and Sakaar pile neatly into foggy backgrounds. Waititi and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe have created a vibrant and eclectic world, especially when compared to a sad majority of their desaturated, cobalt-hued MCU counterparts, one that lends itself well to a clear and crisp high-definition presentation. There is still room for improvement in terms of compression. The finest details can appear a bit noisy, usually where the hazier backgrounds are concerned, and some edges exhibit minor blocking. I’m curious to know if the 4K UltraHD disc has the same artefacts, despite its comparative lack of compression.


Thor: Ragnarok is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and should meet most people’s standards for a demo track (I guess, unless you want to show off an Atmos or DTS:X system). The film’s hodgepodge of wacky comedy and epic-level fantasy action lends itself to cartoonishly dynamic extremes and bizarre sound effects, as well as quintessentially loud action scenes. The best gags include obvious things, like the bone-crunching Thor v. Hulk battle and the explosive final showdown, as well as amusing directional channel use, such as the bit where Thor summons his umbrella, which proceeds to demolish Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum off screen. I don’t think it’s any secret that the MCU movies have, by and large, had incredibly unmemorable musical scores. Waititi eschewed this common issue by hiring former Devo member and Wes Anderson’s favourite composer, Mark Mothersbaugh. Mothersbaugh mixes typical superhero symphonic motifs with rock guitars and a smattering of fantastic synth keyboards that really set the score apart from all others (except Black Panther, which also had a unique and memorable score).

 Thor: Ragnarok


  • Director’s introduction (1:44, HD)
  • Director’s commentary – Waititi meets and exceeds expectations with this solo track. He’s equal parts silly and informative in his own, incredibly unique way. I suppose he spends a little too much time describing on-screen action, but his behind-the-scenes anecdotes are all amusing.
  • Five deleted/extended scenes (5:43, HD)
  • Gag reel (2:18. HD)
  • Team Darryl short film (6:08, HD) – A sequel to the funny short in which Thor moved in with an Australian man named Darryl. With Thor back in space, Darryl had an opening for a roommate, so the recently disgraced Grandmaster moves in.
  • Getting in Touch with Your Inner Thor (6:39, HD) – The filmmakers discuss the legacy of the Thor movies, changes to the character’s personality and dialect, Hemsworth’s performance, and his rapport with the other actors.
  • Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie (5:58, HD) – A look at the comic origins of the two new female characters and the actresses playing them.
  • Finding Korg (7:34, HD) – The cast & crew praise Waititi set against footage of him being a general goofball on set.
  • Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown (8:24, HD) – An exploration of the the planet, its Kirby-esque production design, set construction, the comic history of the Grandmaster’s contests and Planet Hulk arc, and Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo’s performances.
  • Journey into Mystery (5:47, HD) – More on the comic inspirations, including Walt Simpson’s Ragnarok story run, Greg Pak’s aforementioned Planet Hulk, and Jack Kirby’s major visual influence.
  • Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years: The Evolution of Heroes (5:23, HD) – A celebration of the MCU’s tenth anniversary that doubles as an add for Avengers: Infinity War.
  • 8-bit Scenes (00:58, 2:17, HD – Video game-like animatic tests for two of the more complex action scenes.

 Thor: Ragnarok


Thor: Ragnarok is a delightful and, as it turns out, quite rewatchable entry in the Marvel cinematic canon. I hope it indicates their willingness to embrace quirky and original filmmakers in the future and hope that it leads director Taika Waititi on the path to a long career with substantial budgets and creative freedom at his disposal. This Blu-ray looks very good, sounds just about perfect, and comes fitted with slightly more extras than the typical MCU home video release.

 Thor: Ragnarok

 Thor: Ragnarok

 Thor: Ragnarok

 Thor: Ragnarok

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.