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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 3/6/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/6/2018

They say that it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong (yes, I think that statement is sexist as well) and, based on that, one can assume that it takes an even bigger movie studio. Because, when a movie makes money, few, if any, in Hollywood would cop to making a mistake. Despite the fact that 2013's Thor: The Dark World made a profit, most were in agreement that it not only paled in comparison to the first film, but also marked one of the low points in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films. Focusing solely on money, Marvel Studios could have simply plowed ahead with Thor 3 and hoped for the best. But, instead, they opted to jump-start the series with a fresh approach, leading to a film which is not only an improvement, but one of the best of the year.

As Thor: Ragnarok opens, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) completes a mission and then returns to Asgard to find that things have changed, as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in charge. Thor and is half-brother travel to Earth, where they find an ailing Odin (Anthony Hopkins). As their father fades away, Thor and Loki are surprised by the sudden appearance of Hela (Cate Blanchett), their banished older sister. Hela announces that she is the rightful heir to Asgard and Thor and Loki soon find themselves swept away to a placed called Sakaar, a strange world overseen by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor feels defeated, until he runs into an old friend. Meanwhile, Hela is asserting her dominance over Asgard. Will Thor be able to save his homeworld?

"I look forward to seeing Thor in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I'm not sure about Thor 3." I wrote that sentence in my review for Thor: Dark World, as that film dampened any enthusiasm future Thor entries. 2011's Thor had the audacity to take the stuffy, egotistical "God of Thunder" from the comics and turn into somewhat of a blowhard goober -- A decision which yielded a surprising amount of laughs. That approach was abandoned for the second film, a movie which really dove into the Shakespearian aspects of Thor, while also adding in a big dose of what looked like a Lord of the Rings movie. Given these two approaches, what would a third Thor film look like?

Before we get to that point, let's once again examine the unusual choices which Marvel Studios makes when choosing directors for their films. Keep in mind that these are multi-million dollar tentpole action movies, and Marvel plucks filmmakers from comedies, TV, or dramas to helm their flagship titles. For Thor: Ragnarok, they've brought in New Zealander Taika Waititi, the director of movies like What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Eagle Vs. Shark, films which don't exactly scream, "He should direct a Marvel movie!" But, I think that's why their approach works. They aren't recruiting people who want to make "super hero" movies, they are getting directors who simply want to make good movies, and most of the time, this crazy scheme works.

The most notable think which Waititi is able to bring to Thor: Ragnarok is a much-needed sense of humor. Not only is this movie funny, it's laugh-out-loud funny and may be the funniest movie of 2017. While there are some very serious and dramatic moments here, Waitit, along with Screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost, is able to infuse a level of fun into the movie which keeps even the most dire moments from getting too dark. This approaches informs Thor's character as well, as the "God of Thunder" displays a mix of cocky and goofy which is incredibly charming. We are asked to follow Thor on his bizarre adventure, and we gladly do so. I don't know if Chris Hemsworth is a good actor, but he's certainly good at playing this character and having Thor completely loosen up allows the film to breathe and succeed.

But, that's not to say that it's all fun and games in Thor: Ragnarok. We still get plenty of Marvel Comics action and Easter Eggs from the other movies. Films like this are often only as good as their villains, but Thor: Ragnarok is able to overcome the fact that Hela is a little too generic to be truly effective. Yes, Cate Blanchett is effectively menacing in the role, but she basically just yells, "I'm Odin's daughter and blows some stuff up." Still, the finale is exciting and somewhat shocking, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe series once again shows that it's not afraid to take chances. If the elite movies aren't grabbing you during Oscar season, then check out Thor: Ragnarok, one of the best movies of 2017.

Thor: Ragnarok can't catch a break on 4K UHD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very, very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. This is a very colorful film and the colors look great here, most notably blues and greens. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail in notable, as we can make out textures on objects. The depth works very well, even in this 2D version. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing which I noticed about this track was that I had to turn up the volume more than I usually do. Once I got that figured out (although, it was still weird), I was treated to impressive surround sound and subwoofer effects. The action scenes deliver deep bass response, as well as detailed surround sound effects which highlight even minute sounds. The stereo effects help to highlight things happening off-screen.

All of the extras for Thor: Ragnarok are found on the Blu-ray Disc included in this set. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Taika Waititi. "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Thor" (7 minutes) focuses on the Thor character and how he's changed over the years in order to be the version which we see in this film. This is where Jeff Goldblum claims that Hemsworth is "cute as Christmas". Whatever that means. "Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie" (6 minutes) profiles the strong female characters in the film including interviews with Blanchett and Thompson. "Finding Korg" (8 minutes) takes us on-set to see Waititi at work, and to hear the cast and team sing his praises. "Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown" (8 minutes) looks at the design and creation of the alien world where Thor lands, and also shows us Goldblum in action. "Journey into Mystery" (6 minutes) examines the link between this film and specific Marvel Comics. We get a 2-minute GAG REEL. "Team Darryl" (6 minutes) is a fauxumentary which shows Grandmaster and his roommate. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. Some of these are simply extended versions of scenes from the film. "8-Bit Sequences" show us how low-res versions of two scenes were created to help in planning the actual scenes. "Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years - The Evolution of Heroes" (5 minutes) is simply an overview of the movies which made and spun out of the Avengers series.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long