Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Blu-ray Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Holiday Special

Chris Hemsworth lets his hair down (and sleeps with one eye open) in this highly enjoyable change of pace from director Taika Waititi.
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Admittedly, I am not the biggest contemporary superhero movie enthusiast. At one point in time, I would have fallen somewhere in the vicinity of such a category, but I essentially dropped out around the same time the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as we know it came into existence in 2008. Sure, I catch the occasional superhero flick here and there (including the occasional new DC abomination, which usually only helps me appreciate Marvel's contributions all the more), but I generally remain indifferent to what I see. And then there is Thor: Ragnarok ‒ a film which proves even a genre heavy on green screen, CGI, bad puns, and clichés ‒ can have a little fun every now and again.

In fact, were they to make more movies like this instead of trying to take the concept of people with super powers so darned seriously, I would probably buy more movie tickets.

The seventeenth (!) live-action entry to the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth, who, rather literally, gets the chance to let his hair down here ‒ as well as sleep with one eye open ‒ as the hammer-wielding Norse-based deity, shedding most of his character's previously-established serious self in favor of something more "down-to-earth") wandering from one hot-spot to another. Beginning in quite the hellish locale, our hero soon finds his way back to his native land of Asgard, where things become "hella" hairy come the arrival of Thor's eldest sibling, Hela (a nicely Gothed-out Cate Blanchett), whom we learn did not acquire her "Goddess of Death" title lightly.

An unsuccessful first confrontation betwixt Hela and her brothers, Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston, who also gets the opportunity to add a little more depth to his mischievous character) does not go well, resulting in Thor (and, to a lesser degree, Loki too) being stranded on a garbage world called Sakaar. There, a Roman Emperor-like hedonist known as Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, as delightfully Jeff Goldblum-like as ever) enslaves him as a gladiator ‒ pitting him against the planet's reigning champion in a duel to the intended death. Much to Thor's surprise, however, said champ turns out to be the Incredible Hulk himself, who had been MIA since the last Avengers movie.

[Spoiler Alert: Bruce Banner/The Hulk is my Marvel spirit animal, which is one of the reasons I was so intrigued by this title. That, and Jeff Goldblum is one of those actors people regularly tell me they think I look like, so I suppose there was really no avoiding this one.]

Once again brought to motion-capture life by the great Mark Ruffalo, Hulk is stuck in big angry green guy mode permanently on Sakaar, which doesn't help Thor's plight to assemble a few "Revengers" in order to defeat Hela and prevent the impending doom of Ragnarok. Of course, the actual storyline of Thor: Ragnarok is almost entirely unnecessary; it feels more akin to a holiday episode of a British television series (complete with the perfunctory Benedict Cumberbatch sighting, even ‒ who reprises his role as Doctor Strange in a humorous cameo) where everyone takes a step back from all of the seriousness just so that they can have a little fun with their characters.

And believe me, to a feller who lost nearly all interest in superhero movies, it makes an entire cinematic universe of a difference.

At the helm of this highly enjoyable 130-minute ride is New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Eagle vs Shark), who ‒ in addition to playing a minor comic relief character here ‒ also brings his welcomed style of heart and humor to this above-average entry in the MCU. Indeed, the whole cast of Thor: Ragnarok ‒ which also includes Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Sir Anthony Hopkins (who bows out in a similar-but-far-better manner than a certain Star Wars icon did in The Last Jedi) ‒ are having a grand time here. Hilarious cameos by Stan Lee (naturally), Sam Neill (!), Luke Hemsworth, and an unbilled Matt Damon add to the levity.

Boasting an infectious soundtrack provided by Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh and a single track by Led Zeppelin (which a generous portion of the budget probably went to the leasing of), Thor: Ragnarok arrives on home video from Buena Vista Home Entertainment in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo pack. The digitally-shot feature film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 via a truly gorgeous MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode, which is, in a single word, faultless. The accompanying DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack is also top-notch, and additional audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French Canadian, Spanish, and Portuguese. A DVS 2.0 DD track is also on-hand, as are subtitles in English (SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Buena Vista's Blu-ray release features a large selection of extras, kicking off with an optional (and not at all serious) introduction to the film by director Taika Waititi, who carries over his humor to the included audio commentary. A handful of EPK-style behind-the-scenes and making-of pieces make up the bulk of the bonus materials, and offer up a little insight to the characters and settings of the film for fans or people who are really out of touch with the MCU like me. There's also a fleeting gag reel and several deleted scenes, the latter of which are in pretty raw FX form. Jeff Goldblum moves in on Thor's old roommate in Team Darryl, and there's also an MCU promo item (with a heavy emphasis on the forthcoming Infinity War) and some 8-Bit sequences.

Three years in the making, Thor: Ragnarok proved to be a successful gamble for Disney and Marvel Studios at the box office. And it's easy to see why: it's a flat-out fun feature all-around, and is just the sort of thing my jaded, worn-out movie buff self needed to reignite interest in the MCU. Even to non-Marvel fans, it makes for great motion picture entertainment (although some of you/us may need the occasional footnote in order to keep up with the continuity from previous features), and comes Highly Recommended.


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