As much as we may love to complain about being inundated with superhero movies, we should just get over it and enjoy them for the humor, visuals, action, and positive themes. “Thor: Ragnarok” delivers all of the above, and despite a few minor annoyances, it is well worth your time.
I don’t want to talk about the plot much. It’s partly because I’m not sure I can refrain from typing spoilers, but mostly because it is the standard story of heroes having to band together to defeat the villains trying to take over the world and wreak havoc throughout the universe. You know the drill. Instead, I want to focus on the underlying themes and key messages that make this movie so worthwhile.
The story has a strong message about vocation — that is, the roles in which one serves his or her neighbor. That’s so from the very first scene, when Thor proclaims he is doing “what heroes do,” his later encouragement of Valkyrie to return to her calling and help save Asgard, to Hulk’s resistance to Thor’s demand he not smash a bad guy despite Hulk’s duty to do just that. Even the minor characters are reminded of their purposes, from Skurge being reprimanded for not doing the “one job” he had, to Hela offering Skurge a new job as executioner. Each has a role, a calling they know they have to fulfill, and the movie hammers home the need to serve within one’s vocation.
Reveling in Brotherhood, Friendship, and Strength
Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki have developed such a dynamic, on-screen chemistry that it’s difficult not to believe they aren’t actual brothers. This brotherly bonding shines throughout. Gods or not, their bantering and reminiscing over past antics and scuffles make the pair’s relationship charming. It points to how brothers will have their ups and downs, but never cease to love each other — no matter how many times they try to kill one another — and that this isn’t any less true when they’re connected by adoption rather than birth.
Similarly, the importance of friendship is a key theme. We see it primarily with Hulk and his friendships with both Thor and Valkyrie. Hulk/Dr. Banner repeatedly hits on how friends should act toward one another, providing support and help when needed. Hulk and Valkyrie have a delightful and playful rapport that lightens the mood in the room, given that the villain is plotting doom, gloom, and mass destruction and all.
It would be easy to assume the movie pushes the standard feminist agenda, highlighting Valkyrie and Hela’s strength and confidence as they take charge and easily subdue the men around them, especially given the bumbling idiocy of many of the men, even Thor. But if we look past our gut reaction to these character traits, we find these characters wonderfully portray the richness and complexity of humanity.
Thor, while possibly the epitome of masculinity — and thankfully they didn’t strip him of any of that! — stumbles over his words and has plenty of foolish moments. But he owns it. He is campy and fun even on a mission to defend his people against extinction. He sacrificially serves his people with confidence and bravery without being a pompous jerk. He uses his masculinity for the good of others, not for his own glory — while still being able to joke around with his buddy about who is the strongest Avenger.
The Courage to Sacrifice One’s Ego
Valkyrie might have been the biggest surprise for me. It would have been all too easy for the filmmakers to force her into being the strong feminist who doesn’t need a man and will never dare submit to one. But we see a refreshing arc for her character, one that makes her relatable.
She’s strong, yes, but vulnerable. She’s handling her PTSD badly — with a great deal of booze — but she finds her way back to a place of honor, setting aside her grief to serve others through her gifts of strength and courage. And despite initially blaming her past on Odin and the “patriarchy,” she doesn’t let that hinder her from submitting to Thor’s authority as king.
I only had one real beef with the movie. Our kids love the Avengers movies, but we found the bad language excessive and unnecessary. Now, granted, it’s all pretty mild on the cuss-word scale and it wasn’t to the frequency of the average HBO series, but my husband and I noted how it was handled differently from previous Marvel movies. There are definitely some lines I’ll need to ensure my kids don’t repeat at school.
Despite that, though, the film had so many good points that I wouldn’t hesitate to let my kids watch it again. Add the sheer beauty of some of the scenes — particularly of the Valkyrie battling Hela — the perfect pacing of the plot (fast enough to keep kids engaged without leaving you behind), and the excellently timed comic relief, and this is a movie you shouldn’t miss. Even if you’re burned out on superheroes.