In a world where each successive film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe adds layers of complexity, both philosophical and logistical, to an already immense web of relationships and interpersonal politics and struggles, it's always nice when a film can acknowledge what has come before it without feeling beholden to explain its place in the world. The latest chapter in the up-and-down series of Thor films, Thor: Ragnarok, finds our hero struggling to find himself in a world in which the things that have defined him for so long, his father, Odin and his hammer, Mjolnir, are suddenly things of the past. It could have been a really sappy piece of navel-gazing, however, the film ends up being one of the most purely entertaining films in the superhero canon, its success in large part thanks to the unique sensibilities and humor of New Zealand filmmaker, Taika Waititi.
As the character of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has acclimated to his earthly surroundings over the past eight years through numerous films, he's begun to loosen up, and in Thor: Ragnarok, the character finds a new sense of humor as he blasts through adventures on the scavenger planet of Sakaar. Sakaar is ruled by The Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum at his Goldblumiest, and is also home to a world weary Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who has found himself a figure of adulation after becoming the local gladiatorial champion. The two former (?) Avengers and a retired Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) come together to save Asgard from a family squabble in which Thor's older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett) insists upon taking the throne from what she sees as underqualified younger siblings.
Much like James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy entries into the Marvel film series focused on the science fiction aspects of these characters and maybe not taking everything so seriously, Waititi's Thor is intent upon cranking up the absurdity through wonderful character moments and recognizing the ridiculousness of it all. Nods to the infinitely influential work of Jack Kirby, and introductions to characters, like Hela and the villain Surtur, who have been big parts of the comic series over the years, are mixed with Waititi's often dry and always hilarious wit and dialogue. It's a wonderful match that I really enjoyed.
Disney's Blu-ray release of Thor: Ragnarok looks and sounds great. I'd imagine it'd be hard to mess up a film with a budget this immense, and with a big studio like Disney behind it, it is no surprise to say that this disc, with its incredibly vibrant color scheme and vivacious action, is reference quality. The audio also impresses with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that effectively utilizes all corners of the sound field while delivering clear dialogue. Great stuff.
One of the reasons, the primary reason, for which I was interested in checking out this disc in the first place is the involvement of Waititi. As a longtime fan of his work, I know that he is not only a great director, but also very entertaining to listen to and an engaging interview subject. Thankfully, he's given ample opportunity to display these traits through a fantastic audio commentary track - in which he claims that he not only did the motion capture for rock creature Korg, but also Surtur and Chris Hemsworth - plenty of interviews and behind the scenes videos, and a neat little introduction. We also get featurettes on the history of the movie character of Thor as played by Hemsworth describing his trajectory, the badass women Hela and Valkyrie, the above-mentioned rock creature Korg, a gag reel & deleted scenes, 8-bit video game styled animatics for a couple of action sequences in the film, a Grandmaster filled continuation of the amusing Team Darryl shorts produced in the run up to the film, and much more.
This is a great, great disc for a film that I really enjoyed. If you're a Thor fan, it's a must buy; but even if you're not super familiar with the character and you're a fan of Waititi's work on What We Do in the Shadows or Boy, you're bound to find something enjoyable in Thor: Ragnarok. Highly recommended.