It’s only been out for a couple of weeks, but it’s clear that Thor: Ragnarok is yet another huge hit for Marvel Studios. In fact, it’s already the most financially successful Thor outing, making $741.6 million vs $449.3 million for the first Thor, and $644.6 million for Thor: The Dark World. And the critics love it too, with a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So how did the Marvel team manage to take the one MCU character everyone thought was a bore, and turn his third film into a smash hit?
(Be warned: there are spoilers ahead, so don’t read on if, for some strange reason, you haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok yet)
1. Taika Waititi
To call Waititi a unique director would be an understatement. Look at his previous films, all made in New Zealand, and you will see just how off-the-wall he is. From 2007’s Eagle vs Shark, about a pair of socially-inept loners who connect during some very wacky adventures, to 2014’s vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, and 2016’s surprise hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi has managed to wring humour from almost any situation, without undermining the core message of his story. That weird sensibility turned out to be perfect for a film about a Norse Viking Space Alien, truly nailing an appropriate tone in a Thor standalone film for the first time.
2. Thor is finally funny
Chris Hemsworth also deserves credit for the film’s success. After showing off his gift for comedy in Ghostbusters last year and Vacation in 2015, Hemsworth goes full-bore in Thor: Ragnarok. His combination of charm and sarcasm fits Thor’s character perfectly, and he carries it all off with the ease of a seasoned movie star. Casting off the shackles of the super serious Thor from the first two films, Hemsworth seems to be having tons of fun this time around.
3. Jeff Goldblum is perfect
Aside from being the subject of a thousand internet memes, Jeff Goldblum is quirkiness personified. So Waititi and Marvel did the right thing by casting him in the role of the Grandmaster. The character, fittingly, is best summed up as a Jeff Goldblum type – namely, he’s weird, cool, ageless and you just want to be him. He gets some of the best lines, and lights up the screen every time he appears. Here’s hoping we get to see the Grandmaster return in another MCU film.
4. Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin
Why it’s taken three Thor movies for someone to think of using “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin, which is about Vikings, I don’t know; but that oversight is more than made up for by the fact that it’s used twice in the film, and in one of the trailers. It lends an epic backing track to the film, and the second time it is used, during the film’s climax, is easily the best use of a rock song in a film this year. It was totally worth the squillions of dollars that Marvel must have had to pony up for its use.
5. The overarching MCU storyline takes a backseat
As the 17th film in the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok could have easily become bogged down in Marvel lore. Instead, the film is largely standalone, with just a few connections to the larger Avengers story going on in the background. Compare that to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War which, while a great film, felt a lot like Avengers 2.5. Ragnarok feels very much like it’s own thing.