The third solo Thor film; the title is part of actual Norse mythology, though Marvel has it occur a bit different than what tradition has passed down. There is a new villain in Hela (played by Cate Blanchett; Galadriel in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, as well as the voice of Valka in the latter two How to Train Your Dragon movies. She’s the stepmother in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, involved in Ocean’s Eight, played Elizabeth I twice, and Marion in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood). Jeff Goldblum is another antagonist in the Grandmaster, and Karl Urban is Skurge (Éomer in Lord of the Rings, Dr. McCoy in the alternate universe Star Trek movies, and apparently a stormtrooper in Rise of Skywalker.) [We’ll cover more on the fact that Marvel has chosen a lot of Middle Earth actors to be in their universe in the wrap-up post.]
This film starts a little differently, with Thor voicing over a summary, saying he’s saved Earth a couple times and is now a hero. And he’s been searching the cosmos for the Infinity Stones. And that is how he ended up in a cage, from which he drops and dangles and spins in front of Surtur, who is destined to destroy Asgard in Ragnarök. Thor has been concerned about Ragnarök, with the nature of his dreams lately; so if he takes the crown off Surtur’s head, it can never be put in the Eternal Flame and thus Ragnarök will be averted. But Surtur warns Thor that Ragnarök has already begun and Odin is not on Asgard. There is nothing Thor can do to stop it. He still holds his hand out for Mjölnir and smashes through the demons (cue Immigrant Song). He calls for Heimdall after he takes the crown off Surtur, but he doesn’t get a response, so he has to dodge a dragon (of some sort [could be a reference to the Midgard serpent of Norse legend]). Turns out, Heimdall is not at the Bifrost, there’s a new guy, Skurge, who is too busy showing off to ladies to hear Thor. He does eventually answer, after Thor slays the dragon. Heimdall is a fugitive, after being declared a traitor to the crown. Thor flies off to confront “Odin,” and Skurge runs behind him.
There’s a new statue of Loki and Thor discovers a play being performed about Loki’s sacrifice (with Luke Hemsworth [Chris’s older brother; a cousin of theirs is a college girl in the film] portraying Thor, Matt Damon portraying Loki, and Sam Neill portraying Odin). When Thor addresses “Odin,” he remarks “Oh shit,” then babbles that the Asgardians wanted to honor Loki. Thor then holds on to Odin, swinging Mjölnir, then threatens that nothing with stop the hammer from returning to his hand, “not even your face, brother.” “Odin” shouts he yields and transforms into Loki [we already knew Odin was Loki from the last scene of Dark World]. Skurge finally shows up, but Loki’s already annoyed; his new lackey had one job, and didn’t do it well.
Thor now demands to know where Odin is. Loki knows. He’s on Earth. At the Shady Acre Senior Home…that is currently being demolished when the brothers visit. Loki doesn’t know where Odin currently is, making a crack that he’s not a witch. Then Loki disappears and Thor finds a card, directing him to Bleeker St; where Thor meets Dr. Stephen Strange; “Earth has wizards now?” Strange keeps an eye on threats to Earth, including Loki, but all Thor and Loki want is to find Odin. Strange can help with that (and also show off his magic to Thor [there’s an interesting post on the different ways Loki and Strange utilize magic, being pro-Loki]), and opens a portal for Thor. He needs his “umbrella” first, which crashes into several things on its way to Thor, and Loki. Who has been “falling for thirty minutes!” Strange sends the brothers to Norway.
Odin is sitting calmly, waiting for his sons. It admittedly took time for his to shake off Loki’s magic, but now, Odin misses his wife. He knows his time draws near, and he has to warn Thor and Loki that they have a sister, whom he exiled for her violent appetite. She is the goddess of death, and Odin’s first born. She draws her power from Asgard and if she resides there, it will be limitless. He also counsels his sons to remember this place they all saw each other. Then he turns to gold dust and floats away.
A storm begins brewing and Thor and Loki are ready to fight again, until Hela emerges. Their clothes transform when they approach her. She first tells them to kneel. To which Loki demands, “I beg your pardon?” [How dare she steal his line.] Thor throws Mjölnir, which Hela crushes. The brothers try to make it to Asgard, but Hela attacks them while in transit and throws them out. When Hela arrives at the Bifrost, she instantly stabs Volstagg and Fandral for moving against her. Skurge just wants to survive, so she takes him with her.
Thor lands on Sakaar, in a rubbish heap. A crew try to take him prisoner, but another woman comes along and claims him instead, with a little shocking device (she’s also a little drunk). Thor meets the Grandmaster and hears about his contest of champions. If Thor wants his freedom, he has to defeat the Grandmaster’s contender. Loki is also in the background and the brothers bicker a little; Loki was thrown out first and landed before Thor, but managed to befriend the Grandmaster instead of be trapped. Loki later visits his brother in the prison, while Thor holds a quiet, private memorial for Odin, which Loki joins. Though it’s just an illusion; Thor can easily throw rocks through Loki lied to both of them. Yet, when Thor argues he wants to return to Asgard, Loki insists that Hela is stronger. They could wait a while, and make their own way off Sakaar and go anywhere. Thor finally reviews Loki’s actions; he faked his death, stripped Odin of his powers and stole the throne, left Odin on Earth, to die, which released the goddess of death. And that is only the past two days. Loki warns his brother that anyone who faces the Grandmaster’s contender perishes; and he’s bet heavily against Thor.
[Let’s stop and consider a few things for a moment, since Loki is one of my favorite characters: He joined in the memorial for Odin; he still considers Odin to be his father, as much as he sneeringly denies it at times. He is genuinely concerned for his brother going against Hela. He claims Hela as “our sister.” His voice rises when he tells Thor he doesn’t stand a chance. So, as much as Loki argues to the contrary; he’s still Thor’s brother, he’s still Odin’s son. And, as Hela pointed out, Loki picked up some of Odin’s mannerism, offering to come to a deal. And supposedly, the Asgardians didn’t notice a difference in Loki ruling as Odin.]
Meanwhile, in Asgard, Hela greets the guards and claims her right to rule as Odin’s firstborn. The guards attack and she has fun slaying them all; Hogun being the last one standing. While Hela and Skurge are busy outside the palace, Heimdall steals his sword from Bifrost (preventing Hela from rampaging the cosmos). Inside the palace, Hela reveals that Odin covered up the history he had with Hela; how they won the Nine Realms by spilling buckets of blood. But when Hela grew too ambitious, Odin locked her away. Below the palace, the dead guards are buried and she uses the Eternal Flame to revive them, along with the gigantic wolf, Fenris [who does play a part in the traditional Ragnarök myth].
Thor is sent to face the Grandmaster’s contender and Korg, his rock buddy in prison, points out that the woman who caught Thor is an Asgardian. Thor recognizes her as a Valkyrie, due to a tattoo, and tries to ask for her help. She dismisses him. Thor then has to face a haircut from Stan Lee, and enters the ring. Turns out, the champion is Hulk. Thor is ecstatic; “he’s a friend from work.” Loki is decidedly not. But Thor cannot reason with the Banner portion, he cannot use tricks to calm him down. So they pummel each other, Hulk even smashing Thor like he did Loki in New York, which Loki gleefully shouts “that’s how it feels!” [and the funniest part of the movie]. This triggers lightning to come out of Thor and the ante is upped. And just when Thor is ready to finish Hulk, the Grandmaster shocks Thor and he passes out.
But he wakes up in Hulk’s chambers (briefly shirtless, I think that’s a rule) and tries to pick up their friendship. He realizes that Hulk came to Sakaar in the Quinjet and that is a way off. But Hulk wants to stay. Thor manages to contact Heimdall and check on the situation in Asgard. The people hide from Hela. Heimdall suggests Thor go through the big doorway to get off the planet. Hulk is friends with Valkyrie and Thor attempts to recruit her, but Valkyrie wants nothing to do with Hela. She’s happy to drink and forget. Thor manages to get out and to the Quinjet, but the Hulk destroys it when he wants Thor to stay. Triggering a video from Black Widow brings Banner back, who is concerned he stayed as the Hulk for two years. If that happens again, Banner may not come back.
The Grandmaster sends Loki and Valkyrie to find Thor and Hulk, though after a brief fight, in which Loki also discovers who Valkyrie is, they team up with Thor and Banner to get off Sakaar, through the largest portal. Loki can help them get a ship. Thor and Loki fight together, and Loki suggests he goes separate ways from Thor. And Thor agrees; at one point, he thought the world of Loki, but Loki keeps betraying him, and their paths diverged long ago. He still suggests they do “get help.” Loki does not want to do “get help.” They do “get help” and Thor throws Loki at the guards. Loki attempts to betray Thor, but Thor is a step ahead this time, and slaps a shocker on Loki. Korg and his revolution eventually free Loki, who takes a larger transport to follow Thor. Thor steals one of the Grandmaster’s ships and Valkyrie helps clear their path off planet.
Hela and Skurge are threatening the people, who are trying to make it to the Bifrost with Heimdall, but an army is behind them and Fenris is in front of them. Thor sits on the throne to draw Hela to him. He even tries to bond with Hela, that Odin’s solutions to problem was to either cover it up, or cast it out. But Thor is wise enough to know he cannot trust Hela; he’d love for someone else to take the thrown, but she’s just the worst. In the ensuing fight, Hela slices out one of Thor’s eyes, so now he looks like Odin.
Meanwhile, Valkyrie starts to clear a path for the Asgardians. Bruce turns into the Hulk and takes on Fenris (after smooshing into the rainbow bridge as Bruce first). A transport ship arrives for the people, Loki proudly declaring “your savior is here!” Heimdall knew Loki would show up, and Loki joins him against the army.
Thor is losing the fight against Hela and she taunts him, “what were you the god of again?” Thor has a vision of Odin, who counsels him that Mjölnir was only a way for Thor to focus and control his power. And Asgard is the people, not a place. Thor fears he is not as strong as Odin; not, Odin tells him, Thor is stronger. This triggers lightning from Thor again and he blasts his sister (notice the pride on Loki’s face), and a repeat of the Immigrant Song. And a totally epic image of Thor smashing through the ranks with lightning. The heroes still struggle and Hela tries to stop the transport ship. Skurge jumps out from where he was hiding to take on the army, but Hela spears him.
Thor realizes the only way they can defeat Hela is to destroy Asgard; she’ll lose her power. They have to trigger Ragnarök. He sends Loki (whom he knew would show up) to the vault to put Surtur’s crown in the Eternal Flame. The devil-like creature is happy to smash, though Hulk tries to take him on and Thor has to call him back. Hela rallies for a moment, but Surtur still smashes her. Sadly, the planet is destroyed, but the people survive. And Loki is there to stand beside his brother (and we hope they did hug). Loki is not sure about returning to Earth, but Thor feels everything will work out fine. There is an ominously huge ship that appears in front of them.
I find this film funnier than several of the other Marvel movies. It’s an appropriate amount of humor; Love and Thunder just tried too hard. Thor is more off the cuff and even Loki is more relaxed. We continue to see more of a sibling relationship between Thor and Loki, like throwing things at each other, anticipating each other’s moves. And playing Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song makes it badass; and the lyrics match well, as my father pointed out: “We come from the land of ice and snow/From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow/The hammer of the god/Will drive our ships to new lands/To fight the horde, sing and cry/Valhalla, I am coming.”
We also witness two kickass female characters…with absolutely no love interests! Hela reveals in being the goddess of death [Cate Blanchett is plain awesome]. Valkyrie doesn’t take crap from anyone.
I’ve recently started my research on Norse mythology, with a course from Wondrium, that covered the basics of their legends and clearly stated that Marvel got the legend wrong. It was fairly interesting, though I intend to follow up with some books I already own (including the tome by Neil Gaiman).
At the time of writing this blog, sadly Ray Stevenson, the actor who portrays Volstagg [among other roles, such as Porthos in the 2011 Three Musketeers] passed away on May 21st.
I am incredibly busy for the next month, so Black Panther will be a while coming (but it will come). In the meantime, who are your favorite MCU characters?