Thor’s life is a mess.
He and his mortal girlfriend, Jane, have broken up. And he’s been off on a quest to seek out those all-powerful gems called the Infinity Stones. To be honest, though, after all this time without finding anything, Thor isn’t even sure why he was chasing after them in the first place.
Then, after besting a fiery demon and battling a gigantic dragon, Thor returns home to discover that his ever-deceitful evil brother, Loki, had been masquerading as his father, Odin. Meanwhile, Odin himself is trapped, near death, down on Earth. And Thor’s elder sister, Hela, the Goddess of Death, has been set free from her bondage and returned to Asgard to seek über-powerful revenge.
Talk about a dysfunctional family.
Oh, but that’s not the worst of it. Thor is currently being held captive on the planet Sakaar. (Don’t even ask how that happened.) There, he’s being forced to partake in what amounts to gladiatorial battles. And wouldn’t you know it, his chief competition is none other than his old Avenger bud, the hard-hitting Hulk.
On top of all that, Thor is without his mighty hammer. Yeah, it was destroyed. (Again, don’t ask.)
So, there you have it. A God of Thunder at his weakest, lowest point ever. Guess it’s time to mix things up a bit, put a little lightning in his moves and, well, tell a joke or two.
There are definitely heroic actions in play here as a number of characters throw caution to the wind to save the lives of many innocents in harm’s way. Thor sums up that self-sacrificial perspective by saying, “I choose to run toward my problems not away from them. Because that’s what heroes do.”
A dying Odin makes it clear that he loves his sons, Thor and Loki, no matter what they’ve done in the past. In fact, we learn that Odin himself had a past filled with bad choices that he later strove to make up for.
[Spoiler Warning] Though the celestial city of Asgard is eventually destroyed, Thor says that its citizens, not its structures, are what matter most: “Asgard’s not a place, it’s a people.”
Thor, who’s known as the God of Thunder, is one of the main gods in Norse mythology. (Never mind that the first film in this Marvel franchise somewhat downplayed his deific attributes.) As such, we see apocalyptic visions and power-wielding gods and goddesses in the mix here. Hela, for instance, uses her great power to raise hundreds of corpses back to life. And a fire demon uses the mystical power of an eternal flame to grow to the size of a mountain.
Ragnarok, meanwhile, is the Norse prophecy of an apocalyptic, world-shattering battle. Thor ventures to a dark underworld and gives battle to a demon named Surtur, the entity that is supposed to unleash Ragnarok. Thor and Loki are also pulled aside by the magic of Dr. Strange, who performs a series of magical time and location teleportations.
Hela is decked out in a skin-tight black outfit that accentuates her curves. A number of women wear low-cut, revealing tops.
We see a lingering shot of shirtless Thor’s heavily muscled torso. And the Hulk, after stepping out of a shower, drops his towel and walks around naked. (We see his bare backside.)
Thor and friends steal a ship only to discover that it was designed to be a pleasure vessel “used for orgies and stuff.” Thor quickly quips, “Don’t touch anything.” A character delivers some lightly veiled allusions to masturbation.
After Hela returns to Asgard, she reveals a painting of herself and Odin conquering civilizations with bloody abandon. And that is definitely her mode of operation in this film.
Though generally bloodless, we see her single-handedly take on an army of soldiers, slashing them with a huge blade, raining magical knives down on them, impaling them and generally bashing them about with magical blasts. She also murders bystanders with thrown knives. She controls the elements in a number of instances, causing sharp-edged columns to rise out of the ground that pierce foes and ships. The Goddess of Death also unleashes an army of undead to ravage innocent city dwellers and attack any living thing.
In a knock-down, drag-out confrontation between Thor and Hela, the two sibling gods smash and hack at each other with a vengeance. One of Hela’s lightning-enhanced blows slashes Thor’s face, removing one of his eyes and leaving behind a red, cauterized wound. A giant demon with a flaming sword decimates an entire city.
Spaceships blast away at other craft with laser blasts. Flying vehicles crash and explode. The gladiatorial slave owner, the Grandmaster, zaps someone with a weapon, melting him into a pool of goo. Thor and the Hulk go at each other with large hammers and bladed weapons, ripping apart an arena with their powerful blows and rampaging charges. Thor gives battle to a demon with his magic hammer, Mjölnir, felling the creature and ripping off part of its skull. A gigantic dragon has its head lopped off by a closing interdimensional portal—splashing several people with a wave of the creature’s gushing goo.
And on top of these huge, romping scenes of massive, wanton destruction, there are also smaller slapstick moments when characters are painfully zapped by electrodes attached to their necks or fall flat on their faces due to a mistimed jump.
The f-word substitute “fricken'” is used once. Two s-words are joined by a couple uses each of “d–n,” “h—,” a–” and “b–ch.” An “oh my god” is spit out twice, someone is told to “p-ss off,” and the English crudity “bloody” pops up once.
Crude jokes are made about Thor’s home of Asgard. For instance, someone asks him, “So, you wanna get back to A–berg?”
Valkyrie, a bounty hunter who used to be an Asgardian, drinks heavily throughout. And the film treats her booziness (and probably alcoholism) as a nothing more than a colorful character trait. We see her staggeringly drunk on one occasion. Thor likewise pours himself a drink and downs a refilled glass of ale several times.
A huge interdimensional portal is labeled the “devil’s anus.” Several jokes are made in connection to that name.
There’s something just a little odd going on with Thor: He’s suddenly a stand-up comic.
I suppose that’s one of the things you have to expect in a Marvel Universe with so many expanding and spiraling plotlines and sequels that you need a scorecard to keep up. As more and more characters are introduced and more and more directors take their shot at helming a superhero flick, the heroes themselves can begin to morph into people you no longer recognize.
It’s not that there isn’t fun to be had in this latest Thor pic. There is. And it’s not that there aren’t any sacrificial heroics and muscle-flexing bim-bam-booms here. There’re definitely acres of all that.
It’s just that the God of Thunder’s previously wry, stoic and understated sense of humor has disappeared—replaced by jokes that are way more over the top. And he’s taken a certain raging non-verbal green guy with him. Thor and Hulk have been replaced by two beefy, good ol’ boy jokesters who’d be right at home in a wisecrack-tossing Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
If you’re eager to swallow that massive, wildly spinning shift to the goofy side of high-action Nordic melodrama, well, this flick is made to order.
Mom and Dad, however, need to be aware that this bounding-buffoonery-in-action template also brings some things they might not be expecting. Thor’s language, especially, can feel surprisingly salty at times. There’s some super backside baring and heavy boozing in the mix, too. And that cacophony of humor can sometimes slop over and splash families with some rather crude quips.
Is that stuff that superhero fans have never seen before? No. But when it comes to the younger fans in the crowd, it’s not always all that funny.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.