Updated: Apr 17, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD copy; 2017; PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu
Best extra: Making-of featurettes
THIS is the Thor we’ve been waiting for! Any character that can claim a Led Zepplin classic for its own is a true superhero.
“Immigrant Song” is perfect for the Norse god of thunder played by Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth showed comic promise since he first appeared as Marvel’s “Thor” in 2011. Director Taika Waititi of New Zealand, who takes on the role of “opening” gladiator Korg, drove possibilities to the max, without sacrificing character or story. We may have the “Guardians of the Galaxy” to thank, which is cool since Peter Quill and the gang will show up in “Avengers: Infinity War” opening in April.
“Thor: Ragnarok ” combines the Norse legend of Asgard’s fall with Greg Pak’s “Planet Hulk.” From the opening sequence – “Oh no, Thor’s in a cage. How did this happen?” – we know we’re in for a different kind of ride. Thor and his trusty hammer take on fire demon Surtur, then return to hometown Asgard where he finds all is not as it should be. Adopted brother and god of mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has been up to his general mayhem. They travel to Earth, where they find Allfather Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dying. Soon after, their sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, shows up to claim Asgard’s throne.
And is she ever nasty. Mean and crazy violent. She’s just not happy unless she’s killing or planning to kill, the reason Odin imprisoned her. In their first battle, Thor and Loki are transported to junk planet Sakaar, ruled by the wildly eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Loki becomes one of the Grandmaster’s court, while Thor, captured by Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), is taken captive and sold as a gladiator.
That’s where Thor reconnects with his “friend from work,” the Hulk. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has been trapped as Hulk for the past two years and the great jade beast has no plans to change back. He’s become the celebrated champion of the arena and life is good.
But Thor must return to Asgard and save his people from Hela. He could use an army, but Hulk - now in Bruce form - and Scrapper aka “Angry Girl” will have to fill the bill. Reluctantly, Loki follows. Literally.
Oh, the formats – Ultra 4K with HDR, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital … each has something to offer, with 4K (2160p) topping the bunch for picture and sound (as long as it’s on disc for the appropriate home theater set-up).
Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment is doing a swell job with their new 4K releases. Yet it could be better. Once again visuals have been created from a 2K DI instead of the readily available 4K source. Could be the copious CGI, presenting a stunning replicant of artist Jack Kirby’s worlds and characters, was the reason. Digital artists and techs make this sci-fi fantasy look as real as possible.
HDR color gives “Thor: Ragnarok” amazing punch. Detail from clothing, weapons, space junk and beautiful downtown Asgard are near perfection. Javier Aguirresarobe, known for “The Road” and “The Others,” handles the cinematography with a confident balance of light and dark.
There are plenty of brightly lit scenes on Sakaar and Asgard. A quick visit to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) uses a good blend of golden-hued dark and light; he is the Master of the Mystic Arts. But the best use of darkness comes when Hela does a graceful backflip into a secret Asgardian vault. Her pale skin glows realistically, while green eyes and costume detail shine in the darkness. This is an easy favorite for those who like to pick out details found in black shadows as Hela’s skeleton army and monster wolf return to life.
Those with Blu-ray set-ups will not be disappointed. Both prints (2.40:1 aspect ratio) appear to have been made from the same 2K source. Color and detail is still noteworthy. Thor’s eyes take on thunder god-sparkle, while blacks and shadows remain deep.
The 4K disc has the Dolby Atmos soundtrack; default for both 4K and Blu-ray is an energetic Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. The Atmos provides height immersion heard mostly in the gladiator arena and in a spaceship battle sequence. Dialogue is always clear. That’s important because “Thor: Ragnarok” is filled with effects; hammer swirling and blows, explosions, battles, gunfire, fight scenes – you name it. This is not a subtle show.
Range is consistently good throughout from bass to treble. Mark Mothersbaugh composed the original score, with a little assist from J.S. Bach, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” and the aforementioned Led Zeppelin.
Find them all on Blu-ray beginning with Waititi’s odd commentary. He warns there will be no technical detail or anecdotes, only absurdity, and then delivers. This will either charm or annoy you.
Waititi appears again in an equally goofy “Director Intro” and “Finding Korg,” showcasing his alien gladiator, which looks like Thing gone gray. He has a uniquely high-pitched voice for a rock-solid individual, but there’s power to that punch. Korg describes himself as the opening warm-up fighter, the Ed McMahon of the arena. Perfect.
These are part of a series of short featurettes that create a simple marking-of experience. “Getting In Touch with Your Inner Thor,” goes over the character’s history in comics and film, and Hemsworth’s performance; “Unstoppable Women” give Blanchett and Thompson an opportunity to talk about their characters; and “SaKaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown” has interviews with the cast and crew about the artificial planet made of castoff debris.
“Journey Into Mystery” provides an overview of the film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a tribute to co-creator/artist Jack Kirby. Find a pair of animatic storyboards of two key scenes in “8-Bit Sequences.” “Team Darryl” continues the original serial in which a human looks for an acceptable housemate. Perhaps the Grandmaster? There are five deleted scenes and a gag reel.
An exclusive extra, “Thor and Hulk: A Galactic Adventure,” can be found on iTunes, FandangNOW and Vudu.
“Thor: Ragnarok” isn’t just the best film about Thor, it’s one of the best in the MCU, soaring out of the so-serious superhero mold and into a world of anything-can-happen. While we love ‘em, it’s hard to imagine Captain America (Chris Evans) or the now-darker Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) so accessible. “Deadpool’s” comedy answers to very adult tastes, while the latest Spider-Man doesn’t have the maturity.
That makes “Thor: Ragnarok” just about perfect for everyone.
- Kay Reynolds