With the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe set to wrap up in just over a year, it’s no surprise that they’re starting to have even more fun than before. When you’re on your 17th entry in any series — let’s face it, all of these are sequels to each other — you need some fresh blood. While quirky Kiwi Taika Waititi may not seem like the obvious choice, he was absolutely right for directing Thor: Ragnarok. Armed with hilarious jokes and some psychedelic visuals, the third Thor is a Thor film we’ve never seen before. Especially when it’s more Hulk’s movie. A success with both fans and critics alike, Marvel Studios has just released the film on 4K UHD with a stunning video transfer.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been missing from the lot since he went searching the cosmos for the Infinity Stones in Avengers: Age of Ultron. We catch up with him imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur. Here, Thor learns that Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is no longer on Asgard and that Thor’s premonitions of Ragnarok are on the verge of coming true. Thor defeats Surtur under the assumption he has prevented Asgard’s imminent destruction only to find out that the real threat lies in Odin’s firstborn daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett). Now, Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are stranded on the planet Sakaar, and must find a way back home — with the help of his fellow “Revengers” Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) — to defend their home and stop Hela’s reign of destruction.
Another 4K Disney release, another 4K win for us. Ragnarok smashes its way onto UHD with a stunning transfer that’s night and day from its 1080p counterpart. Darker sequences — such as the opening fight against Surtur — don’t have the expected HDR boost in clarity, but there is better shadow detail. Where the transfer really differs are scenes taking place during the day or in the brightly lit corridors of The Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum) arena. Take the second scene of the film with Thor’s arrival in Asgard. In 4K, the picture is extremely bright and lifelike, switch to the Blu-ray and the image is immediately duller, feeling overcast instead of sunshiney.
A third example is the scene in Norway with Thor, Loki, and Odin. You can see every blade of grass in each shot. In 1080p most of the blades dissolve into each other. In UHD the picture is so clear and detailed — even being a 2K upscale — that some of the sets don’t have the standard cinematic look and seem sort of fake. Resolution receives a huge jump with costumes and makeup revealing every fine thread and brush stroke. 4K is the clear winner and the best way to see the film.
On the audio front, the 4K’s Dolby Atmos track beats the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, if only by a smidge. Clarity is always present with dialogue rarely drowned out by the action, but the fight scenes get a little more space to play with — even if height speakers don’t get as much play as they should. Directionality is razor sharp in Atoms. Take the scene with Hulk bouncing a ball across his room. The ball literally bounces from the middle speaker, off the wall on right, and then you hear Hulk catch it from the left. It’s a small thing, but sometimes it’s those moments that make you appreciate the sound mixing. Sadly, bass is extremely flat on both tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Before Marvel was snatched up by Disney, the special features were hit-and-miss, but now we finally get some worth watching. Every addition to the MCU brings more features to the table and Ragnarok is no different. Everything is found on the Blu-ray disc.
The first special feature is a quick “Director Intro” (1:44) full of Waititi’s dry, quirky humor. Next are five featurettes exploring everything from Ragnarok’s tone and Thor’s evolution through the MCU (“Getting In Touch with Your Inner Thor” 6:39), the film’s leading ladies (“Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie” 5:58), Waititi’s motion-capture work as Thor’s hilarious sidekick (“Finding Korg” 7:38), an inside look at the universe’s most colorful garbage planet (“Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown” 8:24), and finally, a quick discussion of where Ragnarok fits into the timeline and Jack Kirby’s heavy influence (“Journey Into Mystery” 5:47).
The rest are your regular assortment of special features: “Gag Reel” (2:18); “Team Darryl” (6:08) a sequel to the hilarious online Team Thor mockumentaries; “Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years — The Evolution of Heroes” (5:23) covers all the films and characters so far and how they lead up to Infinity War; Deleted Scenes (5:43): “Extended Scene: Thor Meets The Grandmaster,” “Extended Scene: Stupid Avenger vs. Tiny Avenger,” “Extended Scene: Grandmaster and Topaz,” “Skurge Finds Heimdall,” and “Hulk Chases Thor Through Sakaar.” And finally, instead of storyboards, there are two “8-Bit Sequences”: “Sakaar Spaceship Battle” (0:58) and “Final Bridge Battle” (2:17).
Waititi proved that James Gunn’s off-the-wall approach to Guardians of the Galaxy could pay off just as well with the rest of the MCU. Filled with wild visuals, off-kilter humor, and huge action pieces, Thor: Ragnarok winds up being one of the best Marvel films yet. The 4K disc trumps the standard Blu-ray in every aspect making it the definitive way to view the film. The audio still may be something Disney needs to work on, but early reviews of The Last Jedi sound like they’re finally stepping up their game. If you don’t already own Ragnarok, the 4K is worth the purchase even if you don’t own a 4K TV yet. You’ll be glad you have it when you finally upgrade and have another spectacular disc to show off.