By the time we reach Thor: Ragnarok, we are 17 movies deep into this Marvel Cinematic Universe, so parents should be pretty familiar with the tone and tenor of this world and know -- basically -- what to expect. This is largely true, though with Marvel Studios bringing in fresh filmmakers on most of its stories now, those creative talents will bring their own sensitivities. You don't hire James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and ask him to NOT make a James Gunn movie, for example. So, every Marvel movie is not the same, and not all of them are made to appeal directly to kids.
Enter Taika Waititi, the New Zealand native who cut his teeth on quirky comedies such as What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople before receiving an invite to tackle Thor: Ragnarok. He's not quite a kid-friendly director, though he has made a kid-friendly Thor movie, one that's big and broad, candy-colored and exciting while also being extremely goofy in a pitch to score laughs. Does that mean this should have earned a PG rating? Not in the least, so let's break down what to expect, as parents, from the latest Thor adventure.
Needless to say, we're diving into massive spoilers for the movie.
Comic-book violence is part of every superhero adventure, and we have grown to construct a sliding scale of expectations between the mass murders in Man of Steel or the gritty weight of Logan to the tissue-soft comedy of Tim Story's Fantastic Four films. Thor: Ragnarok literally introduces the Goddess of Death in Hela (Cate Blanchett), so you would assume we're in for lethal devastation. And there is some... though it's not as shocking as one might think. Hela brings her wrath to Asgard, and many soldiers are mowed down by her forces. When soldiers die in battle, they basically get hit and fall over. Only the death of Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), one of Thor's Warrior's Three, stood out as vicious because he gets stabbed through the chest.
As mentioned above, Thor: Ragnarok works best as a comedy, with Taika Waititi leaning on Chris Hemsworth's impeccable timing to land some huge laughs. A lot of Thor relies on physical comedy. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a bit of a lush, so she'll stumble off a ship's platform and fall on her face. Or Thor, as he tied up in chains, will keep spinning... interfering with his efforts to confer with a villain.
Some of the jokes are a bit more risqué. Nothing major. There's a quick joke about an orgy. Hulk walks around with no clothes on in a scene, and while we see his Hulk butt, Thor comments about his Hulk shlong. Most of these are done quickly, in passing, and kids might not grasp them at all.
The language in Thor: Ragnarok is standard for a Marvel movie. The studio tends to get away with one or two "shits" (like when Spider-Man screams it in Captain America: Civil War). There's a "Shit" in Ragnarok, and Thor calls someone a "son of a bitch." That almost sounds Shakespearean coming out of the Norse god's mouth.
What age is Thor: Ragnarok good for? To be honest, this one felt more PG than it did the PG-13 rating that it received. I understand that having some language and violence is going to elevate you instantly to a PG-13, and that's fine. But when a movie like Thor: Ragnarok beams the thrill and excitement of seeing Hulk and Thor square off in a gladiator battle, or Loki and Thor in New York City facing Doctor Strange, or the wildly imaginative world of Sakaar -- the trash planet presided over by Jeff Goldblum, of all people -- I think that this MCU chapter works for any kid age 10 and up. I plan on bringing my 9- and 13-year-old sons to the closest IMAX theater to enjoy this adventure. It's the closest Marvel has come to making a Star Wars movie, and I mean that as the highest compliment.