Let’s begin this review with a wildly
speculative statement: Thor was NOBODY’S favorite Avenger. Despite
the impressive charisma and costume destroying physique of Chris
Hemsworth, the character just never clicked. His solo movies fell
firmly into Marvel’s B-material and his presence in the Avengers
films was overshadowed by everyone else on the team (except Hawkeye).
This put Marvel in a position where they had nothing to lose by going
a little crazy. So when the studio hired celebrated Kiwi director
Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), it seemed like an idea
just crazy enough to work. Not since Iron Man 3 has the studio
thrown caution to the wind and put a film in the hands of an auteur
director. A series of online shorts featuring the misadventures of
Thor and his roommate Darryl made us realize there might be more to the character than we realized. Thor: Ragnarok had the potential
to do for the character what Winter Soldier did for Captain America;
turn a second-fiddle superhero into a star.
evil goddess, Hela (Cate Blanchette), Thor finds himself imprisoned
on the planet of Sakkar. Here, he’s forced into gladiatorial combat
against his former ally, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Together, they
have to escape the grasp of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and
return to Asgard to save it from destruction.
might tell you, the real star of this movie is director Taika
Waititi. He puts his distinct personal stamp on the movie from the
first line of dialogue to the closing moments of the film. Taika’s
comedic sensibility is miles away from the quippy banter that has
defined the post-Whedon MCU (a welcome reprieve). Instead, he finds
the inherent absurdity in the film’s characters and situations,
mining them for comedic gold. Amazingly, the Thor universe is so
well suited to this absurdist comedy that you can’t help but wonder
why no one tried this sooner. Taika has taken characters who were
relatively serious in their previous incarnations and made them
ridiculous. The director also makes a cameo as Korg, a soft-spoken
rock monster who befriends Thor during his time as a gladiator. The
character may be little more than a vessel for jokes, but Taika
embews him with heart that you just want to hug him every time he
opens his mouth.
been utilized for his leading man looks and little else. That all
changed last year when he appeared in the Ghostbusters reboot as the
dim-witted receptionist, Kevin. Regardless of how you felt about the
film, everyone agreed that Hemsworth’s character was a highlight and
made us all take a second look at him as a performer. Now, armed
with better material and a better director (sorry Paul Feig),
Hemsworth KILLS it. The man is effortlessly funny throughout the
film and probably the funniest lead character in a Marvel movie yet.
It’s sometimes strange to see a character who was once played so
straight suddenly become so overtly comedic; but the studio was
banking on the audience being so disinterested in serious Thor that
they’d welcome the change. Thor can still kick godly amounts of ass
onscreen, but now he’s much more likable between battles. He’s
practically a brand new character.
similarly. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is still the trickster he always
was, but has now become a vessel for (often hilarious) sight gags.
Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has grown exponentially. Banner
has been the Hulk for over two years and now acts and communicates
like an obnoxious child. This allows for some great scenes between
the two that hilariously builds on the tumultuous relationship
they’ve had since the first Avengers (2012). The only character who
seems unchanged is Heimdall (Idris Elba). His character is now on
the run and is working to protect the people of Asgard from Hela’s
reign of terror, giving him some great badass moments.
colorful new characters. Hela, the film’s primary villain, fairs
about as well as the usual Marvel villain; not bad per-se, but
doesn’t really register with the audience due to neglect. The same
fate befalls the character of Skurg (Karl Urban). Urban gets some
terrific lines and sight gags in the early going of the film, but when he
gets recruited by Hela he fades off into the background and is nearly forgotten. This lack of villain presence probably has
a lot to do with the film’s disinterest in the actual Ragnarok
storyline (more on that later), which means the Grandmaster and
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) fair much better since their characters are
intorduced on Sakkar.
with her hard-drinking swagger and badass presence. Tessa Thompson
effortlessly commands the screen and it would be a waste if her
character wasn’t explored in future (possibly solo) movies. Much has
been made of her being the first bi-sexual character in the MCU,
though it’d be a stretch to say that’s well conveyed. Much like
Beauty and the Beast earlier this year, this is another
“groundbreaking” character that Disney has seen fit to subdue.
In fact, the only way you’d even know she was bi-sexual is if you
read one of many think-pieces about her character’s sexual
orientation (because the movie sure as hell doesn’t make it obvious).
Strangely, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster seems to be WAY more
“open minded” by comparison. Goldblum chews scenery like it’s his job and may actually be Marvel’s most intriguing and
fun sub-villain. Jeff Goldblum is basically playing a meme of Jeff
Goldblum by way of Space-Caligula and IT IS GLORIOUS.
its caveats. A consistent issue with the MCU is that the greater
shared universe sometimes kneecaps the quality of the individual
films; it’s a problem that first reared its ugly head in Iron Man 2
(2010) and continues to do so in Thor: Ragnarok. Though Taika does
get to put his stamp on much of the movie, from time to time the
comedic tone and brisk pace are brought to a screeching halt by
studio mandated shared universe-building. There’s a cameo by Doctor
Strange that makes little sense or have much purpose; though it may
have significance five films from now, sooooo…… Despite being
forced to deal with the story hooks left over from Thor: The Dark
Age and Age of Ultron, Taika’s film is almost comedically disinterested with dealing
them. Ragnarok takes a “Resident Evil Sequel” approach to its
problematic story threads; blowing through them as quickly as
possible so it can get onto the story it actually WANTS to tell. Anyone
familiar with Taika’s previous work knows that he is adept at mixing
comedy with drama, but it just doesn’t gel here making Ragnarok feel
like a major missed opportunity.
well its director adjusted to such an FX-heavy action comedy. It’s
not unusual for inexperienced directors to get lost in the shuffle of
excessive CGI and green screen work, which can lead to a disjointed
film. Surprisingly, Thor: Ragnarok remains consistently entertaining
and distinctly “Taika” no matter how much CGI madness is going on
on-screen. The world here is infinitely creative with a style
bordering on Guardians of the Galaxy but also distinctly Thor. The
action sequences are all effectively shot and edited (no shakycam!)
and have an impressive sense of scale. This is a beautiful, visually
impressive film that earns its place on the big screen.
Thor series…. and yet, it’s possibly the weakest film directed by
Taika Waititi. It’s a hilarious film that is occasionally kneecapped
by the fact that it’s a part of the MCU and must adhere to certain
conventions. If you’ve seen any of Taika’s previous work (What We Do
in the Shadows, Hunt For the Wilderpeople, etc.) then you may be
frustrated by Marvel’s tampering. But if you’ve never seen his films and you enjoy Ragnarok, then you owe it to yourself to watch
them. Overall, this is an incredibly entertaining Marvel b-movie
that might just make you change your mind about whether or not Thor
is cool. It might not be the best or most significant Marvel movie,
but it might just be the funniest.