Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo & Anthony Hopkins
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Studio: Marvel Studios
It was clear early on from promotional efforts that Thor: Ragnarok was going to be a much different beast than the previous two Thor movies, and that was a wise approach on the part of Marvel Studios, since those earlier Thor flicks, while successful, weren’t among its most popular offerings and often felt a bit stiff. Well, Ragnarok ain’t stiff, that’s for sure, but I’d have to say the studio overcompensated. This is a buddy slapstick comedy dressed up with super-hero elements, and it’s quite a bit of fun. Part of that fun stems from great performances from actors just joining the Marvel cinematic universe for this project. Other aspects of the fun, though, flow from better known players in the silver-screen continuity acting out of character for brief moments. It’s funny, for sure, but ultimately, I left the theatre feeling as though this installment in the Marvel cinema brand was a bit… inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth seeing on the big screen, but it shouldn’t be topping anyone’s list of favorite Marvel movies.
Hela, goddess of death, is coming to Asgard to take the throne, and Thor and other warriors of the realm aren’t having it. Alas, she isn’t giving them much of a choice, and a fallen Thor finds himself on an alien planet, drafted into the Contest of Champions and pitted against his former teammate, the Hulk, at the direction of the Grandmaster. Determined to return home to thwart Hela, the God of Thunder recruits the Green Goliath and others to escape face the evil would-be queen of Asgard.
Jeff Goldblum was clearly allowed to do whatever he wanted with the Grandmaster, and the result is a thoroughly watchable, weird and quirky character. Cate Blanchett convincingly conveyed Hela’s sadism and anger, and her physical performance was mesmerizing. And Tessa Thompson, as a Valkyrie in self-imposed exile, was thoroughly watchable; her sharp attitude was a delight, and her quiet pain was well portrayed.
Sadly, those were the only performances that really grabbed my attention. Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba and Karl Urban weren’t at their best, but there wasn’t much meat on the bone for them. Ruffalo’s role was to play the fool. There was hardly anything for fan favorite Tom Hiddleston to do after the first act. Loki and Skurge’s storylines could lift right out of the movie with little effort or effect on the story.
The emphasis here was definitely on the humor, and to make that work, the scriptwriters and director definitely had to have Thor and Banner act out of character. The more nuanced portrayal of Banner we saw previously in the two Avengers flicks is gone. Instead, we get something more akin to the interpersonal dynamics between Tom Hanks’s and Peter Scolari’s characters from Bosom Buddies in the 1970s. It was often funny, but afterward, I kept questioning if any of it made sense. Korg and Meek made for some hilarious moments, but again, it was a one-note portrayal of characters that proved to be far richer and more interesting in their original comic-book incarnations.
Jane Foster is removed from Thor’s world with a single of line dialogue early in this flick, and I think it was a wise move. Natalie Portman was always the weakest link in those first two movies, and there was no room for her here. Sadly, other characters from the first two films also got lesser treatments in Ragnarok. Sif is nowhere to be seen, and the Warriors Three… well, they deserved far better.
Another aspect of the movie that worked against it was the fact it was three completely different and unrelated plots jammed into one. There are the comic-inspired elements – Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan’s “Planet Hulk” and Walter Simonson’s “Surtur Saga” – jammed together with the new background and story for Hela. Any one of them would have made for an epic movie, but the unlikely amalgam of them for an action-comedy made for an unusual end product. There were just too many moving parts in this movie. It was fun, but disjointed. 6/10
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