Thursday, June 21, 2018

Film Review: Thor - Ragnarok

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

(In the next few weeks I hope to get caught up on all the film reviews I meant to do when my mom got sick.  Thank you for your patience, dear reader.)

It's the end of Thor's world and he's laughing.

I was a fan of Kenneth Branagh's original Thor and Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World was not a bad film.  But whereas Captain America's film grew his prominence, people tended to be lukewarm to Thor's adventures.  So Marvel decided to reinvent Thor by way of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

In other words, they made Thor funny.

Thor: Ragnarok finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returning to Asgard to discover that his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) has been replaced with an imposter in the form of his evil adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Thor forces Loki to reveal where there father is, but Odin warns the boys of a worse evil coming for them: their long-banished sister Hela (Cate Blanchett).  Her power is greater than either Thor or Loki and (through happenstance I won't reveal here), they end up on savage, but technologically advanced planet run by a space Caesar named the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).  They are captured by his henchman Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Thor is forced to fight in gladiatory areas where he is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  All the while, Thor tries to conceive an escape and return to his home of Asgard before Hela kills the innocents.

The plot is standard Marvel fare.  What sets this apart that it is played mostly for laughs.  The movie veers so much to comedy that it boarders on parody ala Deadpool.

This isn't to say the movie was bad.  In fact, I was quite entertained throughout the whole thing.  Director Taika Waititi does a fine job of action/comedy.  The movie moves along at a fine pace and the production design is wonderfully colorful.  But the movie is so light that it lacks substance.

I want to sink my teeth into something thematically meaty, but it never happens.  There isn't much to criticize here because there isn't much here.  It's like a fortune cookie: as irresistible as it is empty.  For most films, this wouldn't be any kind of an issue.  But Thor is part of a cinematic universe that people are supposed to emotionally invest in.  Even Guardians of the Galaxy knew how to pull at heartstrings in a powerful way through the jokes.  On this level, Thor Ragnarok is much closer to the fine but forgettable Ant-Man.

Odin's last scene should be a culmination of the emotional journey of himself and the brothers.  But all of this is brushed aside quickly.  Other characters we've seen in the franchise are also brushed aside quickly and unceremoniously to make room for more naked Hulk jokes.

All of the performances are fine, except for Goldblum.  I would call it a performance, but that would be generous.  Instead, Jeff Goldblum put on a costume and read lines in a script.  He does no character work.  He is Jeff Goldblum in space.  This is disappointing beacause he is a fine actor who phoned in a performance.  Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Ruffalo are all able to let their comedic skills, which are not meager, shine.  Blanchett is fine as Hela, but the script doens't allow her to be too terribly interesting.

The elephant in the room, now that I am writing this review months later, is that repeat viewings of this film are somewhat tainted by the opening scene of Avengers: Infinity War.  The lighter tone feels like a calm before the storm, with impending tragedy waiting in the wings.

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun, but insubstantial film.  It tries very hard to be different from what the series has been, but it always feels like it's trying to be something that its not.

File:Star rating 3.5 of 5.png
image by Yasir72.multan

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