I’ve always had the feeling that A LOT of people hate the Thor films. Okay, more than a feeling (Don’t sing it). However, I’m going to be honest, I’m actually a really big fan of the first two films.
Of the Marvel superheros, Thor has always been the trickiest. 1. He’s a god. He has the Superman syndrome, where he’s so powerful that no one believes he’s ever in danger. 2. Thor’s a doofus. The dumb-jock act is funny for only so long.
In terms of writing, he’s has always required more legwork than the other Avengers. In Thor: Ragnorak, Disney writers do push the character, even if he’s still only as smart as a chipmunk who thinks a tennis ball is a walnut.
Ragnarok, opens about where the previous film left off. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still defeating monsters. In this case, Surtur, whose sole purpose is to bring about Ragnarok.
What is Ragnarok you ask? It’s a prophecy that says Surtur will engulf Asgard in flames and destroy it (Pleasant). Thor returns to Asgard with Surtur’s crown and reveals Loki (Tom Hindleston) to be posing as his father. Loki and Thor then proceed to look for Oden in New York, because….. that’s where you send all retired Norse gods.
Unfortunately, the nursing home where Loki left him has been torn down. Never fear, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) knows where Oden (Anthony Hopkins) is and is all too willing to give Thor the goods if he takes Loki off earth. Now, this is my first issue. We don’t need Dr. Strange. I mean, in a general sense we don’t, but especially here. This is Disney reminding you that Marvel’s 50,000th superhero exists. If we’re not careful, pretty soon we’ll see Litterbug gracing the screen.
In any case, turns out Oden is in Norway. Note: The Norway scenes look nothing like Norway, so Norway got screwed in The Snowman, and here.
Standing on grassy cliff, Oden is near death He’s not wearing his usual Norse clothing. Instead, wearing what’s probably Anthony Hopkins’s Sunday outfit. However, here’s a little secret (which isn’t really a secret since I’m telling you), once Oden dies then the Goddess of Death will emerge to take Asgard’s thrown. The Goddess of Death is Thor and Loki’s sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who was cast out of Asgard because of her blood lust. Oden becomes sparkles and hell reigns down. You read that right. The man became sparkles and dipped.
Hela, with reflexes akin to Catwoman, throws Thor and Loki out of the Bifrost. Both end up in Sakaar, an end of the universe trash dump, while Hela annihilates the entire Asgard army before lunch. Blanchett is probably the best addition to this cast. She is the epitome of evil in this role. But most of all, the role she’s playing is powerful. It helps solve the Superman problem. She’s in greater control of her power and more experienced than Thor, and creates a worthy opponent. One problem solved! A million more to go.
Later, Thor is taken prisoner to become a gladiator by a Valkerie (Tessa Thompson). Thompson plays an utter badass. Her character is the last of a legion of women warriors sworn to protect the crown of Asgard. Thor is absolutely in aw of her, we’re in aw of her, even Oden is too. Woops, he’s sparkles. He doesn’t have feelings. Disclaimer: No sparkles were hurt in the making of this review. These views do not reflect the greater and important dialog about sparkles.
Meanwhile, Thor has to face the ultimate champion of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to win his freedom. I don’t think there’s ever been a movie where Goldblum hasn’t played himself. Ragnarok is no different. The Grandmaster is the psychopathic leader of Sakaar, who puts on Gladiator fights for……..okay, we don’t know why he does it. But hey, it’s Jeff Goldblum and that just looks like his bag. In hindsight, the Grandmaster is a character that should have been flushed out more. It would have been nice to get some background on Sakaar and the Grandmaster, and not assume that every person seeing this film is steep in Marvel lore. But hey, it’s a Marvel Disney film, and they avoid supporting-character development like it’s a copyright lawsuit.
To Thor’s delight, the Grandmaster’s champion is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). At this point, Banner has been permanently stuck as the Hulk for two years. The balance between Hulk and Banner has always been tricky. Typically, Disney has sided with giving Banner greater screen time. Here, Banner is a mere footnote. It’s Hulk every time, all the time, and that’s a good thing. Whenever Banner does show up in the film, he’s in the way. In those moments, the film loses its drive.
The only thing that regains that push, is what every Thor film is about, brotherly dynamics. While Thor has been a gladiator, Loki has gotten chummy with the Grandmaster. When his brother later tries to escape, Loki is tasked with hunting him down. Hiddleston and Hemsworth are really comfortable in their roles, and the script lends additional comfort. Here, Thor and Loki are far more honest about their relationship. Their conversations feel realer than the mindless platitudes of their previous films. Much of that comes from the growth of Thor’s character. Who went from a bro with the emotional IQ of q-tip, to understanding what drives his brother. In Ragnarok, Disney somewhat solved the doofus problem. Though they haven’t solved the mjaor taking off the shirt problem (Not that it is a problem per se, I guess).
For all of its faults, Thor: Ragnarok is a fun movie. It doesn’t matter that Heimdall (Idris Elba) is made into a combination of Robin Hood and Moses, or that Skurge (Karl Urban), the executioner, has more backstory than half of the other characters. Even Korg (Taiki Waititi), a character who’s throwing around jokes like blunted knives in the dark, is enjoyable.
This is a film for sitting back, turning your brain off, and enjoying the ride. Or essentially, what Thor has always been good for.
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