Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review of Thor: Ragnarok

If you know Norse mythology, you know that Ragnarok is basically the doom of Asgard. It is the end of all things. Can Thor, god of thunder, stop the cataclysm from happening?
Going by the first minutes of the film, yes. Yes he can.

When last we saw our intrepid Avenger, Thor had flown off in search of the Infinity Gems (the shiny MacGuffin devices from half the franchise). Finding none, he is now in search of the cause of his dreams: dreams of Ragnarok. It leads him to Surtur ... some sort of magma ...Satan ... thing. Surtur monologes a bit about how he will destroy of of Asgard, bwahahahaha ... and Thor interrupts him for some comic moments, and we're off.

However, the end of all things isn't quite averted. Hela, goddess of death, has been trapped for half a million years, and she's out, and she's ready to rule everything.

So, nicely epic. But can they pull it off?

Largely, yes.

Hela is released, and due to a problem with the Rainbow Bridge, Thor and Loki don't get a full confrontation with Hela, but are thrown down onto an alien planet. Thor is captured via cheap technology tricks, and is made to fight in a gladiatorial arena owned by Jeff Goldblum.  Yes, Jeff has tired of playing with dinosaurs, and wants to play with comic book characters instead. It's all very strange.

The whole film is strange from start to finish. There is a definite departure in tone from the other Thor films, giving it more of a Guardians feel to it. Thor, the deadly serious, makes for a surprisingly good slapstick artist. I was surprised too. I think I laughed at this one more than I did at Guardians.

All in all, this was straight up fun. There are shoot outs that make me think of Flash Gordon (the one with Topol, Queen, and Max von Sydow) to such a point that I thought excerpts of the soundtrack would start playing at any moment. At one point, "Pure Imagination" does start playing. Yes, really. There's comedy. There's some well-done plotting. Nothing is really forced (okay, one scene is, to be seen below). I'd even say the Pulp crowd would be entertained, given that we have a space ship firing a machine gun at Fenris while a horde of zombie soldiers are being mowed down by a lightning-wielding demigod, who shot his way out of an intergalactic gladiatorial ring with a laser rifle.

Now, you know that there are several elements they must address in the film. such as the post-credit scene in Doctor Strange. You know from the end of The Dark World that Loki is on the throne of Asgard, pretending to be Odin. You know that he was looking for the Infinity gems. You know that someone might want to mention that Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) isn't in this movie -- and frankly, I have no idea how they could have fit her in as well. All of these plot points are actually addressed and resolved within-- at a guess-- about fifteen minutes in.

I have two major problems with the movie, and a minor one, below. One, we have a moment that is a variation on the "you have hidden depths" meme that we've seen before -- though I don't have a problem with how they did it, I have a problem with where they put it. It's rather awkwardly jammed in. I blame whoever edited the film together. It's fairly jarring.  You'll see where they put it. I liked the scene itself (it could have been a minute longer), and it had some witty lines, but it's sort of shoehorned in, like the editor went trigger happy somewhere along the line. I know there are several shots and lines of dialogue cut from the trailer to the film; I know that it happens, but given some parts of the ending, I think someone went overboard.

My second major problem: character deaths. Of the five character deaths in this film, only one is lingered on for any length of time. The other four were murdered off-handedly, making me wonder why some of these people were even brought in.

The acting is surprisingly well done. Hemsworth is a great straight man, and pulls off the big epic moments, as well as the slapstick. Don't worry ladies, you'll get shirtless Thor -- though he seems to have bulked down, and has gone more for martial art muscle than gym muscle.

Cumberbatch as Strange is even better, and funnier here than he was in his own movie. It was fun, and they got rid of him in a matter of three minutes, a good thing, since he might have stolen this film if he was more than a cameo.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki ... is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Has anyone ever had any problem with his Loki? Loki's still insane, but dang, he's got style. And he knows how to make an entrance.

Hela ... she's a serviceable villain. She's fun, and she leaves more of an impression than the dark elves from The Dark World. She even comes with her own army of zombie Rivendell elves. Yes, I know they're supposed to be old Asgard warriors. And she comes with Fenris as her pet.

Valkyrie -- Sigh. You know, I didn't mind Idris Elba as Heimdall, because he brings gravitas and .. he ACTS LIKE HEIMDALL. I didn't mind a random Asian dude thrown in as one of the Warriors Three, since they're largely background characters. But when you replace Valkrie, a six-foot blonde who should be built like Red Sonja, with a 5'4" Tessa Thompson, I have multiple levels of why this is a problem. It will help if you have no actual attachment to the comic book character in the first place. Trust me on this

Karl Urban as the Executioner ... while I like Urban, pretending that this character is anything like the comic book version is idiotic. I presume that this is the last Thor film, for multiple reasons, but most of all because they felt the need to jam in certain characters without bothering to make them anything like their comic book counterparts. Damn it, Idris Elba at least acts like Heimdall.

Again, a fun film. Possibly the best Thor film. Definitely the funniest Marvel film. Though I'm surprised at their restraint: I had expected at least new one Infinity Gem, and didn't get one. If I recall correctly, there are still two missing.

But we'll see.

Right now, I don't have an analysis for what this means for the rest of the Marvel universe. I have some guesses, but it's pure speculation.

Ragnarok is definitely recommended on the big screen.


  1. I liked the movie very much. I felt it did three things well: The wonderful snarky humor, the dramatic action scenes, and the Thor/Loki dynamics.

    But I did think it was really weird that they felt they had to kill Thor's three friends off so quickly. What if they want them for another movie? They don't know what the distant future will bring. Why not have them off planet? (I understand Sif was not there because of schedule conflicts of the actress.

    As to Valkyrie...maybe the blond we saw being killed to save the short girl was the original Valkyrie and this one was the runt of the family. I did like her, though. She had a nice dynamic with Hulk and later Thor.

    I thought Jeff Goldblum was amazing. lol

    1. Ahem...
      I suspect the warriors three were killed off because Zachery Levi, at least, is becoming a bigger name in the business, and won't be available, because he'll be playing Shazam / Captain Marvel in DC films. God knows about the other two. And if worst comes to worse, they can always bring them back from the dead, because comic book films (yes, I know death has been fairly permanent thus far, but I can't imagine another Thor film without Asgard, and Lord only knows about what they'll do with the Infinity Gauntlet). My major problem was that they were brushed aside so casually. Yeah, they've been given smaller and smaller roles in each film, but geez, that was so small a role, why even bother?


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