Written by Aaron Radcliff:
I’ve been a very bad boy, dear readers. I’ve been telling people for a while that I’ve enjoyed the MCU but that’s not quite the truth. Spider-Man: Homecoming was good and I enjoyed the first Avengers, but other than that, I’ve been lukewarm at best on them. That’s not to say they aren’t some well-made movies, because they are. But I can say that I’ve seen at least one of each characters’ movies except for one: Thor.
To me, Thor is much like Superman in the fact that, like the world’s clumsiest masseuse, I get rubbed the wrong way. An all-powerful demigod is faced with some type of problem and I’m supposed to sit back and be in awe of their accomplishments despite the fact that the world-ending crisis to us common folk is nothing more than a pebble in the boot of the Almighty. Now wouldn’t you believe it, the movies that our Norse beefcake appears in always TRY to make whatever issues he faces be something of note, but he still comes across as bland as a mayonnaise-only on white bread sandwich. I’ve always believed that if Thor were to become interesting (at least to someone like me), you need to play up the ridiculousness of the situations he finds himself in or, at the very least, tap into the goofy fun that we first got with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Fortunately for us all, director Taika Waititi was of the same mindset.
Thor: Ragnarok takes place two years after the Battle of Sokovia. In an opening-scene fight, it is revealed that Asgard is destined to be destroyed by the prophesied Ragnarok, seemingly brought forth by Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death. After having his hammer destroyed, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself trapped on the distant world of Sakaar and must find his way back home with the help of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson) before it’s too late.
As I mentioned earlier, Ragnarok strays some from the lighthearted but still serious tone of a majority of the Marvel movies and instead decides to lay the comedy on thick and consistent. As you may have noticed, I name-dropped Guardians of the Galaxy earlier for a reason. That is the exact type of comedy and feel you get through the entirety of this film. If that’s a prospect that excites you, then I’m sure you’ll be quite pleased, but I can’t help but feel like most of the criticism this movie will get will be from people upset Marvel tried to have this be essentially another Guardians rather than its own thing (despite the tone and comedy being the only thing the two films share).
So, the movie’s funny. Is that it? Honestly, kinda. The action sequences are enjoyable and the sets are beautiful. The light, fun scenes are bright, colorful, and layered with a head-noddingly enjoyable 80’s-esque soundtrack, while the darker scenes have their tones equally matched.
However, we spend the whole movie alternating between Thor attempting to escape Sakaar and Hela taking over Asgard. Obviously we need those stories, but both get just enough attention to get us interested, but not enough to keep us terribly invested in the story. From the moment we land on Sakaar, it becomes mainly filler for the cataclysmic fight we’re anticipating, and when that final fight gets there, it’s honestly not as grandiose as I thought it would be. It’s this hyper-focus on being a fun adventure that we don’t get enough time to really care about everything happening. Sure, Thor and Hulk have had prior movies for us to get invested in their stories, but the rest of these characters haven’t. A couple throwaway lines here, a brief flashback, and a brooding monologue from Hela and that’s it.
I don’t want it to come across as though the rest of the movie was bad or not enjoyable. It was an enjoyable experience to sit through and I’d happily see it again simply because it was so fun and the comedy landed so well. But the whole movie serves more of just ramping up the stakes before Avengers: Infinity War; wrangling Thor, Hulk, and a few others together so that the gang’s all there when Thanos arrives to wreak havoc throughout the rest of the galaxy.
If you enjoyed the anarchic fun of Guardians of the Galaxy and are willing to sit back for a quasi-popcorn flick, then you’ll leave happy.
Score: 8 out of 10
Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures