Movies: Thor: Ragnarok

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba
Directed By: Taika Waititi
Written By: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Marvel, 2017
PG-13; 130 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)


A couple of caveats: (1) the sound in our cinema kept going out, which may have influenced my overall sense of the film, even though they did fix it and rewind the scenes for us; (2) I've literally just come home from this movie, which means that I'm on that bit of a film high that one sometimes gets. I considered giving this movie just a 4/5 for a few things, but the fact is, despite the niggling issues, it was highly entertaining. And that's all it's really required to be, right?

On the plus side of this film: lots of comedy and more of the Loki-as-pseudo-hero that we all sort of seem to want. We know Loki is a villain, but we like him so much we want him to win a little, and I feel the franchise is trying to do that for us. It's a very difficult line to walk, though. We don't want him to, you know, go the way of Drax and become base comic relief. We want him to stay smart and wily, and we want him and Thor not to get too close and happy because that won't work either. Anyway, this film balances very carefully on that line, though it does teeter a bit toward Loki as goofy. We're going to want to nudge that a bit in the other direction in the next film. Loki should be darker than this is all I'm saying.

The story in a nutshell: Thor heads home to Asgard after attempting to stop Ragnarok from happening only to find Loki pretending to be Odin. So then they go find Odin (in Norway, cuz where else would he be?), and—stop reading if you don't want to know—Odin dies, which means Thor's and Loki's older sister Hela is released from her prison. Being the oldest, she assumes the throne of Asgard. She's also the goddess of death so, you know, things in Asgard go to Hel . . . a . . .

Meanwhile, the part the trailers all showed: Thor gets captured by a scraper (Thompson) who brings The Grandmaster (Goldblum) fighters for his big Tournament of Champions or whatever it was called. Thor's goal: get away and go save Asgard.

This movie is crowded with cameos and clever casting, and it mostly works. At the same time, it does pull viewers out of the moment sometimes.

My main problem with Thor: Ragnarok is that it tries to subvert expectations and yet the audience is too smart for it. An example: Bruce Banner jumps off a spaceship to face a threat. We're supposed to expect him to land as the Hulk. But he just falls face first and then, moments later, emerges as the Hulk. It's a funny moment but not as much of a cute surprise as I think the writers and filmmakers thought it would be. We as viewers are ahead of the story, and that's not always a good thing. We know Skurge (Urban) is going to have to make a choice, and we know what the choice is going to be and how it's going to end for him. What I'm saying is, this movie hits all the beats, and they're fun ones, but they're also super predictable. The story ends up tied in a neat little bow, and that's weirdly unsatisfying.

Still, this is a largely lighthearted chapter in the ongoing Marvel thread. (Too lighthearted perhaps given the gravitas that the ending needs but lacks.) It seems someone took notes from Guardian of the Galaxy's success and decided to lean in—but not as far in as GOTG Vol. 2, which was a smidge too far. Thor: Ragnarok knows not to take itself too seriously, which is a good thing. As I said, it's highly entertaining, which is all it really needs to be. If the next one could maybe be a little bit more clever or subversive or something, though, I'd appreciate it.

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