Current Reviews: “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

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Thor: Ragnarok is the quintessential Thor film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe subverting the tropes audiences have come to expect with charming humor and brilliant direction from Taika Watiti.

Ragnarok is the third film in the Thor series within the larger MCU that brings back the character after two years of not being on the big screen (with the exception of a cameo in Doctor Strange). Ragnarok finds the titular character as played by Chris Hemsworth traversing the Nine Realms looking for his father Odin. Along with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the two discover that Ragnarok is coming at the hands of the evil and powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett). While heading towards Asgard, Thor gets lost in the shuffle and ends up on a far-off planet coming across the strong scrapper Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the villainous ruler known as The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who throws him into a fight with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It’s up to Thor to convince his brother and newfound partners to team up and destroy Hela’s reign of Asgard.

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Where Ragnarok succeeds is in its humor. It realizes it is a ridiculous film based off a comic book and rides with that rhythm for the rest of the film. Hemsworth shows off his funnier side managing to balance being a badass god and a bumbling idiot in the vein of Valhallen on Dexter’s Laboratory. Goldblum as The Grandmaster is delightful by hamming it up in every scene that he is in. The other performances hit their marks as well from the delightful addition of Thompson being a hard ass warrior and the Hulk getting much needed screen time with humanity and resolve.

The humor is not for everybody as it can be hit or miss, but when it hits, it hits hard. It’s physical and abrasive one moment and awkward in the next moment. It helps the film break away from the serious nature of the past two by not acting as if it is grander and more epic than it needs to be. It’s silly and goofball in its appeal, rather than loom in the dark and brooding. It’s not out to be compelling, but out to deliver a good time despite being about the impending apocalypse of Asgard.

What else is amazing is the action. The action throughout is one of the best of the three entries from an engaging opener combining rock n’ roll and Norse kicking amazement to a climax that thrills and excites. The highlight is the much-anticipated fight between Thor and Hulk with a larger-than-life brawl that wastes no time on delivering the goods and stellar callbacks to previous MCU entries that do not feel forced. Watiti handles both realms well in a clever balance that is interesting to watch as a whole that feel much at home with his style seen in his previous ventures (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

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With all the praise, there are certain things to be said about two major aspects of the film, one character-cased and the other a technical one. Cate Blanchett as Hela never felt like a major threat in the film. Blanchett is fine as the melvolent goddess of death being a seductive version of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, but that’s it. She acts the hell out of her character, but Hela is not given a great amount of screentime that justifies a threat. In a year of great MCU villains with the likes of (spoiler alert) Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Hela is lost in the shuffle as what was expected out of MCU villain prior to the aforementioned entry.

The CGI in this film can be quite distracting at times and not mesh well with the rest of the film. A particular heartfelt scene in a field feels false due to the clear addition of a CGI background that makes the actors feel like walking cardboard cutouts. The Hulk looks remarkable as do a variety of effect shots, except even the Hulk can feel out of place at times. One character in particular named Korg (Watiti himself) is funny and admirable, but easily stands out as not really being there in a number of scenes.

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Thor: Ragnarok lives up to the namesake of the comic company the character is from by being a marvel of a film with a few shortcomings. It elevates a series within a larger universe with a simple balance of action and comedy that never deters from the story. The performances are great all-around, even if some are not given more time as others. The CGI can be dodgy are brilliant at times adding to the fascinating action that is on display.

FINAL VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5

 

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