Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

  • Time: 130 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Comedy
  • Director: Taika Waititi
  • Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum

Storyline:

Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.

3 reviews

  • Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best of Marvel’s Thor movies which may seem like damning with faint praise, but its achievement is not to be undervalued or overlooked. Compared to Robert Downey Jr’s wisecracking Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans’ magnetically decent Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Mark Ruffalo’s conflicted but smash-happy Bruce Banner/The Hulk, the God of Thunder seemed the blandest of the main Avengers and the character’s stand-alone films a bit too serious for their own good.

    Yet Thor: Ragnarok is a complete about-face – never taking itself too seriously, rarely lapsing into sombreness for very long, forever taking the piss, and concerned only with having one hell of a good time. Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost are listed as the screenwriters, but credit where credit is due – Thor: Ragnarok has Taika Waititi’s fingerprints all over it. The New Zealand actor-writer-director, best known for the romantic comedy Eagle vs Shark and the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, possesses a comic sensibility that is rooted in both the offbeat and the juvenile, mining laughs from both the unexpected and the familiar. As a result, Thor: Ragnarok, for all the portend of its titular narrative thread, is a rollicking, loosey-goosey and infectiously silly but in no way imbecilic affair.

    It’s been two years since the Battle of Sokovia and our Norse god is introduced chained and dangling before the fire demon Surtur, whose attempts to taunt Thor about the prophesied destruction of his home planet of Asgard are interrupted by Thor as he spins around on his chains: “Hang on a minute…coming around again.” Thor inevitably summons his hammer, defeating Surtur and his horde of fire demons before returning to Asgard to discover that 1) Bifrost Bridge sentinel Heimdall (Idris Elba) has been charged with negligence of duty and gone into exile, 2) adopted brother and thorn in his side Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is very much alive and well, and, most importantly, 3) he and Loki have an older sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett, mesmerisingly villainous), whose voracious appetite for destruction is equaled only by her immense power and determination in reclaiming her birthright.

    Hela immediately displays her love for her baby brother by crushing his hammer to bits and discarding him to the distant planet of Sakaar, where Loki has managed to get into the good graces of its chichi and blithely dangerous leader, Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, perfectly cast). Thor, captured by hard-drinking bounty hunter Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, indelible), becomes the latest contender to go up against Grandmaster’s prized gladiator who turns out to be none other than the Hulk. Even if one has seen the trailer multiple times, watching Thor run the gamut of relieved joy, throat-gulping panic and desperate bonhomie as he brawls with his “friend from work” is still ridiculously entertaining.

    Just as pleasurable is the post-battle interaction between the two Avengers as Thor entreats the Hulk to help him escape from the trash heap of a planet. After all, Thor appeals, don’t they like many of the same things like fire? “But Hulk like real fire. Hulk like raging fire, Thor like smoldering fire,” replies the Hulk, who has taken quite well to wearing love beads and indulging in warm baths in his spacious red-and-white room, which offends Thor’s aesthetic tastes (“Pick a colour!”). Yet it’s not too long before the Hulk mellows into Bruce Banner and he, Valkyrie and Thor band together as the Revengers to break out of Sakaar with the help of Loki and other waylaid gladiators such as Korg, a hilariously soft-spoken rock man, and Miek, an insect with knives for hands, to escape through the Devil’s Anus (don’t ask) so they can prevent Hela from laying waste to the good people of Asgard who refuse to bow down to their new queen.

    Overflowing with infinite delights, Thor: Ragnarok very much harks back to the campiness of Eighties sci-fi films like Flash Gordon and Ice Pirates. Sakaar is a retro-kitsch wonderland where tackiness rules and sophistication has been gleefully thrown out the window. Hemsworth, whose Thor has only been allowed intermittent comic moments and almost all of them in the Avengers films, finally gets to unleash some self-deprecating humour, indulge in physical slapstick (one of the main tenets of this installment is the constant deflation of Thor’s invincibility), and essentially be childish in the best way possible. In fact, Thor, Loki, the Hulk, Grandmaster, and even the cameo-ing Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) all often behave like six-year-olds and that guileless irreverence buoys the film.

    Majestic in spectacle and endlessly winning, Thor: Ragnarok proves itself to be the most satisfying party of the year.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5 stars)

    GRADE: B-

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Another comic book hero is  given a major reboot with an accent more on comedy than logic sense or real drama.

    SYNOPSIS: Thor battles his revengeful evil sister.

    RUNNING TIME: 2 hrs., 10 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: The Marvel comic book universe is bursting at its spandex seams with all of its superheroes, both major or minor. One of the oddest of the lot has always been Thor, a god steeped in Norse mythology who possesses a magical hammer as his weapon of mass destruction. Thor: Ragnarok is now the third in the series that celebrates this hunky he-man, if one excludes his previous supporting roles and walk-ons in other Marvel movies of course. (That inter-breeding exists in this installment as well, with other superheroes like Dr. Strange and The Hunk making their entrances with their usual flair. Aside from some funny moments in this outing, nothing is there.)

    The non-sensical plot involves Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his bad brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) fighting their even badder banished sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), for ownership of their kingdom, Asgard. The film’s narrative sets up major changes in this jocular central character. It updates Thor with a modern leaner look as the filmmakers dispatch his mighty hammer and his shoulder-length tresses at the film’s midway point. Many battles ensue and Thor is sent across the universe to meet other perils along his journey to self discovery. 

    Director Taika Waititi (who also does voiceover duty for one of the movie’s creatures) turns up the comedy with mixed results. The overall campiness works sometimes, that is, whenever Ms. Blanchett takes the reins to reign over our hero and his crusading sidekicks. More often the humor falls flat, particularly whenever Jeff Goldblum minces his way through the role as
    Grandmaster. (The actor is clueless with his character who should be menacing and a larger threat than the narcissistic power-hungry moron he portrays. Really, can anyone with those traits run a planet? Never mind.) Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins fill out the rest of the cast with as little screen time or presence as needed.

    The screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost wants to pound us over the head with the silly hi-jinks and doesn’t build any tension in its story because of its comic intent. The comedy simply undercuts the semi-seriousness of its ludicrous plot. It just can’t have it both ways. If the film doesn’t take itself seriously, why should we? The characters continually leaps from planet to planet, with no apparent reason. So does the script, making numerous leaps of logic to advance its puny plot.

    Except for the aforementioned awful performance of Mr. Goldblum, the rest of the cast works overtime to charm its audience. Chris Hemsworth as our slightly dim hero is again well toned and well cast. Giving strong support are Tom Hiddleston as the cunning Loki and Mark Ruffalo as Mr. Bipolar himself, The Hulk, a.k.a. Bruce Banner. The three actors have a nice rapport on screen that really registers.  As the conflicted Skurge, Karl Urban adds some nuance to his underwritten character and Tessa Thompson has some some nice moments of female empowerment as Valkyrie, Female Warrior (channeling enough Michelle Rodriguez estrogen and persona into her supporting turn.)
    Still with all its flaws, the movie consistently entertains. Its most effective sequence in the entire movie is the gladiator inspired arena war between Thor and his green adversary which the director stages quite well. This set piece mixes the drama and comedy elements to full advantage. But too often, the many battle scenes are blurred and photographed upfront and personally in-your-face technique that obstructs the action. The CGI is mostly above average, although the best visual effect by far is Mr. Hemsworth’s muscular physique in his shirtless scene. A true Marvel superhero!

    Thor: Ragnarok will awe its target audience, but this reviewer needs at least a hint of intelligence in its storytelling.  Just how often do we need to leave our brains at the door whenever we step into this genre.

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  • If you are like me and don’t know the world of comic books as well as your children, it’s quite possible the world of Thor:Ragnarok will be odd. Thor is part of ancient Norse mythology and he is the god of stormy weather and, with his wife Sif, the god of fertility. Only the first half of this is shown in the movie but there were also space ships, advanced electronics, magic, and the ability to survive pulverizing punishment. The movie is also very funny and makes sense in its own way.
    Screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost have created a world that can blast through any location or time with its own logic. Follow that logic and it all makes sense, for the most part. I never once felt burdened with explanations but I also never felt lost. Director Taika Waititi holds to the world as created and keeps things moving allowing for character and situation humor often.
    Chris Hemsworth is Thor and plays the character well without becoming abrasively wrapped up in the mythology. This is a Thor for our time who can walk the streets of New York, which he has done in several previous movies, as well as fly space ships and, because Hemsworth is so believably part of whatever world he is in, it works. Cate Blanchett has it a little harder as she play Thor’s older sister Hela. She is as good in this part as in any she’s ever played but, as written, some of it becomes a stretch. I had a real problem with the end of the movie as it relates to her character but sequels will win out every time.
    Speaking of sequels, Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki with time devoted to why he wasn’t dead without really explaining it. Hiddleston plays Loki as the opportunistic character he has been is several previous super hero movies and he does it very well.
    Jeff Goldblum isn’t exactly the bad guy but his character, the Grandmaster, certainly isn’t humble. The middle third of the movie is made up of his contribution although it doesn’t have anything to do with the real plot of the story. Anthony Hopkins plays Odin who dies but isn’t, without any explanation, actually dead. Hopkins is restrained in his characterization as his character dumps everything in Thor and Loki’s lap.
    Also back for this film are Mark Ruffalo as Banner/Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. Neither of these characters made any sense in this movie but Hulk had human attachments to Thor and the relationship between them worked.
    You also have to keep an eye out for Idris Elba, Zachary Levi, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Matt Damon, and Ken Watanabe. They’re all in cameos in this movie.
    I give Thor: Ragnarok 4 electric collars our of 5. Everything kept slipping a little further away as the last fourth of the movie played out. There were some deaths I didn’t catch and the set up for the sequel takes these characters into Star Wars, it seems. As entertaining as I found the movie I spent the entire film just slightly confused until the end when it was no longer slight.

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