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On the one hand, I quite liked this film. On the other, I spent the whole thing wondering if the director had taken the script of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie and changed the names to make it a Thor movie.
The first scene has Thor in a cage for reasons never fully explained, talking to a skeleton. Huh? Then he starts snarking at Surtur, something that would be more in-character for Loki than Thor. Actually, the first time I watched it I thought that was Loki, in disguise as Thor. But no, it's Thor.
Then, in the space of minutes, Thor goes back to Asgard, reveals Loki has taken Odin's place, and sets off with Loki to find Odin, who dies just after they find him, and whose death is immediately followed by the appearance of Hela, whose existence in the MCU was never mentioned before this film. Talk about fast-moving.
Most of the rest of the film was enjoyable for how entertaining it is rather than for how good it is. There was one thing that I absolutely hated, though. Loki, as usual, tries to betray Thor, and Thor responds by... electrifying him. And then walks off, leaving Loki in pain with no way of stopping the pain. That was when this version of Thor came damn near crossing the Moral Event Horizon in my opinion. And this is never brought up again! Loki — Loki, of all people — seems to completely forgive Thor for it!
Hela's a great villain, but her scenes are so dark (massacring the soldiers, destroying Mjolnir, taking out Thor's eye...) that they clash with the comedic, light-hearted mood the rest of the film tries to convey. The result is a jarring Mood Whiplash. The truly good parts of the film are Loki and Doctor Strange, both of whom are unfortunately underused.
Thor: Ragnarok: After the last film Left Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in charge of Asgard disguised as his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) whom he trapped on earth, Thor comes home to set things right. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) then finds out he has an older sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) who is the vying for the throne. Can Thor stop the usurper, take his place as the rightful heir and save Asgard from Ragnarok a prophesied destruction of both Asgard and all the old gods?
The Good: Pretty much everything. Looking at the above synopsis one can easily imagine a dour grey family drama with lightning. (Heck one doesn’t have to imagine it just watch Thor the Dark World again.) Instead, we have a joyful, colorful action-packed film that is easily the most fun I have had watching a movie in a long time. It is pure joy. Too many things are perfect but a shout out to the use of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song and director Taika Waititi as super friendly rock monster Korg.
The Bad: Nothing. Seriously nothing. Okay fine the use of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Pure Imagination is a little on the nose. There is also a realization while watching that not enough films have Jeff Goldblum in them… does that count as a negative?
In Conclusion: Thor Ragnarok is simply the most fun I had at the movies this year. Dunkirk is a slightly better film and there are certainly more “important” films out there but this was pure joy. Imagine a comic book movie that felt like reading a comic book. What will they think of next?
Remember how everyone hated 'Batman and Robin' for being too silly? How the times have changed. 20 years later the grimmest page in a superhero’s history gets turned into Ghostbusters 2016-like comedy and critics and many members of audience claim it to be the best thing that could be done to him.
At first the comic mood works great, but it gets increasingly annoying as the film goes on and the stakes are supposed to rise. Every time drama temperature starts to build, it quickly gets broken with another joke. After a while you realize that it wasn’t 'the calm before the storm' – the whole movie is the calm during the storm. Even the deaths of Warrior Three, Scourge's Redemption Equals Death or Asgard's destruction end up leaving zero emotional impact. The inability to take the movie even a little bit seriously also results into characters looking like parodies of themselves. And in case of the titular character it ironically hurts his appeal. Unlike Tony Stark or Peter Parker, Thor is a pure Wish Fulfillment character running on Rule of Cool: the mightiest Warrior Prince of a superhuman race with a cool weapon, who travels between the worlds and fights larger than life threats. Every time he is portrayed as a comic loser, it cuts down on what makes him fascinating in the first place!
Thor isn't the only one who suffered Badass Decay. Asgardians in general are supposed to be a Proud Warrior Race. When someone comes to invade Asgard, its entire population should be out there fighting. Yet, Hela is resisted only by a group of armed guards, while the rest of Asgardian population can only run into cover. To be fair, given Marvel's statements that these guys aren't actual gods, but Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, it makes some sense that their society has more in common with modern West than with actual Vikings (politically correct faces among them certainly help this view)... if not for the movies being really inconsistent about that. Thor and Hela are constantly referred to as 'God of Thunder' and 'Goddess of Death', their powers don't get any other explanation, Odin guides Thor from beyond the grave... Are these guys gods or aren't they? Make up your mind Marvel and stick to it!
Not all is well with the film’s structure either. Planet Hulk, while a great story on its own, has absolutely nothing to do with Ragnarok. Once Thor gets to Sakaar, the main conflict of the story slows down until he returns. The scenes on Sakaar are fun and well... but the fact Hela is conquering Asgard at the same time, slaughtering Thor's people, makes it hard to relax and enjoy them. Basically, it feels like two movies crammed into one, and each of them would be better on its own.
As a parody though, this movie would work pretty well, since it’s flashy, pretty action-packed and if you don’t take the movie at all seriously, it can be rather enjoyable. The problem is, it’s stated to be a straight Thor movie. Not parody. And in this status, well, no. Just no.
So, first up, let's get this out of the way. It's got problems as a film, but this isn't a bad movie. The visuals are great, especially the wonderful action setpieces where slow-motion and excellent cinematography combine to make the screen look like the best possible combination of a Scandinavian tapestry and an energetic Jack Kirby panel. The score is fantastic, both the licensed and original tracks doing a great job of adding to the mood. The overall plot, in broad strokes, is quite good. And while the comedy isn't really well-timed, it's at least pretty funny. There's a lot about this movie I quite genuinely loved.
Unfortunately, and this is the crux of the problem for me, it's also the culmination of Marvel Studio's persistent and pervasive mismanagement of the Thor property: writing off his branch of the franchise altogether and retooling it into something a bit more in-line with a popular flavor of the month. Marvel has never known what to do with the character, but that's probably a rant better-served in reviews of its prior films. And it all comes to the forefront here.
From every single member of Thor's supporting cast who isn't a popular and marketable character being killed off with little-to-no ceremony, clumsily written out in a throwaway line, or just not even showing up at all, to massive, ungainly retcons that actively work to undermine the majesty and nobility of Asgard, to constant use of humor to slay any hint of horror, tension, or drama in the unfolding situation, this film wears its absolute, sneering contempt for every previous Thor film on its sleeve. Worse, it turns Thor into a silly, meat-headed buffoon to do it. When Winter Soldier reinvented Captain America, it focused on keeping the core of his character intact and showing how his nobility anchored he and the good people on his side even as the status quo collapsed around them. This film doesn't see fit to pay Thor the same courtesy.
And, of course, the pervasive humor actively undermines all the drama it can, because what kind of loser liked the Shakespearean high themes previous films sometimes had? Worse, in its haste to rip the guts out of the other films' mythology, it fails to properly take advantage of its own retcons. Hela may have more personality than the average Generic Doomsday Villain, but any attempt at exploring her relationship to her family, or what the revelations she causes meant for the past, are carelessly tossed aside in favor of just pilling more silly jokes into what could be meaningful scenes.
I won't pretend the other films in the franchise weren't flawed. They were, heavily. But this isn't cleaning and polishing away those flaws. This is discarding the gem entirely because of them. And, again, it's not a bad movie. It's entertaining. But it's also the end of the movies I liked, and I don't think it's ending them for the right reasons.
I was disappointed. Now, I'm a huge Thor fan, be it comics, movies, mythology, whatever. Thor is my bro. I liked the other two Thor movies, yes, even Dark World. But this film was just lackluster all the way around.
First, the comedy. As noted under Broken Base, it's too pervasive. A lot of it is actually very funny, and I have no problem with it in that respect. But it's all over the place. The laughs come so hard and so fast there's no time for the drama to breathe, to be it's own thing, to get any kind of emotion from the audience. Even what are supposed to be the big dramatic drops of the film (Thor telling Valkyrie Odin is dead, for one) are sandwiched between punchlines.
Not only does this suck the dramatic tension from the audience, it does it for the characters themselves. If Thor spends the entire movie cracking jokes, how am I supposed to believe that there are any stakes involved? His only reaction to having his hammer destroyed is to crack jokes about it. His only reaction to Hela booting him out of the Bifrost and to the ass-end of space is to crack jokes about it. His only reaction to knowing that Hela is on Asgard destroying everything his father built is to crack jokes about it. Hela's only reaction to what she's doing, and how people are reacting, is to crack jokes about it. If the characters themselves can't take the situation seriously, how are we, the audience, supposed to?
This leads to another complaint, which I feel I have to lay solely at the feet of the director: the acting. While none of the performances are bad, per se, none of them are as nuanced as they should be, especially coming from actors like Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchet, and Sir Anthony Hopkins, who we know can give excellent, nuanced performances. None of the characters seem to be operating on more than one emotional level at any one time, and that emotional level is usually "what can I do that will be funny?" There's no conflict within the characters, so the conflicts between the characters are undermined. Any potential emotional center for the characters and the film as whole is just absent.
(Continued In Comments)
I'm going to start by saying that I do really like Thor: Ragnarok. It's a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and certainly far better than the previous Thor movies. It has memorable characters, some pretty good action sequences, and even a bit of real character development. The comedy – some of it, at least – is top-notch too.
That said, there's something just a little bit off about a lot of the film. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that it seems like two separate, very good movies that don't work well together at all: the outline of an MCU film, filled in by a Taiki Waititi film. The MCU part of the film feels like Ragnarok: many of the action scenes are amazing, and even the worst aren't any worse than average. The Waititi parts of the film seem to be mainly centered around Sakaar, and in all fairness they are hilarious, with some of the funniest lines and scenes in not just this but any movie. Many of them come from Waititi's own character Korg, so take that as you will. The problem is when the two try to come together, because it simply doesn't work.
Whenever the film tries to find its voice, it falters. Many of the most interesting parts of the movie were either not given enough focus (Valkyrie's unresolved issues; the changing relationship between Thor and Loki) or seem like they were just forgotten (almost everything about Hela, especially her relationship with the brothers, and how that affects their view of Odin). The final battle seems almost like they were trying to get through a checklist of what they "had" to include. The climactic battle boils down to every named character (and several random extras) going through Hela's supposed elite army like tissue paper; Thor and Hela's own fight is stunning and engaging but has no sense of weight, as both are portrayed as almost totally invulnerable (Hela more so) and the only major damage either of them suffers is brushed off like it was a papercut. Finally, in what is one of the worst examples of inappropriate use of humor ever, both the destruction of Asgard and the decision of how Asgard will live on –
which should be some of the most emotional scenes in the film – are undercut by unnecessary jokes (both, again, courtesy of Waititi's character).
Now, lest it seem like I hate Ragnarok, I don't. In fact I enjoyed it very much, and I would heartily recommend it even to anyone who has no interest in the MCU or superheroes in general. But it feels like something is missing, like it could have been more. Thor: Ragnarok is absolutely first-rate entertainment, and by any standard a good movie. But I couldn't shake the sense that there was a great movie somewhere in there, and unfortunately, this isn't it.
Ragnarok is a film that's fun as hell. Interesting takes on some of the action, good characters bouncing off each other and probably the funniest film in the MCU so far.
Yes, even funnier than the two Guardians films.
But... it's honestly one of the more mediocre films in the canon too. Better than the other two Thor films, certainly, but it's not really about anything. There's some stuff in there about erasing the sins of the past to cover up the scars of imperialism, but that's given barely any time. The Thor/Loki relationship is... there's stuff there, but it feels cut down for the sake of more jokes.
But, hey, it's really funny, so at least there's that? There's some great uses of the Immigrant Song in the action scenes, so that's awesome. And when the action scenes aren't being cut to death to hide bad takes and effects they're nice.
But there's just not much depth, and it holds the film back...
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