Well, here we are again. Another Marvel movie chalked up on the big board. This time around we have the conclusion to the Thor trilogy, Thor Ragnarok, a pretty poor title for an overall pretty good movie. Although the social media hype trains might be trying to guide you to believe that this movie is a delivery straight from the heavens above, it’s really just a perfectly fun two hours. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Thor has always been the boring avenger. He’s had the weakest movies and the least amount of character development over the span of the franchise. Thankfully, all of that was eliminated this time around when Thor was kind of reborn. They got rid of everything “you thought you knew” and trimmed off all the fat, getting rid of the hammer, the hair, and the clunky side characters from the first two films. They took Thor off of earth and threw him into an intergalactic adventure to save Asgard from certain destruction, with the aid of an extraordinary cast of characters, chiefly the Hulk, his brother Loki, who actually entertained me for the first time in all of these movies he’s been in, and newcomer Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior from olden times. That mixed together with some fantastic work put in by the director, Taika Waititi, gave us an overall very enjoyable film that, combined with the other two Marvel flicks released this year, have helped breathe new life into the superhero genre, at least for me personally. Until Justice League comes out and inevitably crushes it again.
I’d like to dedicate a paragraph here to the characters because that is the lifeblood of this movie. First of all, Chris Hemsworth delivers a clever new spin on the macho bravado of the Thor character that drove us through the movie, even if it didn’t quite have the peaks and valleys you want out of a leading man. Mark Ruffalo was delightfully stubborn as the Hulk, as well as playfully emasculated as Bruce Banner, creating a clever dichotomy that allowed for the jokes to remain varied instead of uninspired. Cate Blanchett as the evil Hela brought a certain gravitas that hasn’t been found in the Marvel Universe up to this point, earning her a spot at the very small table of genuinely good Marvel villains. And while her introduction and her denoument were very abrupt, the meat of her performance definitely raised the stakes. Conversely, Loki was finally allowed to just be a character, instead of always having to be the villain. He’s a terrible villain, but he worked very well here as a sort of grown-up Draco Malfoy. Valkyrie was an interesting character as she started out sort of missing, but warmed up to us by the end to become a real crowd favorite. Even the side-side characters found a way to have their day in the sun, with Idris Elba getting a chance to be badass as redemption for The Dark Tower, and Jeff Goldblum delivering just the most delightfully “I’m Jeff Goldblum” performance ever.
Now let’s talk about the actual filmmaking itself because I’ve got quite an interesting relationship with it. As I said before, this film is directed by Taika Waititi, who is one of the more eccentric and quirky directors on the indie scene at the moment. While he certainly did a good job at it, the movie just didn’t feel enough like him. Sure, the movie’s funny, I definitely laughed multiple times, but it just didn’t feel like they pushed it as far as they could. Maybe this is just a personal hangup, but I’m under the impression that if you’re going to go to such great lengths to reinvent Thor as this new cleverly funny romp, you might as well go all the way with it. I guess they didn’t want to make it too much of a laugh riot because they might be inflicting on Guardians of the Galaxy (which is still the best Marvel movie of the year, I don’t care what anyone says) territory and they prefer to keep their properties distinct. And while the jokes were pretty well written, the funniest of them were the ones that were clearly invented onset. The actual plot of the film is actually written pretty poorly. The first act is very bumpy and any form of exposition done throughout the film is done so without much skill or delicacy. Plus, the film once again falls into the trap of having to be a thread in the grand overbloated Marvel Universe, sacrificing many moments that could have been more interesting or creative for some cheap references or world-building fluff. Most egregiously, there is a terribly executed scene featuring my least favorite Marvel character, Doctor Steven Strange himself, that was just the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. But oh well, if it had to be done, it had to be done.
I don’t want it to be communicated that I didn’t like this movie. Truth be told, I think it’s one of the best in the MCU and certainly the best film with Thor in it. It’s a great adventure with some pretty explosive action set pieces that make up probably the best climaxes out of all seventeen Marvel movies to date. The heart is there, and it feels like everyone onset was trying their best to make an entertaining time at the theater. It’s just a bunch of little things that all add up to this movie feeling like it fell short of its full potential. I get the feeling that if just a few things had been sacrificed so that corporatization of these superhero movies could be forgotten for just once, this could have been a really spectacular film. But, I suppose if this is what we have to settle for, it’s a pretty good happy medium.
All images are from Thor Ragnarok, a Marvel film.