“This is madness.”
You’d be hard-pressed to ever watch a Marvel film that’s not about putting a stop to another bland worldwide catastrophe. Even then, it’s better than painfully sitting through another flick from the competing and currently flailing brand over at DC. Marvel has become a solid one-trick pony and DC (besides the terrific Wonder Woman) is an over-saturated apocalyptic nightmare. So where does that leave Thor: Ragnarok? In the middle, I suppose, although it’s slapdash humor and zany personality definitely labels itself as something knowingly different. This is no reinvention of the bulky character; it’s more of a conscientious and brief temper tantrum that still has the sharp wit necessary to earn real laughs. Thor: Ragnarok is a highly enjoyable yet puzzlingly unidentifiable film, but at least it offers up a little shake and bake to the formula.
At this point, I find the MCU a terrible struggle to keep up with. So many stones, realms, evildoers and heroes. Newbies to the Marvel universe need be warned: you probably won’t understand a lot of what transpires. A cameo by Doctor Strange star (Benedict Cumberbatch) will have you lost if you haven’t seen that visually resplendent yet listless feature. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) enters and exits with that sniveling and pompous personality. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) leaves the story for good. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki’s long-lost, nefarious, disgraced older sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) comes back into the fray to take her rightful place on the throne. The sibling rivalry dynamics add plot and ramp up the stakes but hardly layer in any depth, and thankfully the film doesn’t entirely focus on this aspect. There’s fun to be had elsewhere.
The personality that oozes out of the film’s comedic sensibilities finally gets a place to call home and to explore when Thor crash lands on the planet Sakaar. He’s taken prisoner by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a warrior with Asgardian ties. She sells this slave off to Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), a hedonistic ruler with a flair for the flamboyant. In this color-bombed space, the film somewhat ignores the perilous prophecy of Rangarok, which states that Asgard will fall. This second act is hilarious, introduces intriguing new characters (I need a Tessa Thompson standalone film…she’s so good), and reintegrates old Avenger pals in the shape of the Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). It’s an intergalactic twist on the totalitarian methods of The Running Man, the barbaric entertainment of Gladiator, and the buddy comedy dynamics of an old Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau film. That description is as obscure and unique as it sounds.
I didn’t fall head over heels for Taika Waititi’s last movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople like most critics did (although in my review, I did correctly forecast his strength for covering airheaded action), nor did I think his 2014 mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows came anywhere close to the genius of a Christopher Guest entry. But having now seen this third Thor feature and after researching his early work in Boy and Eagle Vs Shark, it’s quite clear that Waititi is a skillful and playful director. One who injects his distinct New Zealand culture into the birthday balloon palette and this idiosyncratic brand of comedy that’s either subliminally restrained or completely outlandish. Serving as the end / re-branding of this particular character’s trilogy, Waititi has capably dished out a confectionery dessert to cap the service. Thor: Ragnarok is as sweet as it is earnest, and both attributes slightly strengthen this brooding puppy dog God of Thunder far better than you’d expect.
“The only thing that makes sense is that nothing makes sense.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5