Thor: Ragnarok

Thor-Ragnarok-rev Thor: Ragnarok  (2017)    Marvel/Action-Adventure-Sci-Fi-Comedy    RT: 130 minutes    Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, brief suggestive material)    Director: Taika Waititi    Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost    Music: Mark Mothersbaugh    Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe    Release date: November 3, 2017 (US)    Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi, Rachel House, Clancy Brown (voice).  

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 In Norse mythology, the term Ragnarok refers to the prophesied destruction of the world. In Thor: Ragnarok, the world facing the titular apocalyptic event is Asgard. The only one willing to try and stop it is Thor (Hemsworth), Prince of Asgard, God of Thunder and charter member of The Avengers. But he must first escape from this kooky planet overseen by the hedonistic and sadistic Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum) who forces him to go head-to-head with a familiar green colossus with a penchant for smashing things. I haven’t even gotten to the complicated part yet. When he gets to Asgard, he has to face off against his long-lost older sister Hela (Blanchett, the LOTR trilogy) who’s a bit angry about being imprisoned for thousands of years by their father Odin (Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). Did I mention she’s also the Goddess of Death? It all adds up to another solid entry in the MCU.  

ThorRangarokPoster A recent viewing of Thor: The Dark World left me underwhelmed. I recall liking it when it came out in 2013 but now I think it’s too dark (and somewhat confusing). Movies about Thor require a lighter touch. I’m glad to see that director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) takes that approach with Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo outing for the hunky hero with the golden flowing locks. In it, he undergoes some major life changes. It all starts when he returns to Asgard after defeating the fire demon Surtur (voiced by Highlander’s Clancy Brown) to find that his villainous adopted brother Loki (Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island) has assumed the form of Odin so he can rule Asgard. He exiled the real Odin to Earth. The two return to Earth to find and bring their father home. When they finally locate him in Norway, the old man is near death. He sticks around just long enough to warn them about Hela, a sister neither of them knew existed.

 Once Odin passes, Hela shows up and unleashes hell. She destroys Thor’s hammer then chases them when they attempt to return to Asgard via the Bifrost Bridge. She tries to kill them by sending them to outer space but they both end up on the planet Sakaar where Thor is captured by “Scrapper 142” (Thompson, Creed), a hard-drinking bounty hunter and the only surviving member of a race of bad ass female warriors (the Valkyries). She takes him to Grandmaster who makes Thor one of his gladiators and pits him against his champion, the Hulk (Ruffalo). During the fight, Thor discovers something surprising about himself. Those who read the comics know what I’m talking about. It’s then that he decides to form his own team to escape Sakaar, defeat Hela and save Asgard.

 Waititi, a New Zealander who also directed last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople, aims for a comedic kind of superhero flick in the spirit of Guardians of the Galaxy. He largely succeeds; Thor: Ragnarok is a great deal of fun. It has the kitschy look of older pop art-influenced sci-fi movies like Flash Gordon, Star Crash and The Black Hole. He bathes the movie in gaudiness with the oversaturated colors and costumes that look like they could have been worn by characters in some cheesy 70s post-Star Wars sci-fi program. The production design by Dan Hennah is pretty amazing. It makes Thor: Ragnarok resemble a live-action comic book which it basically is. The retro-synth score by Mark Mothersbaugh adds to the old school feel. My only gripe about the movie’s aesthetic is that the big fight scenes look exactly like the ones in other Marvel movies, a lot of CGI and slo-mo. I do, however, like the strategic placement of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” in two key action scenes.

 The acting in Thor: Ragnarok is pretty much what you’d expect. Hemsworth has the rare ability to combine machismo and comic playfulness. He’s tall, muscular and very handsome. At the same time, he’s a bit of a bumbling braggart. His efforts to impress 142 never seem to work judging by her eye-rolling. He’s perfect as Thor; he has just the right touch to make him one of the more likable heroes in the MCU. As Loki, Hiddleston is great. He’s one of the most entertaining villains in the MCU and definitely the most beguiling. It’s easy to see why Thor falls for his rap each time. Blanchett is awesome as Hela, a villainess who bears an uncanny resemblance to Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. Her character is a force of nature the way she effortlessly takes down the entire Asgard army in her quest for power. Goldblum camps it up as Grandmaster who makes me think of an intergalactic Willy Wonka. They even play “Pure Imagination” as Thor is brought before him for the first time.

 I thoroughly enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a big improvement over the last Thor movie. It’s also a nice lead-in to next year’s Avengers: Infinity War (it opens May 4, 2018). Stay through the end credits for two bonus scenes. As far as big-budget movies go, Thor: Ragnarok will do very nicely until the Justice League movie opens in two weeks. 

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