Rating: B- or 7 Myeh Myehs out of 10
Summary: Thor and his amazing friends must escape Space Goldblum’s planet and set off to fight an absolutely fabulous and badass Goddess of Death, Hela. Hilarity issues!
It’s no secret that the Thor franchise is a bit of a low point in the MCU for most fans. That isn’t to say that they are bad films, they just don’t garner the same attention as say an Iron Man or Captain America. The first Thor had stellar art direction and performances but spends half of its running time in the very boring New Mexico desert. The Dark World had some great character moments but the story and generic villain were wholly uninteresting and didn’t leave any sort of impact. As unengaging as these films are, I still do appreciate the cast of characters, creative production design, and of course Hemsworth’s godly physique and charisma. They were incredibly likable and gave a nice fantastical element to a mostly sci-fi centric MCU. Which brings us to the latest film, Thor Ragnarok. From the marketing, it seems that they were now reaching to aim for the same visual aesthetic and comedic tone as the Guardians of the Galaxy. As a fan of both franchises, it did peak my curiosity. Unfortunately, it may have been a detriment to the film.
Before I begin, let me point out: the film is pretty damn fun. In all honesty, it may be the funniest movie Marvel Studios has ever put out. Every gag is a laugh riot and all of the actors have great comedic chops. The returning characters are great as always and the new characters are a welcome addition. Tessa Thompson is especially amazing as the totally badass Valkyrie. This is my first Taika Waititi film, and it definitely makes me want to check out his other work!. Even the action in the film is very satisfying. I won’t say it reaches the iconic status of Spider-Man 2’s train scene by any means, but it’s pretty fun nonetheless. The action can be very CG heavy, but when it comes to comic book films it doesn’t bother me as much as long as it looks cool. These films are basically trying to be big budget versions of what is essentially cartoons, so I’m fine with it not being Weta level realistic rendering. The production design is very much inspired by the great Jack Kirby, specifically his work on New Gods and (of course) Thor. On top of all that, there are shots in this film that, for lack of a better word, are dope as f***. Especially, the brief scene with The Valkyries vs Hela is, again, DOPE AS F***. Thor Ragnarok is an incredibly fun popcorn flick and I wouldn’t mind watching it multiple times.
Okay… now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
This film is incredibly inconsistent with its tone, character motivations, and story. So much so that it is honestly is disappointing if you are actually a fan of the Thor movies and their characters. It works as a standalone, but as the third part of a franchise, it feels like a huge letdown.
The tone and story clash with themselves throughout the film. On the one hand, the movie wants to be a Thor and his Amazing Friends Comedic Space Romp, and on the other is pretty much the straight up apocalypse of Asgard. There is nothing wrong with inserting some humor into your story, but when the subtitle of your movie is literally a version of the apocalypse, I expect to focus on said apocalypse! The majority of the film is spent on the space gladiator planet when it easily could have been just a couple of scenes. All the stakes and drama are in Asgard, and yet we are literally light-years away. It doesn’t help that the movie either rushes through or completely ignores everything that isn’t in space or in Dr. Stranges place. Were you wondering what were the repercussions of Loki taking over Asgard at the end of Dark World? What did he do to Odin? Nah, who cares. Let’s just use it as a setup to a Kevin Smith’s Dogma joke! (Granted, it was pretty hilarious.) Even character deaths are left meaningless! Odin, the king of Asgard and Thor’s father, dies. Does Thor get time to grieve at all? Nah. Thor’s best friends, the Warriors three, were murdered brutally. Never gets mentioned again. AND WHERE THE HELL IS LADY SIF???? The entire movie is like this. Any sort of emotional drama that has been established in the past film’s is played up for laughs or just written off. Even when the film tries to get deep on some heavy themes of Imperialism and healthily preserving cultural identity, it just sort of gets put in the trunk and never fully discussed. Maybe it’s just me, but I actually gave a crap about what happens in Thor’s slice of the MCU! I don’t blame Waititi for this. He probably wanted to make a space adventure comedy and he genuinely made a really good one. I only wish it wasn’t at the cost of some of the drama established in the franchise. As a third film, it basically disregards the plot points of the previous two and draws a lot more focus on being a comedic sci-fi blockbuster.
Another grievance I had with the film is how characters would seemingly just completely change their motivation on the fly. Valkyrie is a traumatized former warrior who has turned to alcoholism to deal with said trauma AND is actively staying way the hell away from Hela. One little convenient flashback spell with Loki and she is ready to join the Revengers! Loki, who was 100% on board to betray his brother (again) to the immortal cosmic Jeff Goldblum, comes to help save the day at the very last minute. He even stands at the side of the Thor, whose king of Asgard now, ready to migrate with the Asgardians and space gladiators to Earth. (Even though he’s probably wanted for invading New York) These two characters literally flip on a dime. I would at least appreciate a bit more from the movie to show us why they are willing to help in the end, but I guess it’s easier to just write “and then she changed her mind!” It just furthers my point that the movie was more focused on being funny and action, then giving us well-done characters.
What I can surmise from this movie is that Marvel didn’t have enough faith in the Thor franchise on its own. They needed to give it a Guardians paint job, throw in some Avengers, buy the rights to a kick-ass Led Zepplin jam, and turn up the hilarity. It’s just incredibly disappointing. I was infatuated with the framework Kenneth Branagh and company laid for this Shakespearian high fantasy meets sci-fi franchise. The brotherly drama between Thor and Loki was genuinely engaging and it deserves more of a conclusion than just a chat in an elevator. (Oh dear god, I am having Star Wars Prequel flashbacks) Honestly, if you are a fan of the Thor films, this film may disappoint you with its story and treatment of some characters. However, if you’re looking for a funny and colorful sci-fi adventure, this one is pretty damn fun. If anything else, it makes me a bit more interested to see the Guardians meet the Avengers.
… BUT SERIOUSLY WHERE THE F*** WAS LADY SIF??? I HAVE BEEN ROBBED OF A LADY SIF VS HELA FIGHT!