- Product Rating -

Thor: Ragnarok

| December 18, 2017

When looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of an evolving franchise, it’s nice to see that—in a general sense—it’s better understanding its predisposition towards comedy. There’s an inherent absurdity to such material that allows the filmmakers to mine physical and performance-centric humor from a place of self-parody, which is a notch beyond simply having a lighter tone. With Thor: Ragnarok, the series goes for full-on comedy and largely succeeds, its jokes and scenery-chewing supporting performances lending a more specified personality than seen before in this universe. Taika Watiti’s direction is the grounding for this, but it’s two steps forward and one step back for Thor as a character and Thor as a series when the best installment yet is over two hours long and at times lacking narrative focus.

The seventeenth film in the MCU takes place two years after Avengers: Age of Ultron (and probably at the same time as Captain America: Civil War) and follows the titular god (Chris Hemsworth), who has found himself imprisoned by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) on the planet of Sakaar alongside the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). In addition to the two being forced to battle against each other in a gladiator-style match, they must also find a way to stop Thor’s evil sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), goddess of death, from destroying Asgard. In the process, they’re joined by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Thor’s maniacal brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), all united by their own respective wants and to prevent the upcoming apocalypse known in Norse mythology as Ragnarök. Whereas the two preceding Thor films were largely self-serious when they weren’t interrupted by jarring comic relief, Ragnarok goes for full-on comedy a majority of the time, and it’s all the better for it.

I wasn’t expecting to find Thor: Ragnorak as funny as I did; it’s really quite effective from that angle. As stated, it plays up the absurdity of its content, cleverly grounding its jokes in the context of its own universe in ways that range from characters’ costumes to the grandiose locales in which most set pieces take place. It takes a page out of the Guardians of the Galaxy films in how it integrates pop culture into the film’s tone, albeit to a more successful and less forced extent than those movies. Mark Mothersbaugh’s squishy, sparkly score and two wonderful uses of “Immigrant Song” provide energy but don’t distract from the rest of the film, as the performers hold their own very well, with Goldblum proving to be the movie’s brightest, cockiest spot. Similarly, Hemsworth’s comedic skills shown in The Cabin in the Woods and Ghostbusters are finally put to better use.

It’s when the second half of Ragnarok falls into the motions that it begins to lose its shine. The script from Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost never has a great grasp on the momentum of its plot, wavering to distracting distances at times. The former half of the movie bolts fast enough to hide these issues, but the plot-centric aspects of the latter half make for a messy concoction that devolves from actively engaging to passively entertaining. Blanchett is underused in her role as who is ostensibly the central antagonist, and the duration of the climax gets to be a bit numbing. There are parts that bring back attention for the better, but then there are also moments that feel like fan service to tick off the boxes that involve inter-film MCU references. The largest issue here, though, is that Thor: Ragnarok is 30 minutes too long, and at 130 minutes, it sometimes feels closer to a rough cut than a film that’s all there. It’s a bit disappointing in those ways.

It all adds up to make for a movie that amuses, entertains, and even succeeds in its ambitions but stops short of overall success nonetheless. The actors breathe life into their respective characters, who are realized well by the script on an essential level but not so much in the grand scheme of things. Thor: Ragnarok has its moments—quite a few of them—but it’s really hard to build 130 minutes out of the movie’s great little fragments that are the most out-of-this-world.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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