Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★½

I'm the contrarian asshole who loved the first two "Thor" movies while everyone else was bitching and moaning about them, so it's probably not too surprising that I didn't love this one while everyone else seems to think it's the best of the three.

"Thor: Ragnarok" has a badass goddess of Death with a connection to our hero's family showing up to take over Asgard and, then, enslave the rest of the universe. It's the typical comic-book villain goal, and it's the least interesting thing in the movie, but I like the way that Asgard is revealed to have some thorny issues in its past, that it, like America (and, probably, every country) has agreed on a myth of its own past and done its best to bury the truth of how it was established and maintained. That's the most intriguing thing about it, and I liked how Hela (Cate Blanchett, having the most fun she's ever had onscreen) is Asgard's buried past coming back to bite it in the ass.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't do enough with that solid plot and, instead, has Thor on the other side of the universe while Hela takes over, fighting in gladiatorial combat for the amusement of the citizens of the Universe's landfill, presided over by a wonderfully droll Jeff Goldblum as the Grand Master. This stuff is a lot of fun, to be sure, and Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie is a wonderful addition to this cinematic universe. Her introduction is delightful, and virtually every moment she's onscreen is just as good. Watching her fire a gigantic gun at a bunch of villains is maybe the sexiest image the MCU has yet graced us with (though Cate Blanchett curled up in skintight latex on a throne is pretty damned close).

"Ragnarok" is quirky and fun and filled with delights, but it kind of marches in place and goes in circles too long in its second act. It never drags, exactly, but it feels like it is just killing time. It's not quite as funny as I expected either. I mean, it's funny. But I felt a surprising amount of the jokes fell flat, or were too samey in their structure. My favorite bits came from a rock warrior named Korg voiced by Taika Waititi. Virtually everything he said or did slayed me. Tom Hiddleston's Loki has his moments, but this movie makes less effective use of him than arguably any other Marvel movie in which he has appeared. Mark Ruffalo's Hulk/Bruce Banner is well utilized, though I found Hulk less amusing the more he spoke. And the scenes between he and Thor just went on too long with not enough of a point (it is here where the movie kind of treads water, IMO). As for Dr. Strange's extended cameo, it too felt a tad pointless to me.

I may sound like I'm coming down on this movie, but I didn't hate it. I liked it. I simply didn't love it as much as I expected to. It had interesting notions but didn't do quite enough with them, instead focusing on an endless series of jokes and some rather weightless (with the exception of one awesome one) action sequences. I guess that annoyed me more than I would have expected, seeing as how a surprising number of the jokes were merely alright (as opposed to the two other Waititi films I have seen, which were gold). I enjoyed the more out-of-left-field cameos and there are some excellent comedic bits here (nothing quite as solid as the majority of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", however) but overall "Ragnarok" felt a bit hollow to me. It lacked the unexpected emotional heft I found in the first two "Thor" films, and I think I laughed harder at the comedic moments in those films (especially the first) than I did at anything in this movie. It's about quality, guys, not quantity.

That being said, any movie that makes such pulse-pounding use of "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin is a movie worth seeing and treasuring. It's visually sound (a lively, colorful visual pallet helps immensely here) and the score by Mark Mothersbaugh gives it a distinct personality (though maybe the 80s-homage synth scores are starting to reach their saturation point). I didn't immediately love the first "Thor", so maybe this one will also resonate more for me on repeat viewings. It's pretty fun, but I just wish there had been a bit more to it. But, hey, if it gets one person to go back and watch "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" or "What We Do in the Shadows", then it justifies its existence (not that Goldblum, Thompson, Blanchett, and the rock warrior don't do that already).

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