Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★

Not quite as weird as I would have hoped for from Taika Waititi, but partial Waititi-ness is at least better than no Waititi-ness at all, and the Jack Kirby-styled visual design and synth-rock score make up for some of the generic narrative beats. Jeff Goldblum = maybe the first truly great Marvel villain?

UPDATE: Up half a star in retrospect, partly for Waititi’s gutsy try at sneaking anti-colonialist subtext under Marvel’s noses and partly for just how good Tessa Thompson is.

UPDATE 2: Okay, seriously, I kinda can’t stop thinking about this movie and how it’s vastly better crafted than everything else Marvel has produced yet. Don’t get me wrong here and think this is Marvel going full-on “let the auteurs have their way”, though. There’s some shoehorned-in setup for other Marvel stories here (although Waititi doesn’t seem to care about it as shown by him having the Infinity Gauntlet get haphazardly tossed out of the way as soon as it appears) as well as a LOT of familiar narrative beats.

At the same time, it’s hard for me to deny that Waititi’s work on this film goes into some places I didn’t quite expect from a Marvel film. The aforementioned anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist subtext doesn’t fall prey to the “fine people on both sides” pitfalls of Civil War (thank Christ), instead wholeheartedly condemning not only Asgard’s bloody, imperialist roots, but its attempts to cover it up as well and the lives it was willing to sacrifice to do so (no spoilers here, but Valkyrie’s backstory is a hell of a lot more powerful and pointed than I ever expected). There’s also some incredibly smart and subtle filmmaking to be found here, examples of which I will now list:

1) Legitimately great action of the kind that manages to convey speed and strength, never sacrifices clarity or coherence, and adds its own unique visual twist (specifically occasional tableaux framings that seem ripped from a heavy metal album cover).

2) Unexpectedly heavy amounts of Jonathan Demme’s “conversations with characters looking straight into the camera as they talk” technique.

3) A seriously great score from Mark Mothersbaugh that uses stylistic shifts to indicate setting (Asgard = classic dramatic orchestral scoring, Sakaar = weird Carpenter-ish techno-pop).

What I’m trying to say here is that even if this movie isn’t the big “Marvel goes auteur!” movie we’ve been wanting for at least seventy billion of these goddamn things now, it’s at least a step closer to something like that. Here’s hoping Black Panther lives up to that label, though - Ryan Coogler hasn’t let me down yet.

(And yes, I know this means I gave the same score to this movie and Platoon. Sorry, but also not sorry.)

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