And A Comedy Broke Out
Marvel has done it again. Made an excellent film, you say? No. Did an excellent job of promoting and hyping a film that turned out to be less than expected? Yep.
That’s not to say that Thor: Ragnarok is a bad film. It’s just not as great as I hoped it would be and is ultimately a stinker in my opinion. As they did with the last Guardians of the Galaxy film, Marvel used excellent teasers, trailers, and promos to spark interest in the newest Thor film. They even paid big bucks to Led Zeppelin in order to use their legendary Immigrant Song in the film (something that, in my opinion, should have been done with the first Thor film).
When I finally laid eyes on the movie, though, I realized that Marvel pulled the ol’ bait and switch on me. Ragnarok looked and sounded much cooler in the promos than it actually was in its full form……just like Guardians, Vol. 2.
I so desperately hoped that Marvel would finally get a Thor film right. Captain America was one for three (Winter Soldier was excellent, but Cap’s other films were ho-hum) and he and Thor are my favorite Avengers. Their first films seemed rushed in order to get to the big Avengers film in my opinion, and their debut solo films suffered for it. With Ragnarok, I thought that Marvel might finally have a grasp on a true cinematic version of the God of Thunder.
The film definitely looked good on paper. The return of Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, and Tadanobu Asano as the Warriors Three, Idris Elba (Heimdall) and Anthony Hopkins (Odin), meant that there would be some solid acting from the core cast. The new additions of Cate Blanchett (Hela), Karl Urban (Skurge), and Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster) gave me confidence that I could expect some decent villains. I wasn’t familiar with Taika Waititi’s work on film, but I knew his direction and writing from Flight of the Conchords, and that left me feeling good about him at the helm. Writer Christopher Yost gave me a tad bit of pause, considering the fact that he penned the screenplay for Thor: The Dark World, but I was glad that someone with theatrical ties to the characters was at least a part of the film. He’s also written for a number of animated shows including Star Wars Rebels and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The only real wild cards for me were actress Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) who I was not at all familiar with and the writing duo joining Yost, Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle. Pearson is best known for his work on Agent Carter, which seems legitimate enough, but Kyle is primarily known for his work on Marvel’s animated films and television shows which are very lackluster for the most part. I’ll talk more on the writing and Thompson later.
Mild spoilers ahead!!!!!
The plot of the story takes place roughly two years after the events in Age of Ultron. Thor finds himself at the mercy of the demonic Surtur (voiced by the always brilliant Clancy Brown) who has plans to unite his crown with the Eternal Flame stored deep within the vaults of Asgard in order to trigger Ragnarok, the end of everything. Obviously Thor escapes, steals the crown, and heads back home to restore his father to the throne. He outs Loki as the false Odin and then the duo find their father (with a little help from a “strange” friend) exiled on Earth. Odin tells the pair that he is about to die and that their older sister, Hela, the Goddess of Death, will be released from her prison and will put Ragnarok into motion.
When Odin passes, Hela immediately arrives on the scene, destroys Mjolnir, and chases Thor and Loki across the Bifrost Bridge, successfully tossing them both out of the Bridge’s path. Thor ends up on Sakaar, where he is captured by Valkyrie and sold to the Grandmaster as a gladiator. Loki also crashes on Sakaar, but uses his charms to win the favor of the Grandmaster. Thor fights Hulk in an epic battle (one of my favorite scenes in the film) and they eventually reignite their friendship.
At the same time, Hela has taken over Asgard, selected Skurge as her executioner, and is trying to hunt down Heimdall, who has stolen the sword from the Bifrost Bridge and is thus preventing Hela from leaving Asgard in order to begin her domination of the universe.
Back on Sakaar, Thor has convinced Valkyrie, Loki, and Hulk to team up with him and battle Hela for Asgard. He has also freed all of the gladiators, including Korg (voiced and motion captured by Waititi), who starts a rebellion against the Grandmaster (something that he has planned for a long time). Thor and company then steal one of the Grandmaster’s ships and fly through a wormhole dubbed The Devil’s Anus in order to quickly get to Asgard. A big battle ensues, people die, lots of lightning and thunder, etc., etc. You’ll have to watch the film in order to find out the rest.
The cast: As expected, the established actors in their roles were excellent. The writing derailed three of them, though, and I’ll get to that later. I can see no one else as Thor besides Hemsworth. The same goes for Hiddleston as Loki, Elba as Heimdall, and Hopkins as Odin. The new cast members were hit and miss. Tessa Thompson did a fine job as Valkyrie. I hope that her character is fleshed out a bit more in future Marvel installments. Karl Urban did a decent job with what he had to work with, but the writing hurt his character as well.
The action: The action sequences were fast, well executed, and surprisingly full of violent deaths. Much like her brother Loki, Hela has a penchant for throwing blades at her opponents. The size of the blade varied depending on her mood. We also got to see Thor really thunder and lightning things up, which I missed in the other films. This is the first PG-13 Marvel film that I would consider cautioning parents with small children about. Despite no blood, there’s a lot of violent death.
The music: The music set the tone of this film perfectly. Mark Mothersbaugh perfectly scored the film, injecting just the right amount of suspense, humor, or whatever else was called for scene by scene. Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin is used sparingly, which is a good thing, but used at just the right moments when needed. There are a few other nice musical Easter Eggs dropped in for the sharp listener, but I don’t want to spoil them here.
The writing: More than anything, this film’s writing derailed it at every turn. I’m all for injecting humor into a film, but cracking nonstop jokes while people are dying all around completely breaks any and all tension in a scene. I won’t name specifics, but there are quite a few times whenever a character throws in a joke at the worst moment (and no, it’s not Loki every time).
Speaking of Loki, he’s terribly written in this film. Yes, I know that he’s the God of Mischief and I also know that the character has been a go-to for injecting humor into the multiple films that he has been a part of, but making him no more than a gag-a-minute funny man really depressed me. Loki deserved better, as did Cate Blanchett’s Hela, who delivers a couple of terrible one-liners herself.
Hulk is reduced to a giant toddler. Much like Loki, he’s given a lot of opportunities to throw in humor at inappropriate times. Did anybody writing this film realize that it’s about Ragnarok……the end of everything……as in everybody and everything dies…..forever??????
Thor loses a bit of his swagger in this film as well. He’s supposed to be unsure of himself, but Thor’s ego always comes through in every situation. Hemsworth has to tromp through forced humor as well.
The varied levels of strength: No one seemed to be able to set a limit to Hela’s power in the film. Early on she crushes Mjolnir like it’s an afterthought. Later in the film, when she’s supposedly stronger, she takes a beating from Thor, amazingly recovers, and Thor is suddenly unable to beat her. There’s also an army of the dead that enters the battle (no spoilers as to who they are) who are seemingly hard to stop but fall to pieces at the business end of a pair of M-16’s from Earth.
Jeff Goldblum: I know that I’ll get more hate than I can shake a stick at for this, but Jeff Goldblum was annoying in this film. I love the guy in pretty much everything else that I’ve ever seen him in, but his portrayal of the Grandmaster was too much. Basically take everything that made Goldblum’s Ian Malcom cool in the Jurassic Park films away, inject a heaping dose of his insecure David in Independence Day, and top it off with Goldblum’s over-the-top real life persona and you have the Grandmaster. Goldblum can be hilarious, but he irked me to no end in this film.
Cate Blanchett: Again, this will probably draw a lot of hate mail from my three readers, but I just didn’t buy Blanchett as Hela. I was hopeful that Marvel finally lifted their dull villain curse with the wonderful Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but they proved that the curse is alive and well with Hela. Despite being all powerful, she was dull. Bad writing really hurt Blanchett’s performance, but there were times where I would look at her and see a “Remember the size of the check you’re cashing. Just chew your way through this and get back to good roles later” look on her face.
Thor: Ragnarok failed to add anything memorable to the MCU. Goldblum was annoying, Blanchett appeared to just be walking through the scenes. Sif (Jaimie Alexander) wasn’t even in the film.
Yes, it’s definitely action packed and chock full of sophomoric humor that seems to be spilling from an ever-growing wound in Marvel’s writer corral, but if this is the future of the MCU, I don’t have very high hopes.
Please, Marvel, if you’re reading this (and I know you aren’t), get better writers. Lay off of the Whedon-inspired humor a bit and give us a meatier story. You literally took one of the most apocalyptic battles in comic history and turned it into a buddy comedy. It was definitely noisy and teetered on Technicolor brightness, but it ultimately turned into a pile of forgettable fluff. Please give Thor a better story. Please????????
Thanks for reading, folks. I’m chapped about this film and I think it’s pretty obvious that I am. If you have a differing opinion (and I know somebody does, because I’m definitely in the minority on this one), let me know in the comments. Feel free to share this with friends and family, too. I want their opinions as well.