Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel has struggled with creating a consistent and fully-realized film for either Thor or the Hulk. Sure Thor is okay. And The Incredible Hulk is fine, but neither is likely your favorite Marvel movie. The solution to throw the two together with a Ragnarok (end of Asgard)/Planet Hulk mash-up proves to be just what the doctor ordered. Oh, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is here, too. Thor: Ragnarok marks the first time in four films that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has actually been more interesting than Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Don't get me wrong, Hiddleston is still charming as hell, but taking Thor away from Earth and (mostly) Asgard frees the character up considerably for one hell of a fun ride that rivals Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel Studios' best space adventure.

After defeating the creature prophesied to bring about Ragnarok, Thor returns home only to find Loki (disguised as their father) ruling Asgard. Without giving too much away, the pair head out to find Odin (Anthony Hopkins) only to run into the sister (Cate Blanchett) they never knew existed and get banished to the far end of the universe on a gladiator-style planet run by a smarmy Jeff Goldblum.

On this new world, Thor will meet a legendary Asgardian warrior (Tessa Thompson) and catch-up with his old friend the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). For the first time in any Marvel film, the Hulk is allowed to be an actual character (speaking multiple lines of dialogue and doing far more than just smashing and grunting). This allows Thor to spend time with both Hulk and Bruce Banner, even going so far as to explain how he likes each of them better than the other. Oh Thor, there's a bit more of your brother in you than you would care to admit! And Loki's various reactions to the Hulk are priceless.

The CGI is top-notch, and it's a good thing because there may be a total of three scenes without some effects thrown in. For a film about the prophesied end of Asgard the film is incredibly funny, but the humor doesn't undercut the more serious aspects of the story. Director Taika Waititi, who does double duty voicing one of the CGI characters, manages to juggle the characters, themes, look, humor, and style of the film well. While I saw, and appreciated, the film in 3D, it doesn't do much of anything to either enhance or detract from the experience. In regular or 3D, even without his hammer (which he loses fairly early in the film), Thor still kicks ass.

The movie isn't without its issues. It shoehorns in a bit too many superfluous characters, references, and obvious callbacks for its own good, Thompson's Valkyrie is no Lady Sif, the explanation of the Hulk somehow ending up on Sakaar because his Quinjet went slightly off course on Earth makes little-to-no sense if you spend more than two-seconds thinking about it, and the soundtrack is a big disappointment (especially compared to Guardians). Thankfully none of these get in the way of what proves to be the kind of enjoyable movie experience Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 couldn't quite deliver.

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