Smoldering Fire (Thor: Ragnarok review)

I know some people are wondering how much longer the Marvel comic book movie train is going to run, but personally I think they are just starting to get into the great stuff that comic books are made of.

And Thor: Ragnarok proves that point.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Taika Waititi
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
********** 10/10

IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Taika Waititi, sometimes known as Taika Cohen, is from New Zealand. He is a director, writer, actor and comedian. I first heard about his work with the 2007 gem Eagle VS Shark, but he also directed Boy, What We Do in the Shadows (check out Mike’s Watch Culture video for a great review!), Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and most recently, Thor: Ragnarok.

So he is comfortable making comedies, injecting comedy into things which are typically not comedic, and he has even been nominated for an Academy Award for his directorial debut, Two Cars, One Night.

Waititi makes odd films, and so it should be expected that Thor: Ragnarok would be a bit out there. And boy is that statement true in this case.

Special thanks to IMDB user Blazer346 for the synopsis.

Four years after defeating the Dark Elves and two years after the fight in Sokovia, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) now finds himself trapped on the other side of the universe on the wacky planet of Sakaar. Meanwhile, a new threat rises as the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett), Goddess of Death takes over Asgard and plans to conquer the universe. In order to get home, Thor must compete in a gladiator match against the defending champion of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Little does Thor know is that the champion is his old friend and fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Teaming with Hulk and his deceptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor must return home to Asgard in time to stop Hela and prevent the approaching Ragnarok, the apocalyptic destruction of Asgard.

This is a film which refuses to take itself seriously, no matter what is happening. Oh, Asgard is about to be destroyed by a fire demon whose sole purpose is to obliterate the planet? No problem. Oh, he achieved that result? Let’s move on. The irreverence isn’t actually an issue though, because Waititi recognizes the ludicrous nature of pairing all of these Marvel characters together, and infuses Hemsworth’s Thor with a much needed dose of self-deprecation.

From the outset, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and consequently we are able to accept many of the plot holes, the emphasis on CGI sets, and the odd cast of characters.

Pros: The blue rock monster, scene stealer, Korg (voiced by Waititi) adds another level to the humour, but even Dr. Strange, The Hulk, and Loki get in on the fun. I’ve seen this film three times now, and it’s all still incredibly entertaining. It does the job as an action flick, but shines as a comedy, better then Ant-Man even.

ConsAt the end of the day though, this film is pretty inconsequential to the arc being set up for Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, *spoiler alert* Thor and his Asgardians run into a foreboding ship at the end of the film, which is likely Thanos, there isn’t much emotional weight to the loss of Odin nor to the introduction of Hela, who by all accounts should be badass.

That said, I love the 1980s mix n’ match feel of the flick, and Jeff Goldblum fits in perfectly with the setting of Sakaar. The heart of the film comes in the way these characters intersect with each other in such a weird setting. And while the heavier emotional pieces are set aside for the most part, you can’t help but feel connected when Thor pairs up with Loki for a game of “Get Help.”

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Points of Interest: .Waititi has admitted that almost 80% of the film was improvised, and even the line “he’s a friend from work” was offered up to Hemsworth from a Make-A-Wish child who visited the set that day and suggested that relationship. Chris Hemsworth’s older brother Luke Hemsworth plays Thor in the play within the film.

It’s a film heavily inspired by 1970s and 1980s science fiction fantasy, which might be another reason I loved it so much. Thor was born out of that time and his adventures have always been super strange. Even better that his connection to Earth this time be established WITH Dr. Strange, whose own comic and film were a nod those eras.

theories Summarized

Hitting the same narrative beats in a superhero movie is a common trope nowadays, and most Marvel flicks are a victim of this way of thinking. But luckily for us, we saw a glimpse of a potential future with Thor: Ragnarok, and I also think with Black Panther. I have this theory that superhero movies have a fair bit more longevity to them, and if Marvel continues to take chances on their directors, as they have with writers over the years, then this might not be the Ragnarok of the MCU.

And to freshen things up, I’ve decided to do a Watch Culture video on another classic superhero story from the 1980s, the much beloved, and reverrd Akira. This is the film that legitimized anime in western culture, and so if you have never seen it, spend a few minutes with me and I’ll explain why it’s awesome.

So please let me know what you thought of my review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. I anticipate that our content will continue to grow much like the Marvel cinematic universe. A well considered theory on my part.

Tim!

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