Thor: Ragnarok ***
Dir: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban
In Thor: Ragnarok, the Norse god of thunder (Chris Hemsworth) takes on some major challenges in trying to find his missing father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) while Hela, the goddess of death (a magnificent Cate Blanchett), attempts to take over Asgard. If that wasn’t enough, Thor also finds himself trapped on a world where is forced into gladiatorial combat with his former teammate, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
Some momentous events happen here – as they should given the title of the movie (Ragnarok: the apocalyptic end of times in Norse mythology) – but most of them are given short shrift. Director Taika Waititu seems to be more interested in going for the big laughs then giving due importance to the deaths and destruction that occur in Marvel Studio’s latest entry in their burgeoning cinematic universe. Some beloved characters (admittedly, some of them carrying more importance in the source material – the original comics – than in the movies) meet their untimely ends. However, Waititi hardly spends any time in according them an appropriate farewell and making their deaths count for something or even spare a few moments afterwards to grieve their passing. No, he’s too busy setting up the next big gag or quip.
This is a disservice to both the titular hero and to his supporting cast. Marvel has, almost from the very beginning, found a nice balance between the action, drama, spectacle and humour (in stark contrast to the initial sombre DCEU films which leaned too far in the direction of grim and gritty) as well as allowing many of their directors enough room to bring their own artistic vision to the superhero sagas (most notably James Gunn with his Guardians Of The Galaxy movies).
fine to afford Waititi the latitude to bring his trademark humour to the project but when the movie comes close to sacrificing character and drama in service of the belly laugh then it comes close to losing its audience. In not taking themselves too seriously (Chris Hemsworth, in particular, seems to be having a grand old time demonstrating his considerable comedic talent) the director and his cast run the risk of the audience not taking them seriously either. You may not want to break the fourth you can only butt against it so much with your nudges and winks (when you have Jeff Goldblum basically playing Jeff Goldblum that’s a distinct risk) before it breaks. Here, that doesn’t quite happen and I still think that Thor: Ragnarok is a fun watch and there’s lots to enjoy as well. The cast brings its A-game, the special effects are great as are the action scenes and the requisite cameos (some totally unexpected) are entertaining.
However, I sincerely hope that the movie’s box office triumph (it is the most financially successful of the three Thor movies so far and has hammered DCEU’s rival release Justice League into submission) does not prove to be the first (mis)step down a slippery slope for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with other movies looking to emulate the template set down by Waititi. Remember the Joel Schumacher Batman movies? Their descent into camp buried the franchise for close to a decade.
Cut to chase: Fun but tries to hammer in the humour too much and to its detriment