Before I go into the meat of my Thor: Ragnarok review, allow me to geeksplain what comic book fans hate having their comic book favorites adapted into comedies. See, fans of a certain age had to live under the shadow of the 1960’s Batman TV series. The popularity of that show and its long-ranging impact made comic books a subject of ridicule and their readers jokes. And while the medium matured into the realm of literature, that public perception lasted well into the 1980s and scared fans so much that they fear any jokey portrayal of comics will open themselves up for scorn and ridicule again.
All this is said to preface this: Marvel Studios has essentially turned the Thor franchise into a comedy and have managed to give us the best Thor film to date, so maybe its time to put those fears to rest.
Granted the bar was set incredibly low by the two prior installments. The first Thor was a fun bit of fish out of water piffle that did its job of establishing the character well. Thor: The Dark World suffered from an abundance of characters struggling with screen time and a deadly lack of characterization for its villain.
The fact that this film, which has just as many characters jockeying for attention as The Dark World did but works even better, is amazing, especially since writers Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus worked on both films.
Perhaps the difference lies in the storytelling of director Taika Waititi. There is a lot going on here, as the heroes bounce around all over the cosmos and back again, but Waititi makes it work.
Characterization is much better here than in The Dark World. Gone are Jane Foster, Eric Selvig, Darcy Lewis and Sif, and the Warrior’s Three only appear briefly. But new characters come in to replace those ones and each one comes in well-formed and well defined. One notable improvement the time around is the villain, Cate Blanchett’s Hela. Blanchett is one of those actresses where the “Pay to see them read out of a phone book” analogy applies, but she is give far more to work with here than Christopher Eccleston was with Malekith.
And Waititi manages to give Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba more to do than just be exposition machines. Don’t get me wrong, they ARE still exposition machines, but it was great to also see the gleam in Hopkins eye as he played Loki playing Odin or Elba’s Heimdall cutting loose in a battle scene.
The film is the longest Thor film to date but moves along at a brisk pace. It never really drags or gets boring. And Waititi does show a lot of visual brilliants in the way he present his scenes, especially the oil painting-esque flashback telling Valkryie’s back story. And whoever it was that came up with the idea to buy the right’s to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song deserves a raise. No other song goes better with watching Viking gods fight zombie warriors.
Thor: Ragnarok is a fun ride that really brings out the potential of the character. And, here’s a hint: pay attention to the actors in the fake play at the beginning of the film. You’ll get an unexpected cameo there.
To read FBOL’s Natasha Bogutzki’s review of the film, click here.