Thor: Ragnarok is fun, but let’s not get carried away

I swear I am going to write a short review again one day.  tl;dr version: Thor: Ragnarok is very funny at times but too uneven, sometimes veering into camp.  The visuals are gorgeous and bonkers, at least as pictures—full Jack Kirby—but I’ve become somewhat numb to CGI spectacle.  The cast performances are a mixed bag, but Hemsworth has become an actor who can carry an entire picture on his back.  Overall, an enjoyable way to spend an evening, but Ragnarok won’t enter the top echelon of MCU movies; nor will it supplant the first Guardians of the Galaxy as science fantasy.  It’s overrated, but that has less to do with the movie itself than an irrationally exuberant 93% fresh aggregate rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

For the first thirty minutes or so I was ready to hate Ragnarok.  Most of the jokes fell flat for me, and the movie was almost openly positioning itself as camp (I despise camp).  So the—much better—rest of the movie snuck up on me.

The humor gets much better as the story progresses.  There are still a lot of bad jokes, but there are also some wickedly funny ones (that snake story…).

There are some solid performances.  Chris Hemsworth has turned into real leading man material and carries the movie at times.  Tom Hiddleston does good work as always.  The Gamemaster character should have been terrible, but Jeff Goldblum somehow makes it work.  If you’re going to appropriate my culture, you damned well better get it right.  Tessa Thompson plays a great drunk.  She is good at every aspect of her role.  Cate Blanchett mainly looks great as Hela, but man does she look great!  Ruffalo is good as Banner…

…And less so as Hulk (Hulk actually has several lines, and they’ve updated the CGI so you can really recognize Ruffalo in Hulk now).  Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba mail it in, and Doctor Strange’s presence is pointless.

My favorite addition (except perhaps for Thompson’s scrapper) is Korg the revolutionary rock man.

Tyler Cowen detects a strong Maori influence in the movie.

The story is uneven.  Like I said, I hated the first act.  The scenes in Sakaar in general are much better than those in Asgard.  Ragnarok doesn’t put guns on the mantle so much as wave them around, then put them on the mantle, then pick them back up to wave them around again.  It’s a popcorn movie, in that you can get up and go get more popcorn and you won’t be lost.

The inestimable Kestutis Kalvaitis described Ragnarok as going full Jack Kirby (you should check out his entire set of tweets on Ragnarok—I agree almost entirely with his assessment).  He is right.  There are a lot of cool visuals.  Blanchett’s Hela most of all.  I responded to Kalvaitis’ thread by mentioning how excited I was to see Ragnarok on the big screen, but I walked out of the theater nonplussed.  I just can’t get that amped anymore about big CGI fests.  And the climax is exactly that, complete with faceless mooks to serve as cannon fodder.  But at least it’s having fun with it.

Movies have to go somewhere when the superhero bubble inevitably bursts.  I would love for it to be to sword and sorcery or epic fantasy.  But that doesn’t seem likely.  If I can’t get terrestrial fantasy, I wouldn’t mind science fantasy at all.  As science fantasy, Ragnarok doesn’t compare to the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is a notch above the second.

Ragnarok has a mid-credits and a post-credits stinger, neither of which you need to stick around for.

 

4 of 5 Stars.

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About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction). https://everydayshouldbetuesday.wordpress.com/ https://hillbillyhighways.wordpress.com/
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16 Responses to Thor: Ragnarok is fun, but let’s not get carried away

  1. Mark says:

    Largely agree. The action seems a bit weightless and overwrought. The extent to which the movie works is the extent to which Taika Waititi’s goofy sense of humor goes on display, which mostly happens in the second act (Korg is exactly the sort of thing he brought to the movie). The third act feels kinda perfunctory. There’s an element of franchise-service here that doesn’t help. At some point, maybe, these movies will really be able to lean into their more goofy impulses, but for now we get stuff like this, which is still pretty good…

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I simply can’t keep up. I still haven’t seen Thor 2, Iron Man 2 & 3, or Ant Man. I can live with that, though. At this point, the MCU has so permeated pop culture that I pick up enough that I don’t get lost (and Ragnarok isn’t a movie that is going to lose anybody).

      The MCU movies do humor very well, for the most part, even when taking a more serious approach. This is the first movie where I’ve had a problem with the approach. But, then, I’l allergic to camp (the first X-Men movie is almost unwatchable in hindsight).

      Like

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    I loved it, and I thought it was on par with the Guardians Of The Galaxy films. It captured, for me, not only the feel of Jack Kirby comics, but also the irreverent sort of New Wave shorts that Harlan Ellison and Kurt Vonnegut used to crank out for Playboy in the 70’s. I can see how it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I happen to like camp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I liked the first Guardians of the Galaxy way more than I liked the second one. Ragnarok doesn’t have the same kind of emotional heart that is a big part of the Guardians movies and the best part of the second one.

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      • H.P. says:

        Aaaaaaaand now I’m rewatching Guardians of the Galaxy. John Carter isn’t bonkers enough, and Fury Road is so bonkers I would never be able to look away from the screen to get any work done. It was GotG or Legend of the Sword.

        Like

  3. Bookstooge says:

    I know you said you don’t like “camp”, so how does this compare to Antman for humor? I loved Antman and liked it so much that I ended up buying the bluray 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. danielshumphreys says:

    I enjoyed it but I can see what you’re saying. I think the interest is much more enhanced by the stepping stone toward Infinity War than the actual movie itself, though there are some great set pieces to be had.

    And Ant Man is great, you should check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good review. I still have to see the movie and I will so I had to read the review carefully. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Musat Razvan-Constantin says:

    I’ve noticed a tendecy over the last decade when it comes to entertainment. People worship mediocre creations. If it isn’t movies like Blade Runner 2049(sorry, but it did nothing new that hasn’t been done before, and better, with more talented actors), it’s either video games like the eternally overrated Last of Us and Witcher 3(it hurts to say this as I enjoyed the game, but it set out to be an RPG, and failed at it; the story was also mediocre), to TV Shows like Game of Thrones(started out great, but turned shit from season 5 onwards) or books with very little imagination but full of Politically Correct thinking.

    Thor 3 isn’t a bad movie; but I think Marvel saw how much people liked Guardians of the Galaxy and mistakingly believed that that formula was going to work for other movies. Thor is waay to campy and unserious, in a story that should have more seriousness to end. After all, we are talking about Ragnarok, the end of the world, yet you feel like there’s never any real threat in the movie, no real tension, no believable enemy. I’m not saying it has to be The Dark Knight, but a degree of seriousness would’ve served it well. As it is, it’s forgettable fun. Very much like the latest Star Wars movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      Ragnarok was fun, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a much better movie. It is funnier, it has better action sequences (nothing in Ragnarok comes close to the first scene featuring four Guardians), and, most of all, it has a strong emotional core.

      Like

  7. free movies says:

    nice post, keep it up

    Like

  8. Pingback: Spoiler Quasi-Review of Avengers: Infinity War | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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