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.