Took in a screening of Thor: Ragnarok over the weekend, and wanted to share a few thoughts:
It’s good! (But come on. Not that good)
It’s currently 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten rave reviews. But I didn’t find it worthy of quite that much praise. Yes, it’s fun, entertaining, the action scenes are solid and the performances are great. And that’s all I ask for in a movie! But it’s a formula film. It’s incredibly similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, trying to mix the humor with the space-faring zaniness. It ends with a “heroes vs. giant CGI army of nameless, faceless foes” which we’ve seen way too many times now (Iron Man 2, Avengers, Iron Man 3, The Dark World, Age of Ultron, Days of Future Past…). It had some great twists—Odin dying, Thor losing Mjolnir (and an eye). Some great moments —the Thor-Hulk battle, Thor channeling the lightning. The plot, dialogue, directing—all just fine. Overall it’s a very entertaining, fun and enjoyable two hours to spend at the movies. But I’m not ready to crown it.
It was funny, but, maybe it tried too hard to be funny?
I get that Marvel’s trying to balance out the tone in its films; you’ve got your Captain America films, which seem to be very serious; Iron Man and the latest Spider-Man, which are kinda wise-crack-y; Guardians and Ant-Man which were more outright comedies. Thor was always kinda lost. (As was Hulk, and part of the reason I think they never made another Hulk movie; and I think Dr. Strange too.) I’m not sure outright comedy was the way to go. I would have leaned more to the serious side; Thor, in the comics, was always very serious and I think Cap could have used another more serious franchise to balance it out.
Also I think the film should have been a little more careful not to make fun of super-heroes. It’s a fine line, and they crossed it a couple times, most notably with the incredibly predictable “Banner jumps out of the plane but doesn’t turn into the Hulk” bit.
I think the CGI Hulk is finally there
It’s been a long, slow process. The Ang Lee Hulk was definitely too cartoony. The Ed Norton Hulk was better, but still a little “off” in his movements. Avengers Hulk was much, much better but he still felt… flimsy? Like, he moved too softly and quickly to be the most powerful being on the planet, you know? This Hulk, in addition to having the best facial expressions of all, felt (mostly) big and powerful. There were a couple times he still moved too fast (think of an elephant or a rhino; they just can’t move that much mass that quickly) but overall—they nailed it.
The cast is uniformly excellent
Not a single weak link in the this one. Hemsworth has come into his own as an actor, and, even though I cold have used a less comedic bent to the film, kudos to the filmmakers for recognizing his comedic gifts. Mark Ruffalo and Tessa Thompson were excellent; Ruffalo’s franticness at becoming Banner, two years and a galaxy removed from the last time we saw him, was picture perfect. Thomson plays disaffected, then interested, then all-in very well. Tom Hiddleston simply owns that role as Loki now; he looks utterly comfortable in it. Jeff Goldblum is, well, Jeff Goldblum. And Cate Blanchett looks to be relishing every minute of her villainous turn. I would have liked to have seen more rom Karl Urban as Skurg, but, you can’t have everything!
Over the course of three movies, Thor actually had a real character arc
It’s easy to overlook this, because the first two Thor movies aren’t that memorable (I personally really liked the first one, though I hated the second) but Thor has gone on a real character-defining journey through his three films. He starts out, if you’ll recall, about to be named king at the beginning of Thor. But then he chooses to run off and fight the Frost Giants, breaking Odin’s trust and getting banished until he can learn some humility. Which he does, by willing to sacrifice himself for his friends and admitting that he still has a lot to learn to be king. Which he spends the Avengers and The Dark World doing, finally getting his chance to ascend to the throne at the end of that film; and he turns it down, again understanding that he’s not yet ready. In this one, he learns that Odin had to make tough choices as king—achieve rule through bloodshed, than banish his own daughter. Thor then has to make equally tough choices—sacrifice Asgard itself to save his people (and losing an eye). And that’s what makes him worthy to be king, finally.
I have admit, I’m much more looking forward to the next two Marvel movies—Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War than I was to Thor: Ragnarok. Early trailers for Black Panther look awesome, and—though I’m skeptical that Infinity War will live up to the hype, with its dozens of main characters—finally getting the Thanos payoff will, hopefully, be worth the wait.