THOR: RAGNAROK Review: 8 out of 10 (Preposterous, Predictable, and Pretty Damn Fun)
I have said it before--superhero movies are like the fast food of cinema. They serve as the burger/fries combo of the multiplex. You know *exactly* what you are getting when you walk in the door. It isn't really good for you but it IS fun to consume. Likely it is also something you forgot you even had moments after you enjoyed it. Yes, occasionally there is a DEADPOOL that comes with spicy hot sauce and curly fries or LOGAN that is more like a steak sandwich with dijon mustard. But in the end, this genre is about familiarity and meeting expectations to have a fulfilling time at the movies with very little regret.
In this analogy, THOR: RAGNAROK is the half-pound bacon double cheeseburger with 8 slices of bacon and extra cheese. Super delicious--if you don't mind something that far over the top, but probably a bit overstuffed for its own good too. The film is directed by Taika Waititi and stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins. The plot backdrop is fairly simple: Thor's home of Asgard is being threatened by his sister Hela who is the goddess of death. Cate Blanchett vamps it up here as the scorned daughter who is home to wreak havoc on Asgard. And though Thor and his chaotically neutral brother Loki want to try and stop her, they end up on the planet Sakaar. How? No explanation really--Thor *literally* falls out of the sky and lands there. Conveniently (?), he lands on a planet with a Grandmaster who hosts gladiator tournaments and just so happens he is looking for a challenger to his champion. Jeff Goldblum essentially plays himself here as the cheeky gamesman who has a champion for Thor to fight--The Hulk. All of this works outside of the main plot of the film for about half of the film, and though it is an entertaining side trip, it leaves our villain with not much to do except to fight off some minor characters while she (and we) wait for the final battle. And the fun wears thin in the second act once the Thor vs. Hulk sequence plays out. It is easy to feel like the film is just waiting on itself to move to the next big thing. And in a way, it is. Like any Marvel film, the movie is built around action setpieces, one in the beginning, middle, and end. We know they are coming and we know how they will end. It is a cheeseburger... it isn't like we are going to take another bite and it is suddenly pork tenderloin or chicken fricassee. It is a cheesy bacon burger. We know what is coming. But this burger does have a side of funny. The difference here is that Waititi and the script fill in what is between those action sequences with a movie that is far closer to a comedy than an action film. THOR: RAGNAROK is very self-aware--and that is a good thing here. More quips, more tongue-in-cheek, and more strange and unusual characters including Waititi himself as Korg--maybe my favorite of the film.
THOR: RAGNAROK is fun, bloated, preposterous, over-the-top, and exciting. Some of that fun and lightheartedness in terms of tone sacrifices the film in its depth, however. Unfortunately, this film has one of the stronger potential villains of the MCU here with Blanchett as the Death Goddess Hela--but the film doesn't give her much to do. Marvel seems much more aligned with creating films that are family friendly, happier, and have plenty of visual buzz rather than looking to develop pathos, explore characters and their motivations, or develop a coherent story. But hey...THOR: RAGNAROK *knows* it is a double cheeseburger with extra bacon. It isn't trying to be anything else. This is a film that just wants to deliver a fun time that tastes good...even though it probably takes longer to eat it than it should.