Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review of THOR: RAGNAROK: Campy Combatants

October 31, 2017

Even when the first trailer of "Thor: Ragnarok" came out, it felt sort of off because of the very bright color palate and the campy comedic flavor it imparted as a first impression. When it finally came out, I was encouraged by the good word of mouth it is receiving, precisely because of that comedy it had. That really felt odd to hear for a Marvel superhero film, which usually fed on painful angst. I had to see it for myself to believe it, or not.

It had already been two years after the Sokovia incident depicted in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015). With Odin's death, Thor's violent elder sister Hela, the goddess of war, had taken over Asgard. Thor and Loki found each other on the planet of Sakaar controlled by the flamboyant Grandmaster. Together with the Bruce Banner and a former Valkyrie, the brothers escape and join forces to save Asgardian citizens from Hela, even if it meant reviving the giant fire demon Surtur in fulfillment of the prophesied destruction of Asgard, an event called Ragnarok. 

While the story of usurpation of power and a resulting revolution was not comic by any means, the whole script from beginning to end was peppered with zippy one-liners and slapstick routines -- mostly care of Thor and Loki themselves. Chris Hemsworth (as Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (as Loki) looked like they were having the time of their lives delivering those witty/corny lines and repeatedly executing those silly pratfalls.  

Of course, Chris Hemsworth again showed off his physique as he did before. However, he also did some pretty hilarious, un-heroic scenes here. The most un-Thor-like for me was that scene that had him shouting scared when the barber (a cameo by Stan Lee) was about to cut his long hair before his fight. My favorite Tom Hiddleston scene was that one when he stood up cheering when the Hulk flipped Thor on the floor side to side, like what he did to Loki previously. The sappy lines about brotherhood between these two were so cheesy!

Mark Ruffalo (as Bruce Banner and a Hulk who actually talked), Jeff Goldblum (as the Grandmaster), and even Benedict Cumberbatch (in his short stint as Dr. Strange) likewise played their roles with tongue-in-cheek. Other supporting characters still remained serious though, like Cate Blanchett in her deadly portrayal of Hela, as did Idris Elba as the all-seeing gatekeeper Heimdall and Karl Urban as the conflicted executioner Skourge. It seems like Tessa Thompson (as Valkyrie) is being built up as a more worthy love interest for Thor, as his former affair with Jane Foster was dismissed when Thor look a selfie with his female fans. 

Anthony Hopkins was whimsically nostalgic in his portrayal of Odin. However, he did have a comic scene as well as the Odin watching a play about Loki's heroism while eating grapes. Do watch out for the actors playing the characters in the play in cameos. The guy playing Thor was Chris' brother Luke (hence the uncanny similarity in look). The guy playing Odin was Sam Neill (of "Jurassic Park" fame). The guy playing Loki in that funny wig is none other than Matt Damon!

New Zealander director Taika Waititi makes his Hollywood debut with this and hits a home run. It is the easily most entertaining of the three Thor films because it fully embraced the cartoonish elements of the character and went to town with them full blast. The action special effects were very exciting to watch as usual, especially with the discovery of Thor's lightning bolt powers (one such electric scene set to the pounding tune of Led Zepellin's "Immigrant Song"). 

Of course, the ridiculousness of the comedy does negatively affect the dramatic elements of the story. Being a full-on comedy, we don't feel any sense of danger, already knowing ahead of time what will happen to our hero at the end. There was never a doubt about Thor's survival and victory, even if he did lose his hammer and an eye in the process. 8/10. 


My review of THOR is posted HERE.  

My review of THOR: THE DARK WORLD is posted HERE. : 

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