The gods themselves couldn’t save ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

The best thing Marvel could have done was hire Taika Waititi to revive the worst standalone movies of all its Avengers. Consistently limp, boring, and painfully serious, the “Thor” franchise is finally untethered by Waititi’s idiosyncratic, colorful humor and style. But not completely.

In this installment, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), is charged with the task of stopping the prophesized doom of his homeland, along with his evil and previously banished sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from taking over Asgard. However, he must escape imprisonment from the gladiatorial planet Sakaar with the long-missing Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The movie works best while on the planet of Sakaar. Here, the best parts of Waititi’s flair are let loose. Thor quickly meets the best part of this movie, Jeff Goldblum’s character Grandmaster, who is the ruler of this world and steals the show with his mumbling antics and charismatic comedy. Thor is quickly pitted against Hulk in the planet’s exceedingly popular gladiator events and their relationship continues throughout the movie for some touchingly thickheaded humor.

Some fragments of charisma are also finally allowed to crack through Hemsworth’s performance of Thor in Ragnarok. His line delivery and acting are all conveyed in a way which seems like he is finally in on the jokes and frequent absurdity of his Norse god character. There are some other magnificent actors, however, that are sadly wasted with bad dialogue and weak characterization. Idris Elba is hardly in this movie, Blanchett fails as another featureless Marvel villain, and Anthony Hopkins serves as the banal voice of exposition.

Additionally, the narrative and tonal problems in the first and final acts of this movie are overwhelmingly obnoxious. Frequently vacillating between lighthearted self-mockery and the apocalyptic dread of its stupid villain, “Ragnarok” can’t escape the clumsiness of its mood changes. As a whole, it never manages to outdo the genre tropes. Rather, it only nudges at them, suggesting that a greater movie is in here somewhere.  

So, although “Ragnarok” is a positive step for the worst Marvel franchise, it fails to fulfill its ambitions. The lively humor and charm make for an entertaining watch but the third act crumbles into a checklist of clichés complete with giant armies and a criminally underused Cate Blanchett whose insipid goals for “power” is perhaps the least creative and interesting motivation for a Marvel movie at this point.

The takeaway here seems to be a growing trend in superhero movies, namely that when studios fail to let directors have complete artistic control, the result is a cluttered movie at best. So much talent and potential is wasted here on violent tonal shifts and ham-fisted scenes that it almost totally sucks the life out of a movie that could have been a real accomplishment.

Grade: C+    

Jared Skinner, Features Writer

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