Filmgoer’s Flamethrower #14 – Thor: Ragnarok

Posted: April 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

I didn’t know Thor was supposed to be funny. And then I saw Chris Hemsworth playing the part with a smile as he hung from chains in a hellish setting asking for a moment while his face swings around to converse/interrogate yet another threat to Asgard and Earth. “One moment…” After which, Disney, pretty much the only studio that can afford it, sets the superpower rumble to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

Thor’s return from this battle to Asgard with the monster’s horns only to see his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) pretending to be Odin (Anthony Hopkins) enjoying a play about Thor and Loki’s recent conflict depicted in The Avengers and previous installments. A play written from Loki’s point of view. Thor exposes the fraud and brings his wayward brother along to Earth to find Odin. With the help of Dr. Strange, they find him in Norway, just in time for Odin to die releasing their previously unknown sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from prison.

Thor goes on a journey where he lands on a garbage planet. Fights the imprisoned Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in the ring. Recruits him and the last surviving Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to come home and fight for Asgard one last time. And then, because any movie that references the Norse myth of Ragnarok can’t avoid blowing up Asgard, Thor releases the Fire Giant King from the teaser to blow up Asgard taking out Hela in an act of Mutually Assured Destruction. The surviving Asgardians travel to Earth figuring that there’s got to be nice real estate in Norway that humans aren’t using at the moment.

This movie succeeds because the script intentionally plays to the qualities Chris Hemsworth has brought to Thor through four previous outings: humor and an intentionally naïve charm that allows the Norse God of Thunder to know everything will be all right. This time around he’s caught between the competing needs of one brother and two friends (if you play up the Jekyll & Hyde split of the Hulk as two personalities) he thinks of as the brothers he chose.

Thor has to navigate that Loki might not like the thought of Hela in charge of Asagard, but will still enjoy seeing Hulk beat the crap out of Thor in the ring. Similarly, Thor also has to tap dance between Hulk (the green guy) and Dr. Banner who each accuse Thor of liking the other half more than the one currently in the conversation. This leads to a wonderfully amusing four-way buddy story that also manages to inspire the disillusioned Valkyrie to clean herself up and rejoin the fight. So, actually a five-way buddy story with gladiator fights, gladiator revolts, space ships and things blowing up, the movie designed just for me.

If I were to find any fault with how this movie landed with me, I would say that what was actually on the page concerning Hela proved thin. While as a general rule good writing is required to get an actor’s best performance, every now and again a good actor just adds to the story. Cate Blanchett achieves this mugging her way through the character’s outrage and annoyance at being written out of the family history once Odin thought Asgard had conquered enough of the known Nine Realms. But, without Ms. Blanchett’s facial expressions at key moments we’d think that the filmmakers basically decided to just have Hela blow stuff up and move on.

The rest of the cast rises to the level required of a movie that needs to grow Thor into his true self. Idris Alba gets good time in as Heimdall as does Anthony Hopkins wistfully bowing out of Odin full of the regret at being unable to do more to stop Hela. But, for me director, Taika Waititi, brilliantly adds to the cast mix when he does double duty in the motion capture suit voicing and moving gladiator Korg, a rock being. This rebellious bundle of rocks speaks with a Polynesian/New Zealand accent and freely admits that his past experiences with successful revolutions is nil – “only me mum showed up.”

Technically speaking, this movie continues Marvel-Disney’s track record of effects and music that rolls up sleeves and gets to work. The most visually cool part of this spectacle has to be the fight between Hulk and Hela’s pet, Fenris the Giant Wolf. The Green Guy isn’t having any of the slobbering giant zombie dog throwing fists and generally trying to yank out the canine’s teeth. It’s the most notable battle in this movie, but there are others. Though for someone that’s actually read the overview books of Norse Mythology, it was a little odd for Heimdall to be absent from the Fenris fight. Perhaps Asgard’s gatekeeper took credit for the win after the fact. A setup for completely unnecessary fan fiction…

All of these pieces add up to a charming buddy road picture humorously touching the same bases as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, if you can actually think of Thor as George (the lines get blurred with Thor’s almost as equally considerable super-strength). The friends have a few scenes together where I’m surprised they didn’t share beer; it’s not like the never-ending beer teased in the mid-credit sequence for Doctor Strange didn’t make its appearance. Perhaps they were showing restraint because their friend, Valkyrie, has a trauma-induced drinking problem? A story element for the mythical not so Disney version of the movie.

So anyway the movie races to a conclusion of the embrace your fate variety of the type where Thor has Loki resurrect the Fire Giant King tossing his horned crown into a magic fire. Hulk, of course, didn’t get the memo leading to a funny moment and quite a few social media back and forths concerning imaginary dialogue cut from the first draft of the script. Basically, Thor promises Hulk there will be other “Big Monsters” to smash and that no, Asgard doesn’t need saving because they’re redecorating. Or not, it is a lot of extra words.

You can’t go wrong with fun movies like Thor: Ragnarok.

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