The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13)

Asgard is under attack and only Thor (and friends) can (maybe eventually) save it in Thor: Ragnarok, a totally fun bit of Marvel superheroing. 
Remember how we last left Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in Avengers: Age of Ultron? He was, er, looking for... was there a quest? No, I don’t remember and it doesn’t really matter because he sums it up as, like, a cosmic road trip capped off with fighting a giant fire god for his pointy opera-lady hat. Thor then returns to Asgard to find Odin (Anthony Hopkins) being fed grapes and watching some very fake-news theater about what a good little toaster poor dead Loki was. Or, I should say, “Odin” was living the life, as Thor quickly figures out that it’s a disguised Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who has been hanging out in Asgard, erecting statues to himself while the real Odin has been stashed somewhere on Earth (back in, I think, Thor: The Dark World). 
The brothers come to Earth to find Odin and when they finally do he’s on a cliff in Norway, staring out at the sea. He tells them that his time has come to shuffle off this immortal coil and, oh by the way, (1) they have a sister, (2) who is evil and (3) coming for them.
As soon as Odin dies a sparkly CGI death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), goddess of death, does indeed show up, looking for her younger brothers to pledge loyalty to her, their new queen. Loki, who has apparently never seen movies before, tries to make a break for it with Thor to Asgard but Hela follows them, knocking them out of the rainbow-light-elevator thing that takes them home, sending them spinning off throughout the universe. Hela arrives at Asgard and immediately starts killing resisters and gains herself a henchman in the form of Skurge (Karl Urban). She kills off Thor’s buddies immediately and soon the only one left to counter her is Heimdall (Idris Elba), the former inter-dimensional portal minder who is, you’ll remember, stone cold awesome.
Meanwhile, Thor wakes up on a planet that appears to be one giant junkyard with a city in the middle of it. He is captured by someone initially called Scrapper but who we eventually learn was once a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). She sells Thor to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, who is peak Jeff Goldblum in this peak Marvel production), who sends Thor to become a gladiator to fight his grand champion. Thor gets the haircut he always should have had and a nifty bit of armor and is sent out to fight an unkillable beast — only to, as trailers have already given away, be met with his “friend from work” Bruce Banner in his big green incarnation as Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). 
I saw a headline of a review (on Slate, I think) that called this movie goofy. I’d say “giddy” instead. My feelings while watching it were something like: There are Valkyries! And Led Zeppelin! And Hulk! And Loki! And Cate Blanchett looking like a bad-ass! And Thor with cute hair! And they all fight! And Idris Elba fights! And sometimes the fights are set to Led Zeppelin!
Ragnarok reminded me, in the best ways, of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, the same looseness, the same swing-for-the-fences sensibility, the same willingness to be a little silly if the silliness is in service of fun. And why not? Thor has always been one of the lesser Avengers, particularly in his stand-alone movies. He is best as a foil for the sass of Tony Stark or the regular-joe-ness of Captain America. Here, his pretty-boy, cocky nature works with what the movie puts him through, the way it knocks him around and lets him respond with brains, brawn and heart. 
This is also the closest we may ever get to a standalone Hulk movie. And that’s fine. This movie does a good job of reminding me what I like about Ruffalo’s Hulk performance — that it mixes a kind of necessarily comic book bigness with some heft. And it also highlights exactly who Bruce Banner is, personality-wise, in the Avengers — namely, that one friend who more or less gets along with everybody. 
And, in the tradition of Marvel Cinematic Universe layer-building, the movie also offers a totally serviceable Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cameo that helps him fit better into the world — the Earth world, the Asgard world, the weird multi-dimensional world that he lives in. I might not always love the samey quality of the Marvel movies or the dutiful marching through of familiar beats, but I don’t think you can overstate the degree to which they really know what they are doing with these movies and how they all fit together. I trust the movies enough that I can just enjoy what I’m watching here and now and enjoy the serial story I’m seeing a piece of even if I don’t remember, for example, what a Thanos is or why the Infinity Stone talk never ends.
Ragnarok also gives us some fun new characters. Thompson’s Valkyrie is a mix of a boozy Iron Man and an even more devil-may-care Han Solo — and is such a delight. Korg (Taiki Waititi), a vaguely The Thing-ish (from Fantastic Four) rock man, seems to play some combination of the roles Groot and Rocket filled in Guardians. He’s a big, opponent-crushing opening act at the gladiatorial fights but also a sweet guy who is planning a populist uprising in his spare time.
In short: I liked Thor: Ragnarok. It is funny, it is fun, it has good, solid superhero action. I’d watch it again and I am eager to see these characters again — in other words, a success. B+
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material, according to the MPAA. Directed by Taika Waititi with a screenplay by Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, Thor: Ragnarok is two hours and 10 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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