It's Thor's third movie, and he breaks out of the mold, traveling to before-unseen worlds, making new friends, and getting a bold haircut. Ragnarok is the Norse apocalypse, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) thinks he's got it all under control, but then the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) is unleashed, and overthrows Asgard while Thor is stuck on a forgotten planet with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) fighting in gladiator matches with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) for the entertainment of Jeff Goldblum. And, of course, the entertainment of us.
|One thing's for sure: that Led Zeppelin song is the movie's MVP.|
This movie sells itself on entertainment, and sells itself BIG. Its success in that area is pretty undeniable, unless you are completely against the kind of entertainment Marvel produces. All the earmarks of Marvel Entertainment are there, and cranked up so high that it sparkles like lightning in Thor's fingers. It's full of dazzling colors and shapes and is filmed with bold visual flair; it runs a mile a minute, always moving with action, or bantering conversation, or cracking a joke. Entertaining, entertaining, entertaining -- for the whole runtime, you barely have an opportunity to stop and wonder why you should care.
That may or may not be by design, but it might as well be, because if the film slowed down enough for you to think to yourself, "Well that was fun, but when will Thor face his demons? How is his relationship with Loki gonna develop? What are the stakes here if Hela wins?" then you might begin to see that there's no meaning to be found among all that razzle-dazzle. The boxes do get ticked, but only on the most base level. Like, Thor does have demons to face in a vague "all seems hopeless" moment -- and learns the exact same lesson that 15-year-old Peter Parker did a few months ago, but with significantly less magnificence than Spidey.
|It works best as an action-comedy. But even comedies need some kind of emotional grounding.|
And Loki and Thor clash amusingly as Loki is bad then good then bad then good then bad and then good again. (Yes, that's an accurate number of flip-flops.) But their complicated relationship isn't explored so much as it's referenced. "Remember that time you faked your death and took over Asgard? Yeah, that made me mad." When they talk about how Loki being mischievous is just his nature, and Loki looks like he's wondering if it really is, things begin to touch on something deeper, but it goes no further than that. In the end when Thor assumes he's gone bad again and says if he was really there he'd hug him... and then he is there... how about we get to see that hug? Why is this movie so afraid of emotion?
Hela is literally destroying Asgard and killing its citizens, and in the end Thor must let Ragnarok come upon Asgard and destroy it just to defeat her. This is big, serious stuff, but it doesn't feel it. It's done so flippantly. Honestly the movie's best arc was my man Karl Urban's, who goes from big doofus, to aspiring evil, to moral questioning, to cool and heroic, all as a side character. And then of course his death is careless, though I guess it was meant to be emotional. Hulk is there for the laughs, and the new girl Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is cool and tough, but neither get more than the requisite glimpse into the depths they might have reached.
|Everything look great! But, everything looks great.|
But yeah -- haircut. Hulk the superstar. Jeff Goldblum just being himself. Hela's horn helmet. The wacky trash planet. Director Taika Waititi's overdone cameo as rock-monster guy. And they play Immigrant Song TWICE. Who needs character or themes anyway? Well, I do -- but the fact is, I enjoyed watching this movie. I was ready to be entertained and the film was eager to entertain. But now the entertainment is over and I'm left with no connection to the movie. There's nothing to hold on to. And that kills rewatchability. If I ever watch it again I'll probably sigh at the jokes instead of laugh, and wish for the Shakespearean character drama of the first film, which rises higher in my esteem with each new installment.
Enjoy the spectacle, but don't look for a heart among the spectacular chaos; you won't find one. On the surface, Ragnarok is as toned and muscled as its title hero. Underneath, it's actually as bare-boned as the slack-jawed skeleton that's hanging out with him at the beginning. There's a certain charm to being duped with so much careless glee, but the spell can only last so long.