Thor: Ragnarok (aka Thor 3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The third film in the Thor trilogy is the most divergent, most stylish, and, ultimately, the most fun. It does away with the muddy take on staging Shakespeare plotting with sci-fi dressings in a California surfer vibe. Here is a film that wants to be a big, bright, and bouncing outing that would rather spend more time staging wickedly witty sci-fi adventure than drama stooped in lore and legacy. And for the hefty portions of Thor: Ragnarok that does favor the colorful, it’s a much-improved new coat of multi-colored paint for the hammer-wielding hero.
Chris Hemsworth reprises the role of Thor and has some house-cleaning to do. He must out his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as the king of the fantasy kingdom of Asgard. Their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is dying and he has some dark secrets to reveal before turning into yellow vapors. It turns out there is a long-lost sister, the evil witch Hela (Cate Blanchett), and she just happens to arrive on the very day of this revelation. Armed with her spiky headdress, she takes her violent control of Asgard and summons an army of her own undead soldiers.
Seems like a pretty standard superhero affair of saving a besieged kingdom, but then there’s an unexpected detour. While traveling back to Asgard to prevent its destruction, Thor and Loki are thrown off course and land on a junker planet. Run by the quirky and maniacal tyrant Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Thor is enslaved and pitted into gladiator combat for the amusement of the people. Everything about this world is a hoot, from Jeff Goldblum’s wacky design of a sci-fi dictator to the wonderfully retro-future landscape, both colorful and dirty. Not only does the feuding chemistry between Thor and Loki continue, but there’s the welcoming additions of the long-lost Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the ex-Asgard ally Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). It’s just such a shame when the film must eventually bookend by heading back to Asgard for the expected showdown.
Even when the film must take the superhero route of an apocalyptic battle where Thor tosses his hammer about and saves his citizens, director Taika Waititi thankfully infuses his picture with enough wonderfully weird charm to make this the most enjoyable Thor movie, low as that bar may be. There’s always some wild visual to showcase, some clever quip to lob into the dialogue, and some rousing action to witness. If a Marvel movie must end with a big battle, Waititi makes it standout with Hulk battling a giant wolf and Karl Urban battling zombies with machine guns. If Thor and Hulk must duke it out in the ring, make it the most hilarious of slapstick displays with brilliant callbacks to Loki’s previous defeat at the hands of the unstoppable green machine. And if the story leads to a junker planet, make it have its own gorgeously dated style of a 1980s vision of the future, complete with a synth soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Despite some clunky use of characters, from an understated Anthony Hopkins, to a onenote Karl Urban, to a rather pointless cameo by a fellow superhero, Thor: Ragnarok has more than enough pep and eyecandy to both please the superhero crowd and stand out from the pack. You’ll get plenty of action with Thor and Hulk busting up spaceships, as well as plenty of hilarious segments, most of which involve watching Loki garner even more of his comeuppance. Though I wish the gladitory junker planet was the entire film, the direction and production design are more than enough to keep the eyes dazzled and the expanded universe of the nine realms a little more vibrant past the old-fashioned Norse stylings of Asgard. Where the previous films kept themselves inside boxes, Waititi ventures out further to let us know there’s more to Thor than hammers, melodrama, and kingdom politics. That being said, it’s pretty fun watching Thor lob lightning at his enemies.