Movie Review — Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel Studios’ latest product feels like industrial birthday cake as it overcooks A-list talent and coats the formulaic boredom in green-screen icing
Directed by: Taika Waititi Cohen
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi Cohen
Running time: 2hrs 10 mins
By Katherine Monk
If you ever doubted in the God of Thunder, Thor: Ragnarok will pummel you into a state of complete surrender. Not out of faith, but sheer fatigue.
Loud, chaotic and packed with spontaneous bursts of sizzling flash, this latest addition to Marvel Studios’ inventory of superhero product is a stormy mess that ultimately leaves you feeling soggy, and just a little out of sorts.
Given that Taika Waititi Cohen’s film promises the Norse version of Armageddon, the sense of absolute depletion makes sense. I just assumed it would be a lot more fun than this repeated assault on the frontal cortex that defies the very essence of entertainment.
Nothing in Ragnarok really works — not even the dependable sibling rivalry between divine brothers Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), previously the cornerstone of the Thor franchise and one of the most bankable components in the Avengers mix.
They are here — looking and acting like they should with their handsome smirks and who’s-got-the-bigger-superpower banter— but there’s an undeniable absence of the broader picture, a larger framework to give this parade of special effects any shape or meaning, which in the context of “Ragnarok” seems unforgivable at worst, and lazy at best.
Ragnarok is the Norse time of divine atonement — the twilight of the Gods heralded by natural disasters, cataclysmic floods and the appearance of large serpents. According to myth, it’s when Odin, Thor and other gods perished, pushed aside for the rebirth of man and the very planet humans call home.
Ragnarok is a timely theme, and when you consider it’s accompanied by the emergence of Thor and Loki’s female sibling Hela, The Goddess of Death, this new movie should have approached Shakespearean tragedy by recycling ancient myth.
Throw in the inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, and you’ve got a shot at addressing real world concerns about refugees through a pop culture lens.
Instead, we get empty spectacle and a droning soundtrack that turns the whole exercise into a deafening blur of computer-generated effects and art deco adornments. Previously, the technicolored landscapes of Thor’s celestial home of Asgard felt like a psychedelic dream. We could believe in the details of its otherworldliness because solid actors such as Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba walked under its shimmering domes, lending the green screen effects emotional credence.
If the only way to Asgard was through a rainbow wormhole controlled by a giant sword, we bought into it because the rules were consistent. The same went for superhero powers and their limitations.
Thor Ragnarok violates all these internal rules from the moment the film opens with a showdown between a volcanic monster and a captive Thor. Thor’s ability to summon his friendly hammer is hampered. One minute, he’s all powerful. The next, he’s being knocked unconscious. He’s a Norse god behaving like an old neon tube — sputtering, unable to hold a charge, and feeling a little out of date.
Director Taika Waititi Cohen and the screenwriters never explain this random loss of power. They barely assemble a coherent plot. All we know is Hela (Cate Blanchett) wants to rule Asgard and all its adjunct kingdoms. Thor, Loki, Hulk and an alcoholic Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) are the only beings capable of shutting her down.
Fair enough. Yet, there’s no real suspense in this venture because everyone is kind of immortal. Sure, they all have their weakness and flaws and even Odin is reduced to sparkle ashes, but after watching Hulk fight Thor, and Thor fight Loki, and Loki and Thor fight Hela, the sight of a superhero hurtling through the air and reducing a building to rubble loses its novelty.
Outside of the introduction of the Valkyrie — female warriors sworn to protect Asgard, and central characters in Wagner’s Ring cycle — there’s nothing in Waititi Cohen’s film that feels new. Sadly, even the Valkyrie character we do meet (Tessa Thompson) feels like a cheap take on Jack Sparrow.
Then again, everyone in this movie feels like a cheaper take on a previous incarnation — from Odin, to Loki to Thor himself. Even Jeff Goldblum, taking on the role of a gladiator impresario feels like a cheap knockoff of a more authentic self.
Reality is something we readily put aside when watching a Marvel outing, but a good adventure still needs real feelings, an identifiable sense of purpose, and universe with reliable laws of physics. Thor: Ragnarok possesses none of the above, leaving little more than a grocery store genre cake: industrial formula and A-list talent enveloped in an unnatural green screen icing.
THE EX-PRESS, November 3, 2017