A sort of review of “Thor: Ragnarok”

2017/11/16

So sometimes I get to write film reviews for the newspaper I design and copy edit for, http://www.GwinnettDailyPost.com when our regular movie critic either can’t or won’t make a screening.

  

Here’s a draft of my capsule review of Thor 3 written for the paper:

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13)3 stars

Marvel’s godly hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns for a third solo outing. Tons of humor — a little too much, actually — makes “Ragnarok”  great fun despite a high-stakes plot where he’s stripped of his iconic hammer and cast far away from the homeland he’s sworn to defend (this time from Hela, goddess of death played by Cate Blanchett). Co-star Tessa Thompson nearly steals the movie. — Khari J. Sampson

The GDP uses a simple 4-star scale. My personal score, though? That’s a little different. I give it 3.5 stars.

 

==SPOILERS FOLLOW== 

There might be a few too many jokes. Some work great, as in the early moments of the film when a fairly dense amount of exposition is dumped in chuckle-inducing fashion. Said sequence works great to re-establish the title character at the peak of his powers, confidence and seeming invincibility before the story begins to strip them away.

  

Other times, though, the humor seems a bit mistimed. It’s a tightrope act, and while it never falls from the wire, “Ragnarok” wobbles a lot.

  

A particular weak point is Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. He’s a different sort of bad guy for a Marvel movie, but far too much of the actor than the character comes through here. He doesn’t break the movie, but it’s a very good thing he doesn’t have to carry it as the main antagonist.

  

That job goes to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and boy, is she up to the task. Hela is the most powerful and legit threatening Marvel villain to date. She plays it with a deft mix of arrogant menace and camp that is fun to watch.

  

Hulk reappears after being MIA since “Age of Ultron” a whole five films ago. Again, he’s played for laughs, which might be a good thing because there’s a pitch-dark tragedy at the center of the story of the Hulk and Bruce Banner. I feel a little bit cheated in that, in the interest of making fun films, perhaps the Marvel Studios’ efforts have shied away from the darkness that could make a masterpiece like Fox’s “Logan.”

  

But I’ll take the film as it, because the Hulk/Banner thing isn’t the only thing that’s pitch dark in “Ragnarok.”

  • Odin? Expires.
  • Mjolnir? Destroyed.
  • Thor? Exiled and unable to protect his homeland.
  • The Warriors Three? Murdered.
  • Armies of Asgard? Slaughtered.
  • People of Asgard? Enslaved or in flight and hiding.
  • Asgard itself? Destroyed.

 
This is literally a story where the villains prevail. The heroes’ only W is that most of them live to maybe fight again.

Such as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie.

  

At first, she seemed another example of stunt casting for diversity’s sake. Some folks complain about this sort of “reverse whitewashing,” wanting to see the movies stick to the comics’ canon.

  

I get it. I’m also bothered when films change stuff up for the sake of adaptation or worse (see “Deadpool” in 2010’s “Wolverine: X-Men Origins”).

  

But it’s also important that more kinds of people be represented onscreen and in entertainment media.

  

The only reason most of these characters are white is because of decades of overt and then covert attitudes of white supremacy. When white has been the norm for so long — and artificially so — it’s going to take some intentionality to balance matters out.

  

“But the Norse gods ARE white” someone is saying. That’s not necessarily so.

  

When various cultures create or adopt a religion, if their gods take on human form, they tend to resemble elements of that culture. Have you not seen the black or Asian Jesus Christ imagery in those respective homes and houses of worship?

In the case of Marvel’s Norse mythology, the characters are who they are — but who’s to say that the rare Norwegian mortal who actually caught sight of Heimdall  or, more likely, simply heard of his existence, would not cast him as a dark-bearded white man in his imagination rather than as Idris Elba?

  

Back to Thompson.

  

She captivates every time she’s onscreen, lending a degree of complexity that Thor himself rather lacks. (Though, to be frank, her arc isn’t terribly complex, either.) Her Valkyrie is tough without overwhelming her femininity, and yet never seems to be trying too hard at either. She’s not relegated to being the love interest, either, in a refreshing divergence from the usual plotline.

  

There’s also this quote from the actress:

 

“I never thought I could be in a superhero movie.”

 

This is why, although I love the classic Brunnhilde the Valkyrie in the comics, I am all in favor of this sort-of recasting. Particularly after seeing how fantastically it works.

 
————— 

Here’s how the film falls in my personal ranking of MCU movies this week:

17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

16. Iron Man 3 (2013)

15. Iron Man 2 (2010)

14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)*

11. Doctor Strange (2016)

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)*

8-9. Thor (2011) / Thor: The Dark World (2013)

7. Ant-Man (2015)

6. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)*

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

4. Iron Man (2008)

3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

1. Avengers (2012)

Films in italics I’ve only watched once and I can never settle my feelings on this sort of nerd cinema on the first viewing alone.

  

Now…bring on Justice League! And Star Wars! And Black Panther!

 

It’s such a great time to be alive!

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