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‘Thor Ragnarok’ is Good Stupid Fun

thor_ragnarok_posterI got a MoviePass so I finally took in a showing of Thor: Ragnarok. I dug it. It was a far better ride than the last two Marvel Studios outings  (Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange). I thought it was fun with a retro visual style reminiscent of recent low budget genre mashups like Turbo Kid or Kung Fury. Of course, the big budget here allows every frame to be stuffed to the gills with world building visuals. I’m not sure it’s possible for a film to feel more like a comic book. The action is crisp and fun and the film never bores, but I’ve got an unusual critique to make. It’s too funny.

The Humor is Relentless.

Each one of Ragnarok’s cast of characters is both the butt of jokes and a teller of jokes. I can laugh at Thor’s love of beer over tea, but don’t expect me to buy in when he speaks in snarky millennial phraseology. There is a lot of self-consciously clever dialogue that disappointed me. Thor, Hulk, Banner, Valkyrie – all of them are at times played for humor at the expense of character. I would have preferred something with more restraint. There are pratfalls that are out of left field including one where Bruce Banner jumps from a plane. That moment was a low point for this Hulk fan. The humor has another effect – Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki is greatly diminished as he is no longer the one injecting levity. That’s my main gripe with the film. Some moments were so silly they betrayed the characters.

It’s Brazenly Kitschy and Absurd.

Overall, this was a good outing for Marvel. It’s got the same kind of bite sized enjoyment that an issue of the comic might have and it removes the ponderousness of the previous Thor outings. There are big knock-around battles that have the kind of silly gusto you want out of tales of the super-strong. Ragnarok also marries sci-fi with the fantasy stylings of the prior films. This kind of genre bending works for an informed geek, but it can be hit or miss for a general audience. It’s a strength here. This is a sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, gladiator, super-hero comedy that works.

Marvel’s Source Material is Nearly Endless.

Ragnarok manages to adapt several comic titles. The film incorporates Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Skurge (Karl Urban) from the Thor books. Neither character gets much time for development, but both have the acting chops to make their scenes work. There are elements borrowed from the late 90’s “Ragnarok” storyline (Thor #80-85) that feature prominently near the end. However, the middle act of the film is not from Thor at all, but a storyline called “Planet Hulk”. The gladiator backdrop as well as Hulk and a few of the secondary characters are culled from this run. It was previously adapted as a mediocre animated film. Finally, the name of the gladiatorial competition is taken from a limited series called Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions. The only other element borrowed from that series is a single character – Grandmaster – played with electric enthusiasm by Jeff Goldblum.

I’m Excited for More.

Thor ends this entry in a place he has never really been in the comics. The changes to his stats quo have been toyed with in print, but never put forth as a permanent arc. These new elements move the character forward in a way that’s needed to sustain interest. While I think the movie veered off road when Thor was delivering punchlines, the ending was great for him. This third outing is certainly a fresh take on the character. I recommend it heartily to Marvel fans and anyone who enjoys Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Thor: Ragnarok is a fun cornball movie that your inner five year old will love.

Year – 2017  | TRT – 2:10 | Directed by  – Taika Waititi  | Written by – Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Stan Lee (based on the comics by), Larry Lieber (based on the comics by), Jack Kirby (based on the comics by)  | Cast – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba

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