Thunderstruck

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Not many people would care to say it, but Marvel Studios’ 2011 effort at bringing Thor to the screen was a big friggin’ gamble, after the earthen adventures of the first two Iron Man films and The Incredible Hulk. Its final result, however, was masterfully helmed by Sir Kenneth Branagh was nothing short of amazing — thus, the God of Thunder quickly became my favorite Avenger. The second outing is well chronicled in the backlogs of this blog and was, I regard, the first big misstep from the House of Feige. Still, I held out hope for the third outing, but worries beset me when I heard the newly-announced director, Taiki Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows) said he was “going to take the second Thor movie and add more jokes.” Jokes, I regard, were what killed Thor: The Dark World, but having seen Waititi’s effort, I feel nothing but giddiness and contentment with what I saw!

The film opens with several king-sized bangs, as Thor (Chris Hemsworth, In the Heart of the Sea) claims the life of a gigantic monster and finds a new threat awaiting him, in the bloodlusting form of Hela (Cate Blanchett, Cinderella), the Goddess of death. Destroying his prized hammer, Mjölnir, Thor barely escapes to distant planet Sakaar, where the Contest of Champions awaits, an old friend lies captive, and old wounds look ready to burst.

Hemsworth is in better comedic form than I have ever seen him! While I stand by my comment that dedicated comedies are not for him, this is a superhero film in the hands of a sharp, talented comedic director, and that same talent only helps our hero. Tom Hiddleston (I Saw The Light) is in equally fine form, returning easily to the black wig as Loki and never once stooping to the suffocating caricature he was in The Dark World. Finally returning to the MCU is Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again) as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk — the latter of whom now talks! There is no better heir to the legacies of Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby than Ruffalo, bringing the brawn and brain in both sides of his character! A surprising return comes in the form of Heimdall (Idris Elba, Star Trek Beyond), the Asgardian gatekeeper who has a lot to deal with this time — his return is surprising given his well-publicized disdain with the franchise, but is all the more welcome, as he’s integral to this story and the franchise’s future.

Newcomers to the franchise also shine — Tessa Thompson (Creed) does her first accent role as Valkyrie, the last of an elite Asgardian platoon, and she is fierce as can be, with a smoothness comparable to crystal rum! That being said, lots of female roles in blockbusters these days like to emulate Star Wars‘ Rey, but apart from being a scavenger, the same can’t be said of Valkyrie — she’s got a vocabulary like an acid-soaked whip and fighting skills to match, no matter how smashed she gets! Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is in fine, debaucherous form as The Grandmaster, he who pulls the strings in the Contest of Champions. You really want to smack him in this, because he’s a perverted jerk, but then you want to kiss him, because he’s Jeff Goldblum! Karl Urban (Pete’s Dragon) provides a comedic edge to his work as Skurge, an executioner under our villain’s payroll, and almost makes us root for said boss! Finally, Cate Blanchett — she takes another grand, villainous turn that most would be chewing the scenery in, but she manages to bring a level of humanity to such a horrid creature, one that suggests an abandoned child whose mind has filled with thoughts of vengeance. Bravo, Blanchett. Here’s hoping you make Dame by next Christmas!

The crew behind Ragnarok are integral to the films’ success — the film is brightly colored and peppered with detail, evoking memories of Mad Max: Fury Road, truly looking like a comic book without falling into the self-parody that Ang Lee’s Hulk did; see it in IMAX or IMAX 3D! The music is something else, too! Legendary composer and former Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh brings a score together that suggests the best of Patrick Doyle’s work and also Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy (sidenote: fellow TRONiacs will surely appreciate the gladiatorial battle midway through the film!)

To clarify Waititi’s earlier statement, he did add more jokes, but the juvenile nature of said gags is toned down immensely — while there is one truly juvenile joke in the film, which you will surely recognize, the suddenness of its appearance actually makes it funny! The Dark World was inundated with them, so what could have remained the superhero equivalent of a Three Stooges comedy becomes that of a Marx Brothers satire, and it’s all the better. Waititi brings a comedic flair to the film reminiscent of James Gunn’s efforts in Guardians of the Galaxy, and as such, he’s not afraid to go serious when the need arises, and rest assured, there is as much at stake as there is in one of those films — one of the best examples of that is in Thor’s continued attempts at bringing Hulk back into the form of Bruce Banner, which starts off as a lighthearted gag, but evolves into genuine pathos by the time Banner becomes himself again. Also, Waititi isn’t afraid to linger with story elements — one of my biggest complaints with The Dark World was its glossing over the story in favor of naked actors, but though jokes may run deep in Ragnarok‘s DNA, it is still a film, and most great films have a narrative to follow with characters you care about! Here’s hoping Waititi is signed for more Marvel Studios ventures!

Let me reiterate, Thor is one of my favorite movies — I saw it five times in the theater! — and, until now, my favorite film in the Marvel Studios pantheon, as it has been gleefully upended by Thor: Ragnarok, one of the greatest trilogy-makers since Toy Story 3. Lusciously photographed, brilliantly scored and joyously written without a shred of fear in taking its time, this has all the makings of a classic.

Rating: 5/5

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Well, it Hurth

Sums Up The Movie For Me.

Thor: The Dark World is a wet, cold mess. I have nothing good to say about it, so fasten your damn seatbelts, true believers — no good can come from bad.

Spoilers are all around this review, so if you don’t know the plot of this film yet, try Wikipedia or IMDb.

As a guy who not only adored 2011’s Thor but saw it five times in theaters and owns the Blu-ray, I got sick when I realized what I saw on a cold Thursday night in November. My biggest qualm lies in the story — it’s never focused; it twerks all over the place. The scenes on Asgard are too long and, I say with a heavy head, much too wordy. The first film got the science/magic of the story down pat because it was quick and didn’t dwell on the technical aspects, while this joint is lost in translation to Lehman’s terms.

With that in mind, the writing is apalling, which is probably the result of having six writers (five of which are credited) whose ideas do not merge, but crush each other. The scenes on Asgard and Svartalfheim move much too fast and, in some cases, seem cut abruptly short, while the scenes on Earth (why bother calling it “Midgard” in this one when you didn’t use the term in movie number one?) are reduced to Fantasia-length interstitials and try too hard at being comedic. Scale is also a problem — where the first film was massive, this is too small, or at least it feels that way, given how we are rushed through these what-should-have-been massive locales. The battle in Vanaheim, for example, is so small in size and importance that I do not feel that much is at stake.
In point of fact, I never felt like much was at stake for any of the characters, and because of that, I didn’t care much for them at all. Thor doesn’t change much while Jane never seems to be in much danger or care about the fact that she is marked for death thanks to the film’s MacGuffin, and the romance between the two of them seems stale and contrived. Meanwhile, Odin is too much of a king and not enough of a father to Thor and Loki — and why does he insist on leading Asgard to certain massacre after Frigga’s death? Not even the death of a loved one should completely impede the judgement of someone like him, especially when he is the one who banished Thor for restarting war with Jotunheim. There are too many problems abound — why should I care about Sif and the Warriors Three if they have no material? Why cast Zachary Levi as Fandral if he isn’t used much and we can barely catch a glimpse of his face? Where the hell is Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the villain of the story? Was that Alice Krige as an Asgardian nurse in one scene? Why is Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) running around naked for half of his screentime (was Lars von Trier the Second Unit Director?)? Why isn’t Sif steaming with jealousy over Thor choosing Jane over her, his childhood friend? Why is Hogun, one of two culture quota fillers in the film, shoved out so abruptly? Why does this movie feel like it was shod together in one night? Also, the subplot about paths between worlds, hinted at by Loki in the first film, are almost untouched — perhaps another casualty of rewrites?

Speaking of Loki, I wonder if the creative brains behind this knew that the film is called Thor: The Dark World, not The Mischievous Misadventures of Loki, or Thor: The Dark World. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Tom Hiddleston’s acting and he has an eye for quality that I’ve not seen in any other actor… but like Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, there is such a thing as too much of your favorite character, and in spite of Mr. Hiddleston’s desire to see Loki redeemed, he seems to be made up on the fly, with no defined path of character development; first he’s bad, then he’s sympathetic, then he’s bad, then he’s a hero, then he’s a dirty, lying bugger who murdered his adoptive father for a seat on the throne of Asgard. Thanos can’t come for his head fast enough.

Add to this the fact that the movie feels butchered from its intended length (what should have been a two-and-a-half hour film feels sliced-and-diced into one hour and fifty-one minutes), and what you have is, as said before, a wet cold mess.

Rating — 1/5. In truth, there are about five enjoyable lines; rent it from your local library.