By Judith Raymer
Nov 02, 2017 08:29 AM EST

Thor: Ragnarok Theatrical Review

Thor Ragnarok Brings Us Sparkles In Sakaar. It’s a “Hela” Good Fun, Too!
Thor: Ragnarok Theatrical Review
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Where to begin?!? Where to begin!  I suppose with ALERT: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!  Now then… While a fan of Marvel, its Cinematic Universe, and Thor in all film appearances (& beyond, er, before…), the Thor films have not been among my favorites.  That is until now.  Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows; Flight of the Concords), Thor: Ragnarok lands among the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's 17 film releases to date with a hero make-over that goes beyond the aesthetics.  (Hello, Stan Lee!)

In his seventh film appearance (eighth if you're counting "Easter Eggs"), both Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters; Vacation) and his alter ego have evolved.  There is a confidence and maturity in both character (c'mon...the dude's like 1,000[ish] years old, now) and portrayer (far younger than 1,000 making it a little more impressive...I suppose) that allow for some deft Asgardian humor that is intentional rather than merely situational amongst Midgardians.  

The Lord...er, God of Thunder might only be slightly more humble, but he has learned to laugh at himself even when the punchline hits him right in the gut.  The synthesis of ego and gained humility allow for a more aloof immortal who is (somewhat) more relatable to mere mortals.  Yet, he remains determined, commanding...throne worthy.

As the film opens, we get a recap of Thor's adventures through the galaxy (ies?) courtesy of some boastful reminiscing on his part.  In a cocksure feign of reluctance, he concedes his lack of success in obtaining any of the Infinity Stones.  However, he's not catching up with Jane about their time apart, or chatting up a Valkyrie over an endless tankard of beer.  No.  His attentive friend is a skeleton with whom he shares a hanging cage.  The humor in the opening scene sets the stage for what is to come...plenty of laughs throughout in the undoubtedly funniest of Thor films (& one of MCU's, too).  

Of course, director Taika Waititi makes sure to remind us that this is still a world in which there will always be battles to be fought with plenty of exhilarating action.  So, after one last chuckle at a fashionably late hammer, we are bestowed with some classic Thor wielding and soaring in a Hel-a well-executed choreography synched to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song."  Fitting in so many ways.  (Some which extend beyond film)

Speaking of Hela...Cate Blanchett (...Benjamin Button; Lord of the Rings; how does one narrow the list??).  Yes.  Just Cate Blanchett, because how does one capture the essence of a preternatural occurrence within a supernatural realm with mere mortal locution.  The challenge could be likened to preventing Ragnarok.  Alas, similarly, it has already begun.  

Blanchett makes for a magnificently mesmerizing and majestic Hela, Goddess of Death.  Ambitious, vile, violent, and exceptionally exquisite every evil instance such that she captures one's adoration, adulation, and complete devotion.  She is Thor's (lest we forget Loki's) spectacularly sinister sister.  Odin's first-born; executioner capturing the nine realms at his side.  Rightful heir to the throne?!?  Oh, let the sibling rivalry ensue.  Alas, the Goddess of Death can be as droll and sardonic as only a depraved sibling can be while unleashing sadistic brutality upon any and all.

Which brings us to Loki (whom we sorta skipped over, but Hel-o, Cate).  Of course, Tom Hiddleston (Kong: Skull Island; High-Rise) is equally enchanting; unfailingly charming in his reprisal of Loki, God of Mischief.  When Thor returns to Asgard from his rocked out Zeppelin driven defeat of Surtur, he discovers monuments and memorials to his "late" brother Loki have taken over.  Stumbling upon Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins of...really? Ok...Hannibal; The Elephant Man) feeding on grapes, he is met with a bewildering theatrical reenactment paying homage to the royal family (with Loki as the beloved hero played by none other than Matt Damon! And Thor by another Hemsworth...Luke!).  Oh, the fear in Odin's eyes when...wait a minute...Loki!  

Off to New York in search of Odin.  The laughs continue on Midgard (Earth, people.  It's frickin' Earth, OK.)  Some wizardry not at the hands of Loki, and we're off to a family reunion of sorts...Thor, Loki, Odin, Hela; courtesy of Benedict Cumberbatch's (Star Trek: Into Darkness; Sherlock) Dr. Strange and a strand of Thor's h.  Dr. Strange, it seems, has also unearthed a sense of humor.  (I look forward to more of it in his future appearances.)  Needless to say, as often happens when family gathers, all Hell[a] breaks loose.  A sibling brawl ensues that leaves one's toy (Thor's Mjölnir) destroyed by another (the bratty Hela), and results in all three (Thor, Hela & Loki) coming to blows on an astral rainbow highway straight out of MarioKart.  (Just a typical day in any multi-child household.)

As with any highway, there are going to be some wacky exits along the way.  Thor's  exit off the sparkly highway lands him in Sakaar where he can only be food...or, a contender.  As he is subdued and about to be made a meal by a gaggle of scavengers, a ship arrives and out stumbles Thor's drunk rescuer.  His hero(ine)'s intentions turn out to be less about benevolence, and more about survival.  She, 142, presents him to the Grandmaster (supreme ruler of Sakaar) and collects a generous reward for his delight in the contender that she has brought him.  Tessa Thompson (Creed; Dear White People; Westworld) is commanding as the fierce and feisty 142.

Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park; Independence Day) tickles as the fanciful, freaky, 14 million(ish) year old Grandmaster that teased us in a GoG2 Easter Egg.  (Perhaps, you're more familiar with his brother...Benicio del Toro's Collector.)  Goldblum infuses the "First Lost/First To Be Found" with his quintessential quirk.  Palatable in a rather endearing way; pushing creepy just the same.  Spared the melting stick (yes, it really is called that), Sparkles, the Lord of Thunder (as the Grandmaster has baptized him) must now enter the gladiator ring in the "Contest of Champions."

Imagine Thor's delight and Loki's mortification (yes, he's in Sakaar...arrived weeks ago) when the current (& reigning) champion is none other than a friend of Thor's from work!  It's Hulk!  More comedic territory to cover with Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me; Shutter Island) re-emerging as Hulk (and, eventually, Bruce Banner), but it's best to watch for yourself.  We'll just fast forward through the highlights…

142 turns out to be a Valkyrie (legendary Asgardian female warriors & Thor's childhood dream job).  She joins Thor and his friend Bruce (with whom she shares this feeling of familiarity as if they've met before...blah, blah) who's also the strongest Avenger, but wearing Tony Stark's Duran Duran Rio t-shirt (shout outs all over the place there).  They form "The Revengers" with Loki as a sorta member, sorta prisoner, a sorta hero (wait, what?!?), sorta not; and, start a revolution with the help of Korg (delightfully animated by none other than a playful Taika Waititi).  Out of The Devil's Anus (you heard [read] me), they soar to rescue Asgard which is a people, and not a place.  (Phew! That was a mouthful.)

The elegant Idris Elba returns (& captivates) as Heimdall.  Karl Urban joins as the imbecile Skurge.  If you've seen any of his more outstanding performances, or have had a chance to speak with him as I have...Commercial Interruption: Check out my interview with Skurge's alter ego, Karl Urban!  (Shameless cross-promotion is in my job description.)  Back to my point, his performance as the moronic, survivalist Skurge is superb as Urban is a complete contrast to his onscreen alter ego.  

Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost; based on comics by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby.  Presented by Marvel Entertainment from Marvel Studios for Walt Disney Pictures (or, something like that), tickets for Thor Ragnarok are now available.  GO!  NOW!  RUN!  Fill in the blanks for yourself!  Peace out.  Wait...I almost forgot!  There are TWO Easter Eggs!  [drop mic]

Grade: A+

 

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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes
Distributed By: Walt Disney Pictures

For more information about Thor: Ragnarok visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

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