Review: 'Thor: Ragnarok'
If you’re like most of humanity and you haven’t spent your life obsessing over comic books, you probably can’t help but see the premise of the "Thor" movies as ridiculous. Given that the series and its "Avengers" tie-ins revolve around a millennia-long family feud between viking gods (who are actually just magic aliens who don’t believe in haircuts), you probably have a point there. The series, with its flying lightning hammers and rainbow-powered public transit, is arguably the most bizarre in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that arsenal includes a sentient raccoon and his friend, the walking, talking catchphrase tree.
While wittily acknowledging its own absurdity has always been one of the "Thor" movies' greatest strengths, the director of "Thor: Ragnarok," Taika Waititi—a man who by all accounts is pretty ridiculous himself—decided to embrace the weirdness even further by pushing the action film into an all-out comedy. He claimed in an MTV interview before the movie came out that he and the cast improvised about 80 percent of the film, a statistic I doubted until I actually watched it and saw firsthand how often the actors seemed just as surprised and amused by what they were saying as the audience was.
According to Waititi, his style of directing is standing “right next to the camera and yelling words at people, like ‘say this, say this! Say it this way!’” Based on the dialogue in "Thor: Ragnarok," not only do I wish a lot more movies were directed this way, but I would also be interested in watching a feature-length film made up of nothing but clips of Waititi “yelling words” at people swinging styrofoam sci-fi weapons around in front of a green screen.
The actual movie, the one starring Chris Hemsworth, starts slowly introducing its characters, setting up its conflict and enduring what I’m pretty sure was a Marvel-mandated extended cameo from the most annoying hero in the franchise. But once the introduction ends, "Ragnarok" hits its stride, and it doesn’t stop hitting that stride until you’ve laughed yourself hoarse and the credits are running two hours later.
The overarching plot of "Ragnarok" is just the kind of Asgardian soap opera fans have come to expect from "Thor" content. The diverging details are really just an excuse for Cate Blanchett to play the most classically maniacal supervillain I’ve seen in any Marvel movie so far (Hela, the goddess of death, evil monologues and awesome hair). The heart of the movie, however, is the group of four “Revengers” (Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and the Hulk) who together escape from Jeff Goldblum’s fantastically colorful gladiator dimension, having many hilarious interactions and touching character moments on their way to save the universe from Thor’s family drama. Which I think is about the fourth time the universe has had to be saved from Thor’s family drama. The Asgardian royal family has a worse track record than the Skywalkers.
Familial crises aside, "Thor: Ragnarok" may not have the most original plot in the nine realms, but it does have an awesome aesthetic, fun-filled fight scenes, a hilarious cast of characters and a director who clearly knows his way around a good comedy, which, in the end, is all one could really want in a cinematic adaptation of a comic book about everyone’s favorite blond bodybuilder and his flying hammer.