Thor Ragnarok, review by Irene Cesca for Sugarpulp Magazine. Spoiler alert for this review: mild.
I saw the latest THOR movie last Sunday with friends and I’ll admit I was expecting a lot. Comments from other friends that I had read on FB ranged from
Thor Ragnarok is the craziest supreme fucking masterpiece that I’ve ever seen at a movie theater! (Giacomo Brunoro)
Don’t bring your girlfriend to see Thor or once she sees him shirtless she will honestly wonder wether the protagonist and you are “of the same species” (Carlo Vanin)
Therefore I was hyped. And not just for the abs, I swear: I don’t even like blonds. I’m the kind of girl that always falls for the bad guys in fiction, anyways, and with regards to the THOR franchise I’ve had a crush on both Loki and Tom Hiddleston since the first movie. But I was hyped, nonetheless.
That was probably why I ended up being slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a lot of fun: great special effects and general cinematography, great costumes, good performances, and a story arc that’s not unsatisfactory, with an ending left open for the next chapter in the MCU. I left satisfied. But not as stoked as those comments I had read on FB seemed to promise.
Within the MCU (that’s “Marvel Cinematic Universe” for the uninitiated), THOR: RAGNAROK serves as a prequel for the future mash up between the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy that’s set to happen next year with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, and it definitely shows.
We’ve always known that the Avengers and the Guardians belonged to the same Universe and that this meeting would happen, sooner or later, but so far Thor has been the only Avenger to show us worlds other than our Earth, and in THOR RAGNAROK is now projecting us towards the Guardians at full speed, especially from a visual perspective.
Expect a lot of color and a strong Guardians vibe from the whole movie and don’t be surprised if it feels as though Thor himself will seem to be channeling Starlord at times. But neither the script nor the cinematography ever actually deviate towards the goofy, explosive extravaganza that’s the Guardians’ trademark, and the movie generally maintains the mood of at least its first installment. Which is mostly a good thing.
That being said…
Three things I liked
Loki (Tom Hiddleston). I did say I crush on them both, hard. Loki’s perpetual inability to choose a side and stick with it is getting a bit old, but I love how he always finds a way to weasel out of tight spots and I’m a sucker for smooth talkers, too. It might seem weird that he’s been the main antagonist twice, now, and yet he still gets to strut around and make trouble. But he’s the God of Chaos, after all, so his constant ambivalence is fitting and it also makes sense to keep having him around as a “necessary evil”. Hiddleston is a very good actor, which doesn’t hurt, either. Loki was the only thing I liked in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, and I still loved him here, therefore I hope he’ll keep sticking around for a long time.
The stellar cast. The THOR franchise certainly set the bar pretty high when they cast Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but they’ve definitely kept on par with it. Although I didn’t like his scenes, Anthony Hopkins is still a God, literally and figuratively. There’s no going wrong with Jeff Goldblum, another huge personal favorite. He’s the man for any job: give him any role and he’ll make it compelling, hilarious, and just the right amount of crazy, which incidentally was exactly what the Grandmaster needed. Great performance and great make up. Cate Blanchett also gave a great performance, as predictable, and you definitely get the feeling that she had a lot of fun with it.
Skurge (Karl Urban). He’s a secondary character but I think both the script and the actor did a great job in detailing him. Every time he’s on screen his mere facial expressions speak volumes and you definitely know what’s going through his mind, even if your not familiar with the character and he doesn’t have that many lines. His indecisiveness between doing what’s profitable and what’s right is not particularly original, but I liked how the character turned out, especially given the fact that he’s characterized very differently from Loki who, in theory, should live the same internal conflict (while in reality doesn’t give a damn about what’s right). His overall look is also rather cool.
Two things that were “meh”
The beginning. As mentioned, this movie acts as a tie-in to the Avengers meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy in the next MCU installment (assuming BLACK PANTHER will be somewhat removed from the main storyline), and yet I don’t think Thor needed to parrot Starlord so much throughout, especially in the first scene. I don’t mind starting in medias res. I don’t mind the fact that the fight looks like the level my boyfriend just cleared in GOD OF WAR. I do care that that initial monologue sounds like it was written for a completely different character.
The fanservice gags. The movie’s fine, the characterization is all right (except for the aforementioned first scene), the plot has its merits. And yet a good portion of the movie feels like a collection of individual scenes written with the intention of heavily winking at faithful audiences. Now, I don’t mind and actually love Easter eggs, but they’re enjoyable when they’re subtle and numbered, not when every other scene is basically all undertext and inside jokes, even if I get all of them. I enjoyed them all, individually (one most of all, see below), but they became a little boring strung one after the other.
One thing I didn’t like
Odin’s fate. I understand that the end result was necessary to further the plot, but I loathed the execution. The last scene from THOR: THE DARK WORLD was genius and left us wondering how Loki’s trick played out: how did he manage to get rid of Odin? Where and how was the Allfather? How would Loki fare as a Odin impersonator? Would Thor even be able to intervene? How? And how would the rest of Asgard react? It turns out that that was all irrelevant. The whole thing is brushed aside in three single scenes, a couple of gags, a guest appearance, and a puff of air. With next to none actual explanation given. Bah. Most baffling, the rest of Asgard doesn’t give a damn: they probably basically go through life expecting Loki to make trouble and feeling generally indifferent towards the end result, whatever that might be.
I know I said I didn’t enjoy the abnormal amount of inside jokes, overall. But the one scene that was definitely the best for me was Thor’s fight with Hulk in the Sakaar arena… with Loki’s reactions to it, both when Hulk is revealed as the opponent and when he smashes Thor around like a puppet. Deja-vu, much? Loki definitely seemed to think so.
At one point, the Asgardians are watching a play about Loki’s “death” in THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Blink and you’ll miss it, but that’s a pretty impressive cast on its own, with Odin being played by Sam Neill, Thor by older brother Luke Hemsworth, and Loki by Matt Damon.
Also, the Grandmaster’s misnomer for Thor is pretty basic in English (Lord instead of God of Thunder). It’s particularly hilarious in Italian, instead. The translators probably realized that the Italian word for Lord (Signore) was too long to dub effectively and went another way. Since the word for God (Dio) is extremely similar to the word for uncle (zio), Thor becomes the Uncle of Thunder in Sakaar.