2017, Action Movies, Action-Comedies, Adventure Movies, Alien Worlds, Aliens, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, Buddy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, ensemble casts, Fun Stuff!, Gladiators, Heroic Warriors, Idris Elba, Just Plain Fun, LL Soares Reviews, Marvel Comics, Monsters, Mythological Creatures, Mythology, Outer Space, Sorcery, Space Travel, Spaceships, Special Effects, Super Powers 0
Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
Review by L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A large gladiatorial amphitheater on the planet Sakaar. One huge, metal door opens to reveal L.L. SOARES, wearing armor and holding a mace. The audience cheers as the door on the other side of the chamber opens to reveal a huge, muscular and green…Michael Arruda?)
LS: No way. Michael, is that you?
(GREEN MICHAEL roars)
LS: I thought you looked familiar, but it can’t be you, right? Hmmm, I guess it can. I can’t believe it. When did you get belted with gamma rays? (Turns to look up at the GRANDMASTER, who is running all this). It’s a friend of mine from work. We write a movie column together. (Turns back to GREEN MICHAEL) Right, Mike?
In fact, we were supposed to be writing today’s review together, but he said he couldn’t do it.
(GREEN MICHAEL roars again)
LS: Well, I guess he was right about that.
GRANDMASTER (from on high): Enough with the chit-chat, guys, let’s get on with the show!
(Audience cheers in response, shaking the coliseum)
LS: That is one enthusiastic crowd! So, I guess I’m not getting any help here. I might as well begin this week’s review. This time, it’s THOR: RAGNAROK (2017), the latest Marvel superhero movie, and the third solo movie to star the Asgardian hero Thor! Thor is one of my favorite Avengers, but he’s had a kind of so-so track record movie-wise, previously in the simply-titled THOR (2011), and then fighting evil elves in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, in 2013. It’s been four years since that one, and we finally get a new Thor movie, and this time it’s a little more exciting. I wonder why…
(GREEN MICHAEL roars a third time and then begins to charge in LS’s direction)
LS: Well, I think it has something to do with the director this time around. His name is Taika Waititi, and he’s from New Zealand, where he made quirky, low-budget movies like EAGLE VS. SHARK (2007), the vampire comedy WHAT WE DO IN SHADOWS (2014), and the drama HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016). He’s a fun, indie director who suddenly was given the keys to the castle, as Marvel gives him a chance to direct his very own superhero blockbuster. Marvel has done this kind of thing before, like hiring James Gunn to make the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, and it seems to work out pretty well. It also gives us, the audience, a break from the more cookie-cutter aspects of the Marvel Universe. Well…to a degree.
I thought Waititi was an inspired choice, that brings a very different feel to your standard superhero franchise. The big difference is that, this time, we get a lot more humor in the mix, which translates into a lot more fun for the viewer.
We begin with Thor (Chris Hemsworth – and I’m going to dispense with identifying these actors with other roles, since we know them pretty well by now) and his evil (or is he just mischievous?) brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), going to find their long-lost Daddy, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). While they’re away, trouble is brewing, in the form of their older sister (who they knew nothing about) named Hela (Cate Blanchett), who also happens to be the Goddess of Death. Hela was in some kind of prison, to keep her from doing any damage, but now, she’s free and headed for the Norse gods’ home, Asgard.
This leads, through machinations I don’t need to go into now, to Thor and Loki being sent off to the outer reaches of space as Hela goes to find out what being Queen of Asgard is like. Thor finds himself on a planet called Sakaar, that’s one big junkyard, except for a city run by a dude named the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
GRANDMASTER (voice from above): Hey folks, this is exciting, he’s talking about me!
LS: Yes, just like you. He’s a kind of god-like being whose main passion is to be entertained, and nothing entertains him more than gladiatorial combat! So, Thor is cleaned up and sent into the arena for battle!
(GREEN MICHAEL punches LS, knocking him across the arena and into a wall, where he falls with a crash)
(LS gets up and brushes the dust off himself)
LS: Nice one, Mike! You’ve been working out!
Anyway, who should he come across on this battle planet than his own Avenger buddy, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)! Somehow, the big green guy has been in Hulk mode for two years here, even though he’s supposed to turn back into puny Bruce Banner once he stops being so angry. On this planet, either he never stops being angry, or there’s something in the atmosphere that keeps him as the Hulk. I’m going with the latter, since the Grandmaster says he is thousands of years old, but the planet keeps him young. I’m thinking Hulk’s situation is kind of similar. Not that it makes a lot of sense.
(GREEN MICHAEL roars in anger and charges at LS again)
There’s also a whiskey-swigging lady called the Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)—who has almost nothing in common with the character from the comics, except for the name, but she’s still very damn cool. The Valkyrie is also from Asgard, like Thor, but she has fallen on hard times and has turned her back on her past, content to drink like a fish and (I’m assuming) being the Hulk’s eff-buddy.
Thor also befriends some fellow gladiators, including a big guy made of rocks called Korg (a CGI character played by director Waititi), who’s kind of a laid-back surfer dude with a New Zealand accent. Not the kind of guy you’d expect to be a gladiator at all. And he’s one of those “rock guys from Saturn” who Thor fought in his very first appearance back in Journey into Mystery #83.
Anyway, Thor makes a lot of friends and brings them all back to Asgard to fight Hela and her giant pet, the Fenris wolf. Meanwhile, she’s been busy trying to wipe out the civilization with a dude named Skurge (Karl Urban) as her witness, or “sidekick.” Skurge looks an awful lot like the villain The Executioner from the Thor comics, and even becomes Hela’s executioner at some point. But in the comics, he hung out with an Asgardian seductress named the Enchantress, not Hela. Maybe Marvel wasn’t interested in bringing the Enchantress into a storyline so soon, since DC had a character of the same name (but totally different) as the villain in their recent flick SUICIDE SQUAD (2016).
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Ragnarok just means “the end of the world.”
Well for Asgard, anyway.
(Turns to face GREEN MICHAEL, who is running at him fast)
LS: Are you still with me, Mike?
(GREEN MICHAEL swings a humungous hammer and squashes LS against another wall. LS slides to the ground in a puddle, then pops back to his old self and stands up.)
LS: Good one! Hey, I’m like a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon. You can’t kill me!
(GREEN MICHAEL roars in anger)
LS: So, like I said, there’s the big showdown in Asgard, where the bridge-keeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) has been trying to hold down the fort until reinforcements could arrive.
So that’s the plot in a nutshell. Along the way we get some fun scenes with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the fire god Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown) and a (very) brief appearance by Thor’s old buddies, the Warriors Three: Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Zachary Levi) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson).
And, of course, there’s an obligatory Stan Lee cameo, which is a little more fun this time than usual.
(GREEN MICHAEL roars)
LS: What’s that you’re asking, Mike? So how is the movie?
(GREEN MICHAEL grabs LS and throws him on the ground, then proceeds to punch him over and over and over again. When he gets tired he finally stops)
LS: Are you done yet? (GREEN MICHAEL grunts and steps aside)
Anyway, like I said, this movie has a lot more humor in it that previous THOR movies. There’s always been funny stuff in Marvel movies, especially in the interaction of characters in a team situation, like the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but this movie turns that up a notch. It’s lighter and more fun that most Marvel movies, except for the parts involving Cate Blanchett as the Goddess of Death, because, well, she’s the friggin Goddess of Death, and kind of a downer.
I especially enjoyed Chris Hemsworth (who has proven himself to be a very funny guy; I even thought he was one of the funniest things in GHOSTBUSTERS, 2016); Tessa Thompson kicks ass as Valkyrie; and Taika Waititi is also pretty cool as Korg! And then there’s Jeff Goldblum, who, as the Grandmaster, is a real comic highlight here. Who doesn’t like Jeff Goldblum at this point?
(GREEN MICHAEL roars and pounds the ground)
LS: Come on! You can’t be serious!
I’m a little tired of Tom Hiddleston showing up all the time as Loki (does he have to be in every Thor movie, dammit?), but he’s okay here.
Idris Elba seems really wasted here in a thankless job as Heimdall. He’s a big actor and should have a much better role at this point. Heimdall’s kind of an underling to Thor, and Elba should be an A-list hero himself! They try to make his role important to the story, but it’s kind of forced. And while I love Cate Blanchett, and she looks great as Hela (a female villain for a change!), she’s also not given a whole lot to do that’s interesting, and the big showdown at the end is probably the most by-the-numbers and ho-hum part of the movie.
And then we get to the Hulk!
Since I’m a big Hulk fan, I’m always happy to see the green guy in a movie, and I think he has terrific chemistry with Thor in these flicks, even if it really seems to be stretching things. Hulk is all about being angry all the time, furious, violent, and in these Avengers-related movies he seems to be having fun at times, and that’s not really what Hulk does. He’s not about being happy and having fun. But I’ll take it. And he gets to talk more this time around, too.
The script by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost has its ups and downs, but mostly ups. Things tend to get a tiny bit sluggish during the more dramatic parts and the last big fight. But, overall, it’s very good. And the direction by Waititi is pretty terrific, and possibly the best thing about the movie. I love his take on the material!
And I love the score by Mark Mothersbaugh, who’s also in the band Devo and has done tons of music for movies and TV. It’s pretty playful at times, complimenting the movie well. The movie also uses some popular songs—like just about all movies do—but Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is used especially well in two key scenes. One in the beginning, and one toward the end.
Oh, and like almost all Marvel movies, there are two “Easter Egg” scenes in the end credits. One early in the credits, and then one all the way at the end. I really hate staying seated in a movie theater through ALL of the credits (which I’ve stated many times), but the scenes are both good. But I’m just not so sure they’re worth the wait.
(GREEN MICHAEL starts to get droopy eyed and snores. He suddenly transforms into puny little, well in comparison, MICHAEL ARRUDA)
LS: Michael! You’re back to your old self.
MA: Where am I? And why am I just wearing a pair of purple pants?
LS: It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later, but we have to get out here now.
GRANDMASTER (from above): Where did my green champion go? What did you do with him?
LS: We better skedaddle!
(They sneak through one of the big doorways and run through the catacombs of the battle planet)
LS: Now that you’re back to normal, you can help me review this movie.
MA: Isn’t it kind of late? You finished your review. Besides, I still need to see the movie myself.
LS: Oh, I didn’t realize. I guess you didn’t have time while you were being a gladiator on a battle planet?
LS (to audience): Well, I guess that wraps things up for now. We’ve got a daring escape to make.
In the meantime, I liked this movie a lot, and think it’s one of the all-time best Marvel movies. I give THOR: RAGNAROK ~ three and a half knives! Hell, on a good day, I’d probably give it four knives. I’m just a little tired of superhero movies at this point.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives THOR: RAGNAROK ~three and a half knives.