Thor: Ragnarok Review

"Thor: Ragnarok is like Flash Gordon on crack, breathing new life and energy into a stale franchise"
By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

Of all the Marvel films that have come out since they began dominating the box office with 2008's Iron Man, the Thor films have always been my least favorite, next to Doctor Strange. While I can appreciate what Kenneth Brannagh brought to the table by directing the first one, it still wasn't enough for me to really get excited about. Don't get me wrong, I love the cast: Hemsworth is spot-on brilliant casting and Tom Hiddleston is arguably one of best Marvel villains ever to grace the screen, if not the most entertaining. I just never have been a fan of the character or the mythology, which is probably why I could never get into franchises such as Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.

Like most people, I still saw the first two entries. I enjoyed the first one enough to actually make the effort to watch the second, but I just didn't like it at all. I'm sure on paper the idea of hiring someone who directed a bunch of Game of Thrones episode sounded great, but if the films reception is any indication, that decision was a bad one, at least from a fanboy perspective, because ultimately it still made a ton of money for Marvel. But again, based on that films reception, they knew they had to make a drastic change to the Thor franchise if they wanted to keep us from getting bored. Enter Taika Waititi, a New Zealand filmmaker and comedian, most famously known for the hilarious and brilliant What We Do In The Shadows. All I can say is that Waititi on board completely and totally changed everything that was wrong with Thor, and breathed new life into a stale franchise. And not just within the Thor universe, but for me personally, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has just felt more of the same as of late. Wonder Woman was what the superhero franchise in general needed, and Thor: Ragnarok was what Marvel needed to spice things up.

Of all the choices that were ideal for bringing a new fresh spin to the Thor films, Taika Waititi would  seem the most unlikely one. Having only directed less than a handful of films, all comedies or drama, nothing suggested that he could handle something so big, much less a Marvel film full of CGI. Yet, miraculously, he did just that. In fact, he did a far better job than most directors who have been working in CGI for years. I'll admit, when the trailers began rolling out, I was a bit turned off by the excessive CGI, where most of it looked terrible. Yet when I saw the film, it was leaps and bounds better. I can only assume that from the time between the trailers and the release date, they did a significant amount of polishing to them. Sure it's still unmistakably CGI for a good 90% of the film, but Waititi knew how to composite it in a much more realistic way; meaning he had a grasp of perspective, making things in the background realistically blurry as they would be. That's something that always drives me crazy with these movies. With all their talent and money, directors rarely ever take into consideration that not everything in the background should be crystal clear as the image in the foreground. It's a pet peeve and it drives me nuts.

Taiki Waititi did a phenomenal job on the visual tone of the film. Right from the first trailers, you knew you were in for something radically different in the best possible way. It's a retro-infused hyperspace odyssey full of bright colors, and a pleasantly refreshing fun atmosphere that literally had me smiling and laughing from start to finish. Of all the many great qualities this film possesses, one of it's greatest strengths is that it's genuinely hilarious, something that might have thrown most of us off at first, but once that initial shock wears off, you realize that you hadn't laughed so hard and so consistently in a very long time. I know I certainly haven't. And I think most people will be surprised to learn that Chris Hemsworth is a legitimately funny guy. His comic timing is impeccable, almost effortless. Who knew!? Apparently Waititi did and utilized that to it's full effect, making for a much more fun and entertaining flick all around.

The cast is ace, with Cate Blanchett never looking hotter, Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are legit hilarious, and even Mark Ruffalo gets in some solid laughs. But the real standout is hands-down Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. Goldblum is clearly having a blast, chewing up the scenery every second he's on screen, really digging deep into his Jewish roots and delivering a hilariously subtle performance that only he could deliver. He literally steals the show.

You might be surprised to learn that despite the frequent marketing, the actual arena fight between Thor and Hulk is just a very small moment in a very large film. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that the trailers really don't do the film justice at all. Yea it shows us the direction it's headed and how different it is compared to the previous films, but it doesn't really capture just how great this film is. And honestly, I'm not even really sure if they could. Of course they show us all of the action, and the one fight between Hulk and Thor, but there's so much more going on, most of which are in the smaller subtle moments that can't translate well in a 2 minute trailer. So I understand.

If I had a single complaint, it would be the score by Mark Mothersbaugh. If you noticed in the trailers, they threw a very strong synth score at us in keeping with the whole retro theme going on, and it was amazing. Yet in the actual film, it's very minimal, only really coming into play in the second half of the film. But even then, it's still very minimal as it's mixed with a standard orchestra. It's like Mothersbaugh, or whoever was in charge of these decisions, were still trying to play it safe by not straying too far into that area, which is a bummer really because when the synth score did hit, it was awesome. It just could have been more. It would have made it stronger in my opinion.

Thor: Ragnarok and the Flash Gordon-On-Crack aesthetic had my eyes glued to the screen in glee. I really felt like a little kid watching this one. It reminded me of the type of superhero film they used to make decades ago, where they were actually fun, colorful and full of creative energy. With the exception of just a few in the last 10 years, you really can't say that anymore about these. But they're trying hard to fix that I think. Wonder Woman was a big slap in the face to studios, and this one did so phenomenally well right out of the gate that you can bet Marvel is going to start figuring out how to sort of steer in this direction in the future. Hell, even the new Black Panther coming out looks like a pleasant departure from Marvel's usual fare. If Thor: Ragnarok did anything, it was proving that Marvel, and possibly the superhero franchise in general, is heading in the right direction.

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