Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok has a great deal in common with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Both are comedic, nostalgia driven 80's superhero movies set in the cosmos that lean heavily on music to carry their tone. But while I certainly enjoyed Ragnarok, I didn't love it the same way I loved Guardians. In fact, Ragnarok is currently my least favorite live-action American superhero movie of 2017, which means it's nothing more than a wholly enjoyable comedy/adventure movie that corrects numerous flaws with its predecessors while opening exciting possibilities for the franchise's future.

And here I'd hoped for so much more.

Okay, so obviously the bar's been set pretty high. Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians 2, and Logan were all excellent - we've been spoiled. Fortunately, Justice League is right around the corner, and it's almost guaranteed to correct the curve. But until then, the competition is steep, and - for me, at least - this one didn't quite measure up.

I say that despite finding it consistently funny and entertaining, with great characters and some phenomenal fight sequences. There are numerous fantastic moments and pieces in this. But with one exception, I just didn't feel those parts coalesce into anything more. There wasn't much to the larger story, and the tone - while fun - never gripped me or pulled me in.

Doctor Strange's role (that shouldn't be a spoiler unless you missed the stinger at the end of his solo movie) is a perfect example. It was a great scene that allowed Strange to feel as bizarre as he does in the comics - I'm glad it was in the movie. But that doesn't mean it needed to be there - you could cut him entirely, without it impacting the story. The scene doesn't integrate or build off the themes in a meaningful way.

Strange isn't alone - most of the movie unfolds as a series of mini-adventures. The Hulk/Thor gladiator fight is wonderful, but there's not really much logic behind it. Hulk is funny, and they do offer some intriguing exploration of his childlike mentality and emotional problems, but there's not much in the way of development. Likewise, Valkyrie is a wonderful addition to the team and universe, but her turnabout on whether she'll help Thor feels far more dependent on the movie deciding to move on than on her personal story.

To the movie's credit, all that is reminiscent of comics. Ragnarok, perhaps more so than any Marvel movie before it, recreates the experience of tearing through a small pile of issues. I just wish those issues had been a tad more substantive.

I promised one exception - that's Odin and his relationship with Thor and (to a lesser extent) Loki. The scenes built around the Allfather come closer than anything else to tying the movie together. There's something enticing here - I wish it permeated the rest of the movie a little deeper.

Ragnarok felt more like a big-screen version of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes than an installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Keep in mind, Earth's Mightiest Heroes was the good Avengers animated series, so that's not exactly a bad thing. This is light, ridiculous fare; popcorn entertainment. There's nothing wrong with that: I just found myself wishing there was something more. Either something more developed structurally, more artistically satisfying, more emotionally impacting... take your pick.

Your mileage will likely vary. This one was better received than Guardians 2 (or pretty much anything else). And it deserves to be praised - it is really, really good. But, in my opinion at least, it doesn't quite live up to Marvel's other offerings this year.

No comments: