Movie Review: Thor Ragnorak
Marvel Movies are spinning their whole franchise around – Whereas Guardians of the Galaxy was an experiment which became a runaway hit and Deadpool was a cheekier take with the same strategy of being goofey to the core, I never thought Marvel would make this their main weapon in their movie arsenal. Yes. I am talking about mindlessly insanely hilarious movies and Thor Ragnorak just takes the cake. This is the third outing for our Asgardian God of Thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth – and boy, is it fun and totally zany.
In fact, I am betting that Thor Raganorak may be way too much fun than it deserves to be, knowing it’s a superhero movie and all that – But hey, that may not be a bad thing at all. Coming on the heels of some super-cool ‘funny’ superhero movies in Spiderman: Homecoming and the Guardians second outing, Marvel this time gives its mantle to little known New Zealand director Taika Waititi who does a fine job indeed, of rolling the legacy forwards and in a brand new direction.
So yeah, no doubt about it! Thor Ragnorak is a barrel load of fun, full of campy humor with its classic moments of superhero lore plugged in, about saving Asgard from the prophesied apocalypse or the end of days at Asgard known as Ragnorak. I was very curious about the Marvel movie take on this tale of destruction of the Norse Gods’ realm and by spinning things on its head through the use of liberal does of kooky humor, I think the audience expecting a heavy-handed dark tale of destruction, come out as really happy campers, grinning from ear to ear about the smack-me-in-head ribald banter between Thor and Hulk or the smart-alec quips between Thor and his brother, Loki or the action set pieces with the candy flash lights exploding in the background.
So the story-line, as is with most superhero movies, is linear and abjectly simple. Thor has to save his homeland Asgard from the prophesied destruction and also, from the goddess of death, Hela – incidentally a sister he didn’t know had and whose powers (go CGI!) make Thor’s antics look like a school-boy’s mischievous harmless prank. But Thor, trying to band up with his brother Loki, (Hello! back from the dead) gets lost in the vast universe and lands up in the junkyard planet of Sakaar, captured by a hard-drinking and hardly-fighting Valkyrie and gets delivered as ‘gladiatorial entertainment’ to the ‘Grandmaster’. [Jeff Goldblum who plays a cheesy '70's style gangster head who loves to entertain crowds! Very effective I must say.] Note, these are all familiar characters in the Thor side of the Marvel comics. Within the arena, answering to a raucous wild cheering crowd screaming the name of the champion of champions, is the incredible Hulk. And things get super interesting as Hulk and Thor get together and plot to escape from Sakaar back to Asgard and prevent the Ragnorak.
Now Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the Thunder-God has always been funny and light-hearted. He carries this one – with the same unassuming flair that makes him such a great actor – especially with that blissful comic timing. But this time, there is a much more lasting shift in his characterization: We know he is going to remain like this. Spouting inane lines, goofy expressions and a bit awkward and kooky. I have felt that compared to the rest of the Avengers, Thor’s story stood way apart – what with him being a God, blessed with a trickster of a silver-tongued God of a brother who repeatedly ‘backstabs’ him in a nab for power. And it’s not just the setting of the Universe traversed by Bifrost but even the monsters and characters are weird, original and sometimes crackerjack funny. Take Korg, for example. The hero who is just a pile of rock – voiced to perfection by the director Waititi himself, this character leaves you in splits every time he comes on screen with his ill-timed self-deprecating comments. And hell, the story doesn’t happen in downtown Manhattan – so no suits, no Tony Stark-ishness. Loki aka Tom Hiddleston is back with his impeccably logical reasoning for just about anything, bending everything to his liking and ulterior motives. Cate Blanchett plays the Goddess of death, Hela – with her menacing sneer dripping evil and her deadpan black humour, she is a pleasure to watch. But the surprise element here, (In fact, there are two!) are Hulk and his alter ego, Bruce Banner – Mark Ruffalo is in crackling form with his rib-tickling lines and clumsy actions. In fact, this outing as Hulk, the strongest avenger gets to mouth the maximum number of lines and they are all doled out with childish impishness and in sulking anger as is vintage Hulk.
A new “hero” introduction happens – Tessa Thompson as the Valkyrie who loves to do nothing but drink hard and fight hard. One who finally finds her sense of purpose in being a part of this crack small team put together by Thor, called Revengers, going back to Asgard to fight Hela who has killed her entire Valkyrie family. Well, I thought she was competent enough but does nothing more interesting than stand around to make Chris’ character spout silly lines and look goofy – and swagger sexily to the tunes of battle rock songs.
Heavily led on by the sensibilities and cleverness of director Waititi, visible in most frames, the movie takes itself pretty light as well. That balance between heart and humour is tilted in this movie and we scream our agreement as we watch Thor and Hulk go at each other hammer and tongs, literally. Waititi happily reimagines the genre’s gene-codes and uncorks what turns out to be a fizzy rollerball of comic superhero gala-time. It does appear to be a comic goofball of a movie but all is redeemed as you watch Thor shoot through the sky, lightning crackling all around him as he wrecks havoc through the evil army to the rocking trippy tunes of Led Zep’s immigrant song. We want more of this avatar of Thor.