A refreshing showing from Marvel, “Ragnarok” is a lovingly made, chock full of color, great performances, and above all else – laughs. If you’ve grown tired of Marvel, make an exception. Plus, Jeff Goldblum.
The Good: Color, writing, performances, and editing are all some of Marvel’s best.
Marvel has been so utterly successful for nearly a decade that it has made it rather hard to review their films. Some of them are really good, others are just OK, and a few are downright bad. But because they’re Marvel, all of the films are given “get out jail free” cards. You come to expect Marvel to Marvel, but not to be actually, literally, good.
Then along comes Thor: Ragnarok, the third and final film in Marvel’s least celebrated character trilogy. And it’s good. Like, actually good. In fact – it’s really good.
You hear this a lot about the Marvel films, to the point that it has become meaningless: they have heart. And yet, there are few better descriptors for Ragnarok than that. It is chock full of love.
The love that Director Taika Waititi has for this world, his characters, and ’80s tributes to ’50s properties is palpable. Ragnarok is Flash Gordon meets David Bowie, with Marvel Studios humor and Jack Kirby visuals all swirled together.
It’s bright and colorful, blasting the audience with palettes that evoke both fantasy and sci-fi in a unique way. The pacing is relentless, never taking too much time with any one moment, while still allowing touching character interactions.
These interactions are all thanks to top-of-the-line performances from an eclectic cast. Tessa Thompson as drunken-warrior Valkyrie steals the show in every scene she’s in, while Mark Ruffalo is finally to play around with Hulk and Banner. Cate Blanchett has terrifying gravitas as the primary villain, with Karl Urban providing excellent comedic relief along with surprising depth. Waititi himself voices several of the characters in the film, and provides some of the best lines.
This is some of Marvel’s very best work. When they shine, they really shine, and Ragnarok proves they’ve still got juice in the experiment they stated back in ’08. Ironically, a lot of what makes this movie so great is the subtle commentary on Marvel’s own films and process in the writing. The end result is a film that’s not only visually pleasing and fun (the two trademarks of Marvel), but also poignant and thoughtful about the type of stories it is now apart of.
Oh, and but certainly not least: Jeff freaking Goldblum. Just go see it. Then you’ll understand.
The Bad: For the first time ever, it’s the first act that’s the problem.
Marvel’s Achilles heel has always been the third act. Typically it is more flare than substance, drags on too long, and/or is contrived for the sake of world building.
Ragnarok is unique in that it has a well written and paced third act. The stakes are clear, it lasts just as long as it needs to, and the whole affair feels natural.
But its first act is a bit of a mess. There are major plot points from The Dark World and Age of Ultron that are – confusingly – given both too much and not enough explanation. The film doesn’t have time to set up what should have been the end of previous films, so it moves past it. Unfortunately, it ends up being a bit jarring, as well as stunting some early emotional development.
The Ugly: Ragnarok is a win for the women of Marvel
Marvel villains are generally terrible. Cate Blanchett’s Hela bucks that trend, and gives an incredibly memorable performance. She is sexy without being sexualized. She is powerful, driven, and evil, plain and simple. It’s worth seeing for her alone.
But if you’re not just in it for Cate, then Ragnarok also delivers Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, who fills a role that very rarely goes to women: the cynical drunken veteran. She’s seen it all, and knows that it’s all about surviving. Her screen time is short, but when there, Thompson is the center. This Marvel’s first major WOC (who is also bisexual, though it was cut from the film) character, and given what we’ve seen so far, they’d be smart to invest in the character’s future.
After being defeated in combat by his half-sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) ends up as an imprisoned gladiator on a distant world ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Now, he must work together with fellow Avenger the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), another combatant fighting for the Grandmaster’s pleasure, in order to escape and return to Asgard before Hela can unleash the world-ending event known as Ragnarok. Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban and Benedict Cumberbatch co-star. Directed by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi