Thor, what is it good for?
As many long time readers will know, I have long ceased looking forward to Marvel movies, let alone caring whether I see them at all or not. If you've seen one, most likely you've seen them all. A couple years ago I stopped bothering to see them in theaters altogether and felt perfectly content about that decision. However, since I married a man who happened to be quite fond of Marvel, those days of pretending these vanilla superhero movies don't exist are most likely over (even though he assured me several times that I didn't have to go with him, I decided to be a dutiful wife and movie critic anyway.) So here I am. Writing a full Marvel review for the first time in years for Thor Ragnorak.
The first two Thor movies were pretty forgettable, so no one really had any reason to be excited about this film before it started production. But two choices Marvel made with this film did make me slightly more potentially optimistic: one being the decision to hire Taika Waititi as director, whose work with What We Do in the Shadows I loved; and two, casting the always phenomenal Cate Blanchett as the film's villain. After seeing the film, both decisions paid off enormously in what was, to me, the most palatable Marvel film in years.
Thor Ragnorak reunites us with the avenger Thor (Chris Hemsworth,) whose father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) tells him and his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) of a long lost evil sister they never knew they had named Hela (Cate Blanchett.) Oden knows his time is short, and once he dies Hela will be unleashed and seek the throne of Asgard. Thor and Loki try to stop her, but are thwarted and find themselves on another planet. Thor ends up a prisoner to a Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who forces gladiator matches against God-like opponents. There Thor discovers an unlikely ally who might be able to help him escape and defeat Hela for good.
Now, don't get me wrong, a lot of the same problems are here from other Marvel films, but for some reason, Thor Ragnorak just doesn't feel as derivative. It feels more fresh and new. Yes, it's trying to be Guardians of the Galaxy, but it actually works better here. I credit that to Waititi, but still some of the same Marvel schtick can't help but get in the way. The humor in its setups is still usually pretty obvious as I could always guess the punchline, consequently I think I only laughed once. Also, the characters' actions usually didn't seem true to themselves, as they were used just for punchlines, so not a lot of the humor felt genuine. As for the action, there's nothing new here that you haven't seen before, but the final third was fun.
As far as being the third entry in a trilogy, it certainly didn't feel very connected to the other two films. While it's good this one stands out more than its bland predecessors, it feels like a complete separate entity from them tone wise and also by completely forgetting the characters who played a major role in the other films. It's a little disingenuous to write off Natalie Portman's Jane with a throwaway "we broke up" line, when he was pledging his undying love for in just the previous entry. But the writers are hoping you won't notice with the addition of Cate Blanchett's fabulous (if underwritten) villain, new love interest Tessa Thompson as a hardened female warrior, and Jeff Goldblum's nutty Grandmaster (and for most people, it will work.) Marvel is really only concerned with connecting with the big picture anyway, as they shove in a couple of Extended Universe cameos that definitely induced an eye roll or two.
Thor Ragnorak is easily the best Marvel movie to come out this year, and in some time. It wasn't a necessary film by any means, but at this point, what Marvel movie is? So luckily this one benefits greatly from Taika Waititi, who breathes some fresh air into the franchise even if he can't avoid all of the same Marvel stumbling blocks. RATING: 7/10