The three “Thor” films have always been forced to play catch-up with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The 400-Word Review - Thor: Ragnarok
By Sean Collier
November 7, 2017
With each arriving in the middle of one of the mega-franchise’s phases, the Nordic warrior is perennially the middle man in the superhero relay. The 2011 original appeared after two “Iron Man” pictures and The Incredible Hulk, tasked with continuing an earthbound story via extraterrestrial happenings. The 2013 sequel, The Dark World, arrived after Iron Man 3 had begun grappling with the existential crisis that would define the Avengers for the next three years or so, and kept that tone; unfortunately, that resulted in the least satisfying film in the series to date.
Now, though, the tone of the MCU has taken a turn towards the comedic. Sure, there was drama in Civil War, and Doctor Strange — nominally the most direct prequel to Thor: Ragnarok — was light on the laughs. But Marvel Studios quarterback Kevin Feige knew that Thor’s third adventure would arrive after Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the purest comedies yet seen in the franchise.
There was nothing else to do. They had to make Thor funny.
How do you do that? Focus more on the god’s awkward side, showing the moments without the superhero landings. Hire a director — Taika Waititi — known for charm and quirk rather than action. (The action, as in all MCU projects, sort of takes care of itself.) Introduce at a sidekick who exists at the exact middle ground between Drax and Groot (rock creature Korg, played in a mo-cap suit by Waititi himself).
Oh, and definitely hire Jeff Goldblum to ... just straight Goldblum all over the place.
And yes, there is a plot to Ragnarok, side quest though it may be: Thor and Hulk were absent from the great superhero throwdown that was Civil War, so this film exists mostly to explain where they were (dealing both with Goldblum’s character, a smarmy despot staging gladiatorial contests, and Thor and Loki’s estranged sister Hela, played by Cate Blanchett).
It’s derivative of the “Guardians” films, to be sure, and the conflict with Hela only manages to take care of some side business; as with most Marvel villains, the performance is fine but the threat is non-existent. But it’s a fun ride and we get a great new Avenger — Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie — as a nice bonus.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark