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Three Views: Thor: Ragnarok

November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Review By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo adventure for the God of Thunder and the first in the series to be directed by Taika Watiti, who brings a sense of playfulness and levity to the Marvel franchise.

This time around, Thor has to battle the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who has come to take over Asgard and summon an apocalypse known as Ragnarok.  But along the way, Thor gets kidnapped by the warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who brings him to an affluent planet where a wizardly Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) stages gladiator battles for entertainment, with his main attraction being the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Thor’s mischievous adopted brother Loki (Tom Huddleston) is also back to cause trouble, but this ragtag group has to find ways to work together if they want to save Asgard.

Taika Watiti, the New Zealand filmmaker best known for the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and the really wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople, brings his own unique brand of quirky and offbeat humour to Thor: Ragnarok.  This helps to distinguish it from the rest of the series, and the film has a much looser and shaggier feel than anything else Marvel has put out.  It’s not concerned with having an intricate or complicated plot, instead opting to tell a relatively simple story in favour of just allowing us to hang out with these characters for a couple of hours, which turns out to be a fine thing.

As usual, Chris Hemsworth seems to be having a blast in the leading role, once again sharing great chemistry in his scenes with Tom Hiddleston.  The rest of the cast, both old and new, does solid work as well.  Jeff Goldblum seems to delight in getting to chew up the scenery, and Tessa Thompson is a kickass addition to the ensemble, bringing a level of gleeful abandon to her character who just doesn’t give a crap.  The brightly coloured production of the alien worlds provide plenty of eye candy, and the vibrant costumes are equally visually arresting.  Mark Mothersbaugh’s electronic musical score keeps the action moving right along, and gives the film a nice retrofuturistic feel.

The film does feel a bit bloated at 130 minutes, and it also lacks much of the genuine emotion that made the Guardians of the Galaxy films work so well, despite being cut from similar cloth.  I also missed the presence of Natalie Portman, who was a high point of the first two films as a scientist and Thor’s human love interest, and there is merely a brief line here to explain her character’s absence.  But the tone of Thor: Ragnarok is kept so breezy and light that it’s hard to really mind these slight shortcomings.

This is a purely entertaining entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that mainly just sets out to have a good time, and mostly delivers on that promise.  It’s a lot of fun, and often very funny as well, which in the capable hands of Taika Waititi proves to be a winning combination.

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok Review By Erin Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Thor: Ragnarok opens with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) talking, seemingly to the camera, about what he has been up to and how he got in his current predicament – which happens to be chained up in a cage with a skeleton on a wasteland of a planet.  On this planet he meets Surtur (Clancy Brown) which leads to the opening battle.  After Thor wins and escapes, he heads back to Asgard where he finds everyone watching theatre plays exalting Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as they are still under Loki-as-Odin’s rule.

Thor quickly puts a stop to this and takes Loki to Earth to find the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins) where they are found by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), warned of Hela’s (Cate Blanchett) coming, and after a first interaction with her, find themselves stranded on the planet Sakaar, where lost things of the universe end up.  This planet is run by a strange overlord called The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who runs gladiator fights with fighters captured for him by a scrapper/Valkyrie in exile (Tessa Thompson).  When Thor is captured, as we see in the trailers, he finds himself pitted against the Grandmaster’s prized fighter – The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

By this point all of the new characters are basically set up and the plot continues in a fairly linear direction as a team is assembled to try to get back to Asgard to stop Hela before she ignites Ragnarok – which we learn is the destruction of Asgard.

Thor: Ragnarok is an incredibly entertaining instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, directed adeptly by Taika Watiti (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), with the right mix of action, humour, and character interaction.  It plays better than Thor: The Dark World in my book, with a more even tone throughout.  The new characters are well-played and fun to watch, and of course the old favourites (Thor, Loki) deliver exactly what you want and expect.  On the technical side of things, the special effects are well done as we’ve come to expect, and the costume design (as we saw at Fan Expo in Toronto) is exquisite.  The 3D did ghost a bit for me at times, but it may have also been my position in the theatre.

Overall, the easiest thing to say is that this is a good blockbuster that will be sure to do well as we head into the November-December season, at least until the new Star Wars takes over the screens.  And I can’t say it would be a surprise, because Thor: Ragnarok is solid entertainment.

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok Review By Tony Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Thor: Ragnarok begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) tied up with the flaming demon Surtur who threatens the destruction of Asgard known in Norse mythology as Ragnarok. This scene sets the tone for the whole film which cleverly combines several comic book storylines to advance the Marvel universe to the next level while never taking itself too seriously. Thor smiles confidently throughout as he encounters the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) who will destroy Asgard, is kidnapped by the last Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and taken to a planet run by the hedonistic Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) where he must do gladiatorial battle with The Hulk (Marc Ruffalo) before things start to go his way.

The delightful combination of serious Marvel action scenes with humour is largely thanks to the director Taika Waititi who allowed the brilliant cast to improvise much of the dialogue in often absurd comedic sketch style. He joins in the fun as the stone-clad gladiator wrangler Korg whose back woods New Zealand accent gets big laughs especially from the folks down under. The climactic final battle on the Asgard bridge has the added bonus of Robert Plant’s screaming voice in the score.

In a seemingly endless series of Marvel sequels, Thor: Ragnarok is one of the best, and much more than an obligation for serious fans. Casual viewers like me who would never be seen with a comic book will also find it really enjoyable.

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Consensus: With a solid cast who all seem to be having a blast, and plenty of humour thanks to director Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok is a very entertaining entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is a lot of fun to watch. ★★★½ (out of 4)

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