November 2, 2017

CINEMA | 'Thor: Ragnarok' Conjures the God of Laughs

"Asgard is not a place. It's a people."
Chris Hemsworth Tessa Thompson Taika Waititi | Marvel Studios | Thor: Ragnarok

New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi basically resets the largely forgettable Thor franchise, jettisoning most of its notable supporting cast, as a more theatrical series of buddy comedy set pieces all still firmly set within the framework of Marvel Studios' massive filmmaking machine. In Thor: Ragnarok, a livelier than ever Chris Hemsworth unleashes his full comedy prowess and is flat-out hilarious as the film is wholly centred on his demigod character charms.

Hemsworth's comic timing and chemistry with others is near flawless as he continues to demonstrate an effortless ease in his deadpan delivery of one-liners and punchlines. Tom Hiddleston as Loki feels a bit shafted after being so inconsistent in his villainous motivations from film-to-film. Cate Blanchett is the diabolic goddess of death but doesn't get much to do. While a goddess herself, her scattered scenes are mostly rushed and isolated to conventional (and retconned) destructive motivations that are far less fun than the hijinks Thor and his buddies get into.

A totally out there Jeff Goldblum and his inspired improvisation of crazy dialogue as a the Grandmaster of a trash dump of a planet, Sakaar, leads a gladiator style tournament. Tessa Thompson is particularly welcome addition as a bad ass Asgardian warrior while Mark Ruffalo comes in with a strange Earthy presence amidst the inter-dimensional mess. There's a surprising amount of Hulk and just enough Bruce Banner to make the film a fun mishmash of the usual Marvel elements.

Mark Ruffalo Taika Waititi | Marvel Studios | Thor: Ragnarok

One of the more memorable new characters is played by Waititi himself as Korg, a sweetly gentle CGI motion-capture rock monster (not unlike the Thing), that is amusingly soft-spoken and charming. The talented cast is filled out with just enough of Karl UrbanAnthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba to round out things verging on the edge of being overstuffed in addition to a plethora of fun but unnecessary cameos and appearances by some familiar faces.

Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, the magical plot of retconned myths and legends is largely non-sensical as to pack in as much Marvel movie madness as possible. The grim destruction of Asgard by Blanchett is not nearly as entertaining as the buddy comedy parts involving Loki, Hulk, Valkyrie, and the Grandmaster. Somehow, Waititi makes it come together despite the usual CGI mess of destruction that ends every one of these films.

Thor: Ragnarok's highlights are full of Waititi's idiosyncratic filmmaking ticks and less of the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula. The movie only really works because it's so broad and silly with brightly colourful aesthetics and incomprehensible god battle action grounded by Hemsworth's mighty comic performance. Even it's half-baked exploration of colonialism, refugees, and war cannot sink the good times. This film finally makes the silliest superhero also the funniest and most fun of the bunch.

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