I’ve somewhat given up my resistance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As long as Disney continues to pump money into the veins of these cash cows we’ll continue to get handsomely produced, wholly empty popcorn fare. I’m not sure why I ever expected to see anything outside of the formula that has turned the MCU into a billion-dollar behemoth. So, this year I vowed to give these films a chance, to try and watch them without my preconceived prejudice that years of this shit had begun to calcify on my brain. And you know what? The MCU has largely delivered this year. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 was an enjoyable romp with my space-faring friends while Spider-Man: Homecoming delivered a nearly exceptional homage to the best works of John Hughes and blew some stuff up to.
Now we have Thor: Ragnarok – which according to the internet is the third (!!) Thor film in the MCU. Having seen both Avengers films and knowing the other Thor movies existed I figured I could dive right into the God of Thunder’s timeline and see what he was up to. It turns out that’s basically true as most of the lore is covered in quick, harmless exposition between jokes and action set pieces. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – even being ya know, a God – is basically Indiana Jones now. Cracking wise to save Asgard never looked so good.
Ragnarok sort of has a story. Thor is in space with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and they have to stop their evil sister Hela (Cate Blanchett – chomping hard on the scenery) – the Goddess of Death – from taking over Asgard and in turn the galaxy. Along the way Thor gets captured by Jeff Goldblum and Tessa Thompson and has to fight The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo.) After a while he teams up with Thompson and Hulk to create a 48 Hours-style team to beat Hela because she’s…hella tough. Oh, Idris Elba is in this too which is cool.
The best part about Thor: RumpleMinze is Director Taika Waititi knows that he is the faintest whiff away from Flash Gordon territory and absolutely embraces it. Working from a very sharp script from Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle – Waititi piles on the laugh lines, often stepping on jokes because another is teed up right behind it. He taps into the very natural and charming timing of super hunk Chris Hemsworth to deliver the best version of Thor onscreen yet.
It would be easy to say Waititi has taken a page from James Gunn and the Guardians playbook but that would actually be doing Thor: Rumpelstiltskin a disservice. The comedy here comes swiftly but is almost never irreverent instead serving the story in some unexpected and hysterical ways. Hemsworth has a true gift for physical comedy and it’s used multiple times to perfection.
Waititi does take a bit of Gunn’s bright and cheerful color palette but again it works to liven up what’s been a very self-serious, dour lead up for these Gods and their deity problems. These films don’t have to matter but if we are going to get 37 a year at least make them fun. I sat in a theater for 2-hours, I still don’t know what a Ragnarok is but Thor and Hulk said some silly stuff and Cate Blanchett had cool antlers – I’m not sure I could ask for much more.