Movie Review – “Thor: Ragnarok”

December 17, 2017 | Filed Under Reviews | No Comments

I know this isn’t my usual sort of post, but I have so many feelings about this movie, and this is my blog, so where else am I going to vent?

Note: I saw the movie in Warsaw, Poland, the week it opened in Europe. The audience didn’t laugh at the scenes that were meant to be funny, but weren’t. I saw it in the US when it opened here—and the audience laughed at those scenes. That was an interesting contrast. Make of it what you will.

Thor: Ragnarok Posters

Thor: Ragnarok Posters

Dear Mr. Feige: You don’t know me, and you probably don’t care what I have to say because I’m a just another fan, and “Thor: Ragnarok” is making all kinds of money, and that’s what matters, right? At least, that’s what matters to Marvel.

I’m writing because I love what you’ve created in the MCU: characters with depth and complex personalities, played by talented actors who love the characters as much as the fans do. I care deeply about these characters, and want only the best for them, even though the fact that they are movie characters means that “the best” involves putting them into danger and putting them through all kinds of travails and tragedies, and their coming through it in spite of everything. And that’s what matters to the fans.

I was excited about “Thor: Ragnarok” until I heard that Marvel had passed on Kenneth Branagh, and instead had hired Taika Waititi to direct. Until I heard that it was going to be a comedy, a buddy movie with Thor and Hulk—”Thor and Hulk’s Excellent Adventure: The Road to Gladiator Planet”. Because Marvel had decided not to continue the “Viking Space Opera” of the first two “Thor” movies. Which was a stupid decision—we love them because they are Viking Space Opera. Drama, angst, family secrets, tragedy—the Borson Family Drama Hour is what it’s all about. If we want bright and funny, that’s what “Guardians of the Galaxy” is for. You have a tremendously talented cast of actors with serious experience—let them act, not just run around and recite stupid lines in front of a green screen.

Nonetheless, I remained hopeful. I was willing to give Waititi and the comedy a chance. I wanted to like this movie. I was hopeful of at least a good story, despite the misgivings I felt after viewing the trailers, and the pre-release interviews with Waititi and the cast.

However, I saw the movie. And to say I’m disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

The play about Loki’s death was insulting to everyone who was moved by that scene in “Thor: The Dark World”. Making light of it, making it about Loki’s ego (“build a statue, with the helmet with really big horns”) was dumb. Loki wouldn’t write himself as such an egomaniac; if you really had to have that, make it so that Thor was offering these things to Loki as a means of atonement—”your memory will live forever, brother!” That would have at least been amusing.

The movie continually demeans, diminishes, and outright dismisses what happened in the prior movies, and that’s infuriating. While those movies weren’t perfect, the events of those movies were too important to be thrown out with such carelessness. When Loki is chatting with the ladies on Sakaar when Thor arrives, he says, “And then I let go!” and he and all of the ladies laugh. I was stunned. Loki would not turn such a thing into a joke on himself, and it was out of tune for the character, even as God of Mischiel. And, no, it was not funny.

Also: The Warriors Three. Really? At least Hogun went down fighting, but Volstagg and Fandral were dismissed without any consideration for their part in the story, and with barely thirty seconds on screen. Those two actors spent more time flying to and from Australia than they did filming their one scene. And then none of the three are ever mentioned again. We’re supposed to accept that Thor would just ignore losing three of his best friends he’s known since childhood? Oh, right, emotions are not funny, and Waititi is a comedic genius, so everything must be funny.

Hela as Odin’s oldest child is lazy writing. While I knew you wouldn’t follow myth and have her be Loki’s daughter, making her Odin’s daughter is uninteresting and displays a lack of imagination about working with powerful female characters. Why couldn’t she have been a queen in her own right, one who challenged Odin for the throne of Asgard? Who came closer than Odin would have liked to winning? Make it so that she allied with the Frost Giants (with the intent to betray them after victory, of course), and create reasonable possibility, but with just enough doubt, that she was Loki’s mother. You can negate that in a later and have her not be Loki’s mother, but that kind of suspense would have made this movie so much better than having her be just another of Odin’s failures.

Or, fine, if you really have to make Hela be Odins daughter, have her be his daughter by a woman with whom he had an affair when he was still a prince. Bor and Bestla did not deem her a suitable wife, so she was sent away with the child, and Odin married Frigga to keep his parents happy—and to get the throne. That would have been interesting. Instead, Hela is just another discarded child. Been there, done that, Marvel. That’s really the best you could do with this character?

The Sakaar piece was entirely too long. And tedious. And a bad imitation of much of what made Guardians of the Galaxy Volume I so much fun. All that the Sakaar piece accomplished was to get Valkyrie back to Asgard, and provide a convenient escape space ship for the Asgardians. Oh, right, and get Bruce Banner back to Earth. There were other ways to do those things that would have made an interesting story. Instead, we get dick jokes, references to masturbation, and a waste of Jeff Goldblum’s screentime.

Speaking of dick jokes—really, Marvel? They added nothing to the movie, and reflect a lack of understanding of your audience. We can get dick jokes in almost any current release from Hollywood. We expect more from your writers, not less.

The repeated attempts at humor with things that weren’t funny grew tiresome. Valkryie being so drunk she fell off the ramp? Not funny. Thor whining like a Dickensian orphan? Not funny. Loki being repeatedly abused? Not funny. No one laughed at these moments. Do you know why? They’re not funny.

The piece with Dr. Strange was brief and not particularly useful. Why would you include Thor’s and Strange’s exchange about destiny in the trailer, and cut it from the movie? Talk about wasting a good moment. And then there’s the bit with Loki landing with a hard thud at the end of the scene. “I’ve been falling for 30 minutes!” It’s not funny. Do you think that didn’t trigger Loki’s anxiety and PTSD about his original fall through the wormhole at the end of the first “Thor” movie? No one one laughed in the screening I attended. Do you know why? It’s not funny.

Again, Marvel, you could have done so much more with this scene if you’d bothered to use a bit of imagination. Strange is an accomplished sorcerer—instead of trapping Loki in a repeating fall, he could have used magic to move both of the brothers to a remote location and meet with both of them. A great opportunity for snark and sass between the two magic users, while Thor just wants to get answers was missed, which would have been a much more satisfying scene than the snippet of conversation between Strange and Thor, with Thor bumbling around Strange’s residence and destroying things. Not funny.

Thor’s character makes no sense, there’s no consistency. The scene on Sakaar with his hair being cut—Thor would not turn into a five year old crying “Please kind sir, do not cut my hair” like some Dickensian orphan. His anger at Loki when Loki tells the Grandmaster that they’re only brothers by adoption also makes no sense. They’ve been in all kinds of situations together over thousands of years—Thor knows Loki is playing a game, so why would he be surprised? It does a disservice to both of the brothers.

What is with Thor losing an eye? Why are you trying to push Thor into being Odin the Second? Wasn’t one of the lessons of the earlier movies that even Odin has his faults, and he acknowledges that, and wants Thor to do better? Lazy writing and a lack of imagination, again.

And then there’s Ragnarok itself. There’s no acknowledgement from Thor when Loki goes to the Vault that it’s likely Loki will not return. You know what would have been a great moment here? Thor says to Loki, “Thank you”. And Loki replies, “You’re welcome”. Stage it to echo the scene at the end of “Thor: The Dark World”, and everyone would be in tears. Parallels abound. But no, it just became “go put yourself in mortal peril because I said so, Loki”. An opportunity for a meaningful moment, lost.

You didn’t have to completely destroy Asgard, just to make a feeble attempt at a joke. When Korg said, “Oh, there go the foundations”, no one laughed. It was not a moment for humor. Far better to have let the Asgardians stay and start over from nothing—there’s so much you could have done with that. Or, even borrow from myth, and have them find Tafl pieces in the grass. However, if it was necessary to destroy Asgard to set the stage for the next movies, okay fine, if you must. Otherwise, you simply chose to blow everything to pieces because Waititi is a comedy director and just had to put in that line, at a moment that should have been completely silent for dramatic effect. But, no, everything must be funny. These people have just watched their home destroyed—that is not funny.

Waititi, Mr. “Everything Is Funny Even If It’s Not”—who, by the way, cast himself as the character who delivers the gratuitous and not-funny lines. What is with that particular bit of ego indulgence? There was no actor anywhere who could have done this part? Oh, right, it’s Waititi’s party on Marvel’s dime, and we should be content with whatever puerile crap he decides to put on the screen. It’s like a parent indulging their not-particularly bright child in order to get them to just finish the task. “Sure, Taika, you can play that character! Anything to get you to finish the damn movie!” A lack of adult supervision is obvious throughout the film, and in this particular instance, was painfully obvious—with painful results.

And yes, Waititi was a terrible choice for director. The comedy isn’t particularly good, and the dramatic moments were too few and too brief. At least Odin said farewell and made some kind of peace with both of his sons, but why was that minimized to the point of “blink and you’ll miss it?” Yes, you should have hired Branagh. That Waititi was hired because you didn’t want a “Viking Space Opera” was exactly the reason you should have hired Branagh—the Thor series is Viking Space Opera, and you needed a director who could manage a story on a grand scale with real characters, not dick jokes and gratuitious, failed attempts at humor.

Also, omitting any mention of Bruce after the battle was bad continuity. Everyone knew what risk he had taken to save the people of Asgard, and he’s still in Hulk form in the last scene. And no one says a word about it. Really? And please don’t say it’s because the movie was too long—we’re fans, we would be happy to have a 2.5 hour movie if it were good.

The order of the end credits scene should have been reversed. Fine, let Waititi get his last stupid joke in, with the Grandmaster trying to bluff his way out of being eaten. And then finish with Loki and Thor staring up at Thanos’ ship, realizing that no, not everything is going to be fine. That would have been the cliffhanger ending we’d expect from a good movie.

I’m deeply disappointed, Mr. Feige. This could have been a great story, a satisfying conclusion to the Asgard arc in the MCU, but no. We instead have a 12-year-old boy’s idea of what’s funny, gratuitious explosions, and a rushed, unsatisfactory ending.

Except, of course, it’s making lots of money—and that’s all that’s necessary for it be a satisfactory ending for Marvel.

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