Thor: Ragnarok a Hulking, Noisy, Norse Oblivion

Movie Review — Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel Studios’ latest product feels like industrial birthday cake as it overcooks A-list talent and coats the formulaic boredom in green-screen icing

Thor: Ragnarok

1.5/5

Directed by: Taika Waititi Cohen

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi Cohen

Running time: 2hrs 10 mins

Rating: PG-13

By Katherine Monk

If you ever doubted in the God of Thunder, Thor: Ragnarok will pummel you into a state of complete surrender. Not out of faith, but sheer fatigue.

Loud, chaotic and packed with spontaneous bursts of sizzling flash, this latest addition to Marvel Studios’ inventory of superhero product is a stormy mess that ultimately leaves you feeling soggy, and just a little out of sorts.

Given that Taika Waititi Cohen’s film promises the Norse version of Armageddon, the sense of absolute depletion makes sense. I just assumed it would be a lot more fun than this repeated assault on the frontal cortex that defies the very essence of entertainment.

Nothing in Ragnarok really works — not even the dependable sibling rivalry between divine brothers Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), previously the cornerstone of the Thor franchise and one of the most bankable components in the Avengers mix.

They are here — looking and acting like they should with their handsome smirks and who’s-got-the-bigger-superpower banter— but there’s an undeniable absence of the broader picture, a larger framework to give this parade of special effects any shape or meaning, which in the context of “Ragnarok” seems unforgivable at worst, and lazy at best.

Ragnarok is the Norse time of divine atonement — the twilight of the Gods heralded by natural disasters, cataclysmic floods and the appearance of large serpents. According to myth, it’s when Odin, Thor and other gods perished, pushed aside for the rebirth of man and the very planet humans call home.

Ragnarok is a timely theme, and when you consider it’s accompanied by the emergence of Thor and Loki’s female sibling Hela, The Goddess of Death, this new movie should have approached Shakespearean tragedy by recycling ancient myth.

Throw in the inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, and you’ve got a shot at addressing real world concerns about refugees through a pop culture lens.

Instead, we get empty spectacle and a droning soundtrack that turns the whole exercise into a deafening blur of computer-generated effects and art deco adornments. Previously, the technicolored landscapes of Thor’s celestial home of Asgard felt like a psychedelic dream. We could believe in the details of its otherworldliness because solid actors such as Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba walked under its shimmering domes, lending the green screen effects emotional credence.

Thor Ragnarok

Are we still here? Thor: Ragnarok feels like it was shot in one room, laying waste to Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s talents.

If the only way to Asgard was through a rainbow wormhole controlled by a giant sword, we bought into it because the rules were consistent. The same went for superhero powers and their limitations.

Thor Ragnarok violates all these internal rules from the moment the film opens with a showdown between a volcanic monster and a captive Thor. Thor’s ability to summon his friendly hammer is hampered. One minute, he’s all powerful. The next, he’s being knocked unconscious. He’s a Norse god behaving like an old neon tube — sputtering, unable to hold a charge, and feeling a little out of date.

Director Taika Waititi Cohen and the screenwriters never explain this random loss of power. They barely assemble a coherent plot. All we know is Hela (Cate Blanchett) wants to rule Asgard and all its adjunct kingdoms. Thor, Loki, Hulk and an alcoholic Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) are the only beings capable of shutting her down.

Fair enough. Yet, there’s no real suspense in this venture because everyone is kind of immortal. Sure, they all have their weakness and flaws and even Odin is reduced to sparkle ashes, but after watching Hulk fight Thor, and Thor fight Loki, and Loki and Thor fight Hela, the sight of a superhero hurtling through the air and reducing a building to rubble loses its novelty.

Outside of the introduction of the Valkyrie — female warriors sworn to protect Asgard, and central characters in Wagner’s Ring cycle — there’s nothing in Waititi Cohen’s film that feels new. Sadly, even the Valkyrie character we do meet (Tessa Thompson) feels like a cheap take on Jack Sparrow.

Then again, everyone in this movie feels like a cheaper take on a previous incarnation — from Odin, to Loki to Thor himself. Even Jeff Goldblum, taking on the role of a gladiator impresario feels like a cheap knockoff of a more authentic self.

Reality is something we readily put aside when watching a Marvel outing, but a good adventure still needs real feelings, an identifiable sense of purpose, and universe with reliable laws of physics. Thor: Ragnarok possesses none of the above, leaving little more than a grocery store genre cake: industrial formula and A-list talent enveloped in an unnatural green screen icing.

@katherinemonk

THE EX-PRESS, November 3, 2017

Read Katherine Monk’s movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and in the Ex-Press Archive.

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Review: Thor Ragnarok

User Rating

3.4 (41 Votes)

Summary

1.5Score

Chris Hemsworth's natural charisma and easy wit can't salvage the cacophonic chaos of Thor: Ragnarok, a comic book exercise that features too many action sequences and too little substance to hold your attention, or empathy. -- Katherine Monk

2 Replies to "Thor: Ragnarok a Hulking, Noisy, Norse Oblivion"

  • righteousnixon March 9, 2018 (9:45 pm)

    I am really curious what reviewers think when they wind up being the only one to hate a particular film. Its one thing when the field is pretty much split, but when 99.9% of critics give a film a huge amount of praise….well, I would just love to hear what reviewers think about this when they are pretty much one of the only people to have watched a film and not liked it. Do they think that having a different opinion makes them special? Personally, I would take it as a HUGE hint that there is something VERY wrong, after all the whole point of being a reviewer is to help inform the general population on the quality of a particular film. Critics certainly don’t review films just for themselves. But whats the point in being a reviewer when your opinion is so far on the fringe that it basically becomes utterly worthless.

    These kinds of situations should tell the reviewer in question that they should stay as far away from this particular genre of film as possible. More and more were seeing a BIG disconnect between what critics like and what the general population likes. Netflix’s recent “Bright” with WiIl Smith is a perfect example. The scores from the general population are ranging between 85-90% yet the scores from critics are averaging just 20-25%. And its clear that critics scores have no real bearing on the overall success of a film. The fact that Bright is the most successful original film by Netflix to date and is currently #1 on Netflix in every country around the world just further goes to show just how big that disconnect really is. And the fact that Netflix has already confirmed the sequel…well, its clear that Netflix doesn’t care what critics think either. Personally, I think the days of professional critics are coming to an end. There may still be professional reviewers out there, but they will become increasingly less relevant as time goes on. More and more people are watching reviews from people on YouTube and reading reviews from the general population as those reviews are FAR more likely to reflect the kinds of things your average movie goes looks for in a film. I don’t know if critics feel somewhat threatened by the changing business model in the industry, like Netflix producing original films, or if they hate that super hero movies now dominate the box office. When you see a score that differs so dramatically from what the general population thinks…well, I can’t help but feel there is more there than just a review that doesn’t quite match up to what the general population thinks. IMO, there has to be some sort of bias there. People who hate super hero films should not be chosen to review super hero films. Its really that simple.

    • EX-PRESS EDITOR March 10, 2018 (3:33 pm)

      Thank you for your thoughts. Sometimes, the role of a critic is to sew a given artefact into context. Works of art are integral components of our entire society. Movies are a great mirror. There is no such thing as a subjective piece of criticism. And the role of a critic is much larger than mere consumer guide. But all this is debatable, and you offered your point of view, which we have published in its entirety. For the record, Katherine Monk is a fan of superhero movies. Please visit our archive and check out what Katherine had to say about Black Panther and Wonder Woman. Believe us when we say she’s a fan. We’ve seen her comic book collection. Thanks for reading. We hope you stay tuned to see what Katherine or Jay Stone have to say about the next one.

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