The Marvel Cinematic Universe dips a hilarity-ensued toe into the DC Cinematic Murderverse.
After another round of keeping the Marvel universe safe, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard to unmask Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the guise of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After getting directions from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the step-brothers learn too late that Odin’s waning power has released Hela (Cate Blanchett) from her exile and unleashed her revenge upon Asgard itself. A clumsy attempt to stop her ascension results in Thor being pushed out of the Bifrost and crash-landing on the planet Sakaar, where he is promptly captured by a local “recruiter” (Tessa Thompson) and delivered to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to fight in gladiatorial games for amusement. With only Heimdall (Idris Elba) standing between Hela and the complete destruction of Asgard, can Thor fight his way past Sakaar’s current champion Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to save his homeland, his people, and himself?
From What We Do in the Shadows actor/director Taika Waititi, the trailers for Thor 3 promises the fun of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and no shortage of epic comic book battles. While the 70s rock soundtrack selections highlights Jack Kirby-influenced imagery — Blanchete’s Hela looks nothing short of incredible — it seems there’s an awful lot of end-of-days destruction going on in these ads to be the rip-roaring comedy adventure they hint at. Should Ragnarök, the Viking apocalypse of legend and “The Doom of the Gods,” be a vehicle for comedy?
Yes… and no. Director Taika Waititi was probably a perfect choice to helm the six-writer-credited script Marvel handed in, but there is a near-fatal flaw. While Guardians 2 was fun, it was also dramatic, choosing its moments to create weight. The nearest film this compares to is the Ghostbusters-wannabe Evolution, the David Duchovny and Orlando Jones vehicle by Ivan Reitman when hundreds if not thousands of people were (hilariously) killed by a giant amoeba and a slew of other mutant critters. The victims didn’t deserve their fate but our heroes stayed alive — funny, right? That lack of levity destroyed their so-called “comedy,” but at least Ragnarok lands on the positive side of the coin: it is fun and a good time… as long as you don’t think too hard about everything happening to everyone else. It gets a pass, but barely.
Also of note: this was something of a problem for Man of Steel, especially in the third act, but that wasn’t intended to be a comedy; people died — a lot of them — but the scenes following it seemed too upbeat in the wake of the destruction of midtown Metropolis… not exactly business as usual, folks.
This is never more obvious than when looking at the “helpless and fearful” people of Asgard, for example. When you hear characters elsewhere talking, they whisper in awe of Asgardians… yet only the “named” characters seems to be of any actual threat. Both the original Thor and this film act as if most Asgardians are mere villagers who get to stay at the castle for the pleasure of their lord, in this case Odin and sons. The Dark World, however, showed other Asgardians as mystic scientists helping Jane Foster, far more than clueless arm candy and mere peasant farmers. If you needed a bigger clue that all of this was being swept under the Rainbow Bridge, the fact that Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is missing from the entire film and never mentioned once is a biggie.
If you can forgive all this un-Marvel-like inattention to detail, then feel free to don your Hulk-hands, swing your mighty Mjölnir hammers, and get your Ragnarok on! Jeff Goldblume brings the Grandmaster, Cate Blanchett chews the scenery as Hela, and everyone has a good time — just ignore all the nameless characters dying horribly in the background and everything will be fine.
Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, brief suggestive material, and not finding any reason to include Natalie Portman.
Three skulls out of four