‘Ragnorak’ is hammer heavy on humor, feather light in substance
The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – cheekily referred to as “The Revengers” – prepare for battle to save Asgard in “Thor: Ragnorak.” (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
One the thing I’ve always respected about Marvel movies is the tonal balance they’ve been able to maintain. When the moments have called for levity, you get it. When the moments have called for gravity, you get it.
In the God of Thunder’s third solo outing, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) imprisoned by a fire demon – Surtur – whose intention is to bring an end to Asgard by unleashing the prophecy of Ragnorak (essentially the end days for a planet).
After battling his way out and defeating the demon, Thor returns to Asgard where he happens upon his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), impersonating their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Loki puts his brother partially at ease by telling him that Odin is alive and well on Earth.
After locating the king – with the help of another hero – Thor learns (via Odin) that Asgard is indeed in danger of annihilation at the hands of Hela (Cate Blanchett) – a powerful and merciless Asgardian, who plans to return to claim what she believes is hers.
Along the way back to Asgard to save his realm and people, Thor is again imprisoned – this time by an eccentric warlord, Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who forces him to fight in his Contest of Champions against – wait for it – The Incredible Hulk (Marc Ruffalo).
Thor must navigate his way through the contest, his big green buddy, and a bounty hunter – Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) – that wants nothing more than to keep him under Grandmaster’s thumb.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) battle in the Contest of Champions. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
Obviously, there’s a lot going on here, and I’m sure there were 25 other Easter eggs – suspected or otherwise – that I missed because, if I’m being completely honest, I just wasn’t’ really feeling the movie.
The non-stop jokes, or what the writers tried to pass off as jokes, were funny at first. Then they just kept coming. I waited for the switch to flip to a more serious tone, but it never happened. Given that the movie focuses on the destruction of a planet and all of its residents under the thumb of a power-hungry goddess, one would be inclined to think that the silly humor could take at least a temporary backseat. One would think that, but one would be wrong. It just didn’t seem to fit the more serious tone that Thor has brought – minus the jokes about his inability to assimilate to his surroundings outside of Asgard.
The other thing that wore thin was the amount of Hulk being forced down the gullet. He’s basically become the Avenger equivalent of kale – annoying, boring, and just not very good. I get it he’s big, he’s green, he’s angry, but I’m to the point where I’d rather see Bruce Banner battle (quite literally) his inner demon, than “the big guy.”
Hela (Cate Blanchett) returns to Asgard to claim what she feels is rightfully hers. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
That’s not to say, however, that there’s not good things about “Ragnorak.”
Not surprisingly, the CGI and fight sequences are as good as ever; the love/hate relationship between Thor and Loki is as entertaining as ever, due in large part to the on-screen chemistry and comedic timing of Hemsworth and Hiddleston; Blanchett is outstanding as the evil foil to Thor’s jacked up Boy Scout routine; and, of course, there’s the always amusing Stan Lee cameo to look for.
There’s also some nods to the ’80s that can be appreciated – the definite “Flash Gordon” feel of the whole thing, the cheesy synth pop, a Grandmaster hologram that reminds of Max Headroom. A little nod to “Adventures in Babysitting” would’ve been nice, but you can’t have everything.
Add it all up, and you’ve got yourself a pretty formulaic – and average – movie.
Obviously, if you’re a Marvel fan you’re going to see “Ragnorak,” and it’s certainly worth the time. But with the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up in the air beyond Avengers 4 (I’m guessing complete or nearly complete character/actor reset), this incarnation of Thor deserved a better solo sendoff.
★★★ of ★★★★★