by Alan Yudman
If you are sick and tired of ponderous, dark and bloated superhero movies, don’t give up hope. First there was GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (both 1 and 2). In between those was the fantastic DEADPOOL. Now comes the third Thor movie and surprisingly enough, THOR: RAGNAROK follows those successful templates. It is more comedy action than “end of the world” bleak. THOR and THOR: THE DARK WORLD portrayed the God of Thunder as a ponderous, self-important hero with some self confidence issues. He didn’t want the responsibility he was destined to have, ruling over Asgard.
But RAGNAROK takes that conceit and turns it on its head. Taika Waititi is the perfect director to bring audiences this version of Thor. Everyone pokes fun at him. He is not invincible. Most important, the movie is just fun. That doesn’t mean it dismisses the importance of what Thor is doing. He is trying to prevent Ragnarok, the legend about the end of the world and the destruction of Asgard. The sister he never knew he had returns from exile and declares that she is the rightful heir to Odin. Cate Blanchett’s Hela is fantastic. I couldn’t put my finger on a comparison for her performance, but I heard a pop culture podcast refer to it as the embodiment of a drag queen. YES! That is the perfect comparison. She has the headdress, the swagger the over-the-top flamboyance. It is masterfully evil.
But even her great performance is overshadowed by Jeff Goldblum, who has never been more Goldblum. He is The Grandmaster, the head of a garbage planet who runs it like some kind of space-aged Studio 54.
There are so many good performances. Tessa Thompson (CREED and WESTWORLD) is another outcast Asgardian, the warrior Valkyrie. She doesn’t let Thor get away with anything. It is a very pleasant comeuppance for the hero. Then we get more Hulk than we have ever gotten before and it is wonderful. One quibble I have with Marvel movies is they give us so little of these superheroes being the characters we want to see. This was an awesome change of pace. Karl Urban is Hela’s reluctant executioner. Idris Elba is back as Heimdall. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is one of the MCU’s least appreciated characters. Benedict Cumberbatch shows up briefly as Doctor Strange to help Thor and Loki find Odin, who has been hidden on earth by Loki. Then there is one scene where we get out of this world cameos from Matt Damon, Liam Hemsworth and Sam Neill. Plus, Waititi voices an alien who is completely made of stone and just about steals every scene. Remember the phrase “New Doug”. You’ll appreciate it when it shows up.
I’ve gotten this far and haven’t mentioned Chris Hemsworth at all. Saving the best for last I suppose. He has underrated comedic chops. Some may go to see his biceps. But they’ll remember his fantastic performance. He hits every note perfectly. Hemsworth plays the comedic moments perfectly, but when it’s time to kick ass, he is perfectly capable of that tool.
Here’s hoping this is a sign of good things to come. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is coming next year. If Marvel makes that as self-serious as AGE OF ULTRON, it would be a huge disappointment. THOR: RAGNAROK is the formula fans want and is the superhero movie we all need.