BY JOHN EICHER
Coming into the third “Thor” movie, expectations were set pretty low.
The first two installments of the franchise received lukewarm critical response, and the god of thunder has always suffered from an identity crisis.
The Shakespearean aspects of the character’s mythological roots have contradicted with the comic book melodrama of “The Avengers” series, creating a thematic hurdle that stands in the way of the hero’s last film.
Under the direction of New Zealand comedy legend Taika Waititi, “Thor Ragnarok” does
not event attempt to make the jump, but rather chooses to break through the wood like a rock star.
“Ragnarok” hits the screen like a drunk comedian stumbling on stage. The story is rushed, and even incoherent at times, but undeniably proves to be an enjoyable experience.
Rather than dealing with the baggage of the first two “Thor” movies, the first act of the film works as fast as it can write off previously established plot points. The disregard of previous entries lowers the stakes of the film, but allows “Ragnarok” to move forward in its own creative direction.
Asgard is on the brink of the destruction, and Thor’s hammer has been broken by Hela, the goddess of death. Although the conflict appears grave on paper, “Ragnarok” plays more like a comedy than a disaster film.
Thor has been hauled off to Sakaar, a planet sized coliseum dedicated to a “Gladiator” style fight competition run by Jeff Goldblum. The theme is wacky as ever, and the plot works twice as hard to make you laugh when compared to tension.
The competition takes up most of the films run-time, and is also where it is having the most fun. Forced to team up with the Hulk and his estranged brother Loki, Chris Hemsworth finally gets to exercise his comedic talents as an improve actor. The back and forth between Thor and The Hulk is hilarious, given their competing egos and flaring tempers.
Bruce Banner has been the Hulk for two years now, granting him the language skills of a toddler. Mark Ruffalo plays the role with a bittersweet level of comedic tragedy. The naivety of the Hulk is comical, but based in real pain.
Although the character has limited screen time, Bruce Banner is in constant fear of losing himself to a monster he cannot control. He and the Hulk are separate identities now, and the anxiety of Bruce losing himself creates the most interesting drama in the narrative.
The chemistry between Thor and Hulk’s personalities translates well into their duel at the colosseum. The action choreography is energetically epic, and is bolstered by a classic rock soundtrack, mainly to the tune of “Led Zeppelin”.
The visual aesthetic is a perfect blend between classical greek paintings and comic book pop art, making the fight scenes a visual delight.
Although the high-speed pace of the film prevents the accumulation of tension, it never feels like the characters are not having fun with the film.
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie proves to be a welcome addition to the comedic mayhem. The character is an alcoholic bounty hunter, clearly drawing inspiration from classic renegades like Han Solo and Starlord. The character’s quick witted nihilism bounces well off of Thor and the Hulk’s naive optimism.
Although all the characters widely differ in personality, they each share a unique level of genuine sadness, making their cohesion as teams feel natural. The unification of the four characters in the third act creates genuine excitement, and returns on the investment the audience is asked to put into the characters.
“Thor Ragnarok” does not reach the dramatic heights of its comic book brethren, but it never really tries to either. The film sticks to a strict motif; have fun.
The pitch maybe a softball, but “Thor” still manages to hit it out of the park. The Flyer gives “Thor Ragnarok” an 8 out of 10.