Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Thor Ragnarok (Spoiler Free)

I saw Thor Ragnarok tonight in a mostly-filled theater with the new (to me, anyway) Dolby system installed. Supposed to have better sound and visuals. The sound was definitely more rumbly; the seats would shake when there were explosions or ships flying past, but I didn't notice anything particularly better about the viewability of the film. The power recliners were a definite plus, though. No 3D, no IMAX. Now on to the movie itself.

Bottom line; this is easily the best of the Thor films, but that's a pretty low bar, as they're on the bottom end of the MCU films as a whole. A lot has been said about the level of humor in this film, and there are definitely a lot more jokes (sight gags as well as silly moments in general) to be had than in most Marvel films in general, save the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

At first when I heard about the humor in the movie, I was afraid it would descend into farce, and had visions of using the phrase "the MCU has finally reached the level of Abbot and Costello Meet Loki" but my fears were unfounded. The humor is definitely stepped up, but it's well-done and adds to the film, rather than taking it down the Abbot-hole.

Valkyrie from the comic books
Hela (played by Kate Blanchett) is one of those rarities in the MCU - a villain whose motivations are relatively easy to understand and clearly defined. Unlike Malekith in Thor The Dark World, I might hasten to add. I won't go into too much detail, but they tie her story into that of the Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) very nicely.

Speaking of whom, I comfort myself that they never actually call her Brunhilde, as she is known in the comic books, so she is "one of the Valkyries" rather than "the heroine called Valkyrie, whose real name is Brunhilde, in the comic books" who is a leggy blonde, as one might expect someone named Brunhilde to be. Ahem.

Jeff Goldblum's Grand Master is a treasure to behold, and he's just as quirky as his brother and fellow Elder of the Universe, The Collector, seen in Thor The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hulk is the Big Guy in the room, and dominates the film's second act. He's more vocal than we've seen him before in an MCU film, but that's perfectly in line with his comic-book incarnation, where he speaks regularly. I found myself really liking the talking Hulk a lot more than the screaming-only Hulk we saw in the first two Avengers films (with one notable exception):


There's a great call-back to this scene in the film, by the way, and it's brilliant. You won't see it coming, but you'll know it when you see it.

What struck me overall about the film was the use of color throughout. From the opening title you know this is a film much more grounded in the MCU's Cosmic side, with its bright colors, asymmetrical designs, and weird angled line ornamentation that doesn't seem to serve any purpose, but which should be instantly recognizable by fans of Jack Kirby's work in the comics. Visually, this film establishes the use of color and crowded design as a hallmark of the Comic MCU definitively. Sakaar is what Asgard should have looked like (and Attilan from the Inhumans show on ABC, for that matter, but that's another story). The use of contemporary music also recalled GotG, but to a lesser degree.

The pacing is also worth noting. The film runs longer than either of its predecessors (130 minutes) but it doesn't feel like it. When the final battle in the third act rolled around, I thought the movie still had a ways to go. It never feels rushed or bloated. Great pacing. Spider-Man Homecoming was similarly well-paced.

It's far from a perfect movie, of course. They completely unnecessarily re-use a musical theme. Holding off until the end of the film would have had a lot more impact. Doing the same thing twice feels like they couldn't be bothered to find anything else (someone send the folks at Marvel Studios a bunch of Manowar CDs, pronto!). Once or twice a joke could have yielded to a straight line and provided greater impact. Meekly-voiced Korg became a one-trick pony. But these are relatively minor issues. There are none of the greater problems that plagued Dark World, for instance.

On the whole, this is an entirely fun outing for the MCU. We see a side of the Cosmic universe we've not seen before, which broadens it immensely, setting things up for even greater things I'm sure when Captain Marvel hits theaters in 2019, and we get to see the Kree (again) and Skrulls (finally) in action, not to mention the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy 3. This will surely be yet another hit for Marvel, and deservedly so. Its definitely in the top third of their catalog.