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Thor is the God of Laughter in “Thor: Ragnarok”

One of the many wonderful things to list about Marvel Studios is their ability to somewhat reinvent themselves every time a new movie is being made. The Russo Brothers proved that when they created Captain: The Winter Soldier by giving us a political thriller, and James Gunn did the same when he created Guardians of the Galaxy, with all of its space operatic music filled goodness. Marvel’s willingness to take such chances is one of the biggest factors for their continued success with their Cinematic Universe. Now they have perhaps taken their biggest risk yet by handing the directorial reigns to Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) in creating something which can only be regarded as Marvel’s first all out comedy with Thor: Ragnarok.

This third installment of the Thor series quite literally opens up hot. It initially comes off as just a trivial conflict, but Waititi shows us that nothing goes to waste, and this opener is no exception. Without giving away any spoilers, Thor finds himself in a sticky situation, in which he skillfully (meaning “forcefully”) manages his own escape only to come across the galaxy to meet his destiny. Thor is reacquainted with old friends and makes new friends as well, and this is happening all the while Thor is desperate to prevent Ragnarok from destroying Asgard. It all sounds mostly serious, right? Well this movie is anything but serious. Again, while all of this is happening we see Chris Hemsworth (who has really come a long way with his comedic acting) get in to one ridiculously funny situation after another. Of course it doesn’t hurt that his cohorts throughout all of these are all equally outrageous on the big screen, starting with probably the single most popular “bad guy” in the MCU, that being Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. One of the most beautiful things about Loki is that he truly is something of a chameleon and that makes his character very hard to figure out. Yes, Loki does have the power to change his physical appearance, but the character is written to where his true motives are difficult to discover. One moment he is behaving in a manner that is entirely self-serving, perhaps even destructive, only to be followed by actions that can be considered quite noble, and Hiddleston gives us all of these all the while keeping us convinced that he is the same character. Someone else that successfully plays up for laughs much of his screen time is the Hulk. For most of the appearances that we’ve ever seen Hulk in there isn’t much opportunity for character development for him because he such a raging green monster. However the story, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, give us a Hulk who could almost be taken out of the comic book. For all of the scenes where we are given just Thor and the Hulk we are seeing a character that is surprisingly eloquent. He’s still filled with anger, but he’s eloquent to a point, which makes Hulk possibly one of the most interesting characters in the entire movie. On the flipside of that we have Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, who also plays his character will a comedic edge as Banner tries to reconcile himself with his surroundings. Then there is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a rather mysterious bounty hunter type of character who is initially rather unlikable, but as Thor learns about her, and then proceeds to remind her of who she is, she starts on that redemptive hero’s journey path, making her someone that many in the audience can clearly relate to. As for Karl Urban, his character of Skurge is probably the most misleading from all of the trailers and the press that has been given. In that respect it makes him the most surprising simply as a character with his own set of motivations. It also allows for Urban to also flex those comedy chops of his in a way that he seldom gets to do. Another actor who is not known for comedy is Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and while his scenes are brief in comparison to what we were given in the first two Thor films, there is one in particular that had the audiences howling with laughter, which is a huge credit to the wide range of roles this amazing actor is capable of playing. This in turn leads us to the big heavy of the movie, that being Cate Blanchett as Hela. Hers is another character that trailers and press totally led fans down some pretty incorrect paths as to who Hela really is. Blanchett also shows that she too has some good comedic timing with her character, and while most of what she does and says is pretty serious, she also has moments where her lines are almost said with a wink while her tongue is firmly planted in her cheek. In some ways that makes her part one of the most difficult because she has to really play on a lot of subtleties that almost makes her “gags” indiscernible. However they are there and she does not overplay them at all. She still comes off as the Goddess of Death and with all of the serious baggage that may come with playing a character like that. Nonetheless throughout all of her scenes she never pushes a joke so hard that it operates at the expense of how deadly her character is supposed to be. Then we finally have Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster. Need I say more? Jeff Goldblum brought all of his eccentricities and put them in this movie, so in other words Goldblum was essentially playing himself. While all of that was enjoyable it makes it hard for audiences to believe that his character is actually the brother to Benicio Del Toro’s character The Collector. So, all in all, what we have here is probably one of the finest casting decisions made for any Marvel movie. Despite Goldblum’s penchant for playing himself, everyone else is coming with just the right amount of humor so as to make each person’s performance perfectly balanced against everyone else’s.

Waititi has been known mostly as something of a satirist, but now he has directed what could arguably be the biggest movie in his entire career, and it’s a phenomenal success. The early showing we attended was practically filled up. The few empty seats in the theater clearly show people’s excitement for these movies, and now Waititi’s name will stand alongside that of Favreau, Whedon, Gunn, and Russo. Even his action scenes, as formulaic as some people claim them to be, were quite outstanding and very easy to follow. If there is any one thing to criticize the movie for is that the jokes and gags are a bit too closely packed together. As one joke paid off the audience would be laughing so loudly that the next gag would get lost. However that is a very minor consideration, and it simply means that this movie has some very good re-watchability built in to it. Thor: Ragnarok has some excellent action scenes, some interesting story points that continue to assist in the Universe building, some well played out drama that gently pull on the heartstrings, and plenty of laughs that will have you quoting jokes from the movie as you leave the theater. One last word of warning… As with all Marvel films, there are stingers after the movie ends. There is the typical mid-credit stinger that helps to set up what is coming up, and then there is the end-credit stinger that is simply there for laughs. Just like previous Marvel movies, there were people leaving the theater right when the credits began to roll. If you’re a fan of the MCU then don’t leave until the houselights come up, otherwise you’ll be VERY sorry!!!

Thor: Ragnarok gets 5 out of 5 Hammers.
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