Sunday, November 12, 2017

Stubs - Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins. Directed by Taika Waititi. Screenplay by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost. Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby. Produced by Kevin Feige. Runtime: 130 minutes. USA  Color. Superhero, Fantasy

While Thor has been a welcomed member of the Avengers, his solo films have been my least favorite of the solo MCU films. Both Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) were at best acceptable, though neither rose to the levels of Captain America's or Iron Man's films. Now, Thor had a disadvantage going in, as he was perhaps the least well-known of the Avengers, but the films were mostly dry affairs by comparison.

That has changed. Thor's third film, Thor: Ragnarok, which opened last week, is a much different film. One of the things that has separated the MCU from the DCEU is the humor that one has and the other seems to lack. The MCU, for the most part, has not taken itself too seriously. Finally, that has permeated the Thor franchise. One of the takeaways from this Thor is the humor as there are some laugh out loud sections.

But it's all not for the laughs; there is plenty of action with the fight scenes following the trend of only getting bigger with more at stake. In this case, it is Asgard itself that is at stake with the return of Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) until now, cinematically, unknown older sibling, sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), also known as the Goddess of Death. At one point, Hela and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) were out to rule all of the realms, but when Odin's ambitions waned he put Hela away and kept her from doing harm to others. But things have changed and Hela is now on the loose. Thor is left to fight her and his allies are his half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a former member of the all-female Valkyrie now turned mercenary called Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). We won't get into how Thor and The Hulk link up because that would give too much of the story away, but the trailer will tell you.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are back in their fourth film together.

The film is a little like a homecoming, after all, these are sort of like old friends that you only see every few years. This is the fourth pairing of Thor and Loki in a film and their relationship doesn't appear to have really changed. Loki is only out for himself and will even deny he knows Thor if it suits him, and in this film he does. Hemsworth and Hiddleston are very comfortable in these roles and have a very good screen chemistry.

Besides Thor, Odin, Loki and the Hulk, Heimdall (Idris Elba) returns, though no longer the gatekeeper to Bifröst bridge, he is more heroic than ever. Elba is one of those actors who has a better reputation as an actor for the role he plays here.

Tessa Thompson plays Scrapper 142, a former Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok.

There are several newcomers to the franchise, including Scrapper 142 played by Tessa Thompson. She looks like she will fit in well with the cast of characters and I'm sure we'll be seeing her by Thor's side when next we see him.

Another newbie is Korg (Taika Waititi) a character made of stone who originated in the comic books as part of the Hulk, where he fights Thor at one point. Here, the character has been repurposed into an ally of Thor's. The director, who is also an actor, voices the character and infuses him with a soft-spoken and humorous tone, about the opposite of what you would expect from a stone-creature.

Cate Blanchett is Hela, the God of Death in Thor: Ragnarok

The MCU has become such a big deal that actors you might not think of as superhero players are in these films. Dr. Strange had Tilda Swinton, Ragnarok has Cate Blanchett, who has received two Academy Awards for her acting. Here she makes for a very good villainess, Hela, the Goddess of Death.

There are a couple of other bits of stunt casting. Jeff Goldblum appears as Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe who runs a sort of interstellar deathmatch. The director, Taika Waititi, really wanted Goldblum to make the character his own, allowing him to improvise when the actor felt like it.

Karl Urban plays Skurge aka the Executioner.

Karl Urban continues the cross-franchise pollination, taking time off the Star Trek series to appear here as Skurge aka the Executioner, Hela's main minion. He really gets into the role to the point I honestly didn't recognize him.

Though the film is much better than its subfranchise predecessors, Thor: Ragnarok has the occasional best-not-to-think-about-it-too-hard moments. You're supposed to take it as it comes and not worry about how it may have gotten there in the first place.

But that doesn't take away from Thor: Ragnarok. If you've seen the entire run, like we have, you'll be happy to know that Ragnarok is not the spoonful of medicine that its predecessors were and you can pretty much sit back and enjoy the film. However, to really know what is going on you would need to have seen not only the first two Thors, but also The Avengers  (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and the post credit scene (oh, yes there was) in Doctor Strange (2016). While all of the MCU films are supposed to fit together, this is one that you should be able to enjoy if you're not a die-hard fan of the series. But a warning, try to curb your interest in the first two Thor films as they will probably not live up to your expectations.

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