Thor: Ragnarok

2 out of 5

Directed by: Taika Waititi

This is not a bad movie.  It is an entertaining movie.  And: I laughed out loud several times.  Some of the designs are fantastic; the dumb cop / dumber cop team-up of Thor and Hulk is fun, and tossing Valkyrie into the mix to kick ass and drink and not act as a romantic counterpart thank gawd (all gender equality considerations aside, I just hate that every movie and TV show seemingly has to feature some aspect of she- / he-loves-me-she- /he-loves me not, so it’s awesome when penises and vaginas are on-screen and aren’t just used as whoop-de-woo proxies for our own penises and vaginas).

So: not bad.

But I’m having a knee-jerk reaction, and I’m allowing myself to go with it, because Marvel movies are a full-on thing nowadays, so our opinions toward them can maybe be afforded a bit more knee-jerkiness to balance it out, and basically, Thor: Ragnarok is my first Marvel movie – across all of them thus far, including the ones I was meh on – that simply felt 100% toothless.  Sure, I laughed, but every joke felt telegraphed for miles, felt carved and whittled out to be the most pleasing variation possible; the designs were great but the aesthetic and vibe were empty.  Immigrant Song?  Mark Mothersbaugh and neon colors?  Jeff Goldblum?  It’s all a put-on.  The team-up; the bad-guy; none of it felt like it had any reason to exist except as fodder for a movie.

Yes, I completely understand that popcorn movies are self-justifying; they are there, solely, to keep us in our seats and mystified into feeling satisfied regarding our dollars / time spent on them.  I love movies, and TV, and have loved plenty of popcorn flicks.  But if every move, every design, every character, every single piece of the script and action feels weightless and hollow – if I can all-too-clearly see that design of attempted mystification – then obviously the spell has been miscast.  Part of that ‘weightless’ comment is very experiential: if we compare this spacey, CGI-fest to Guardians of the Galaxy, in that series, director James Gunn was able to imbue his movies with their own internal feelings of reality – absolutely in the first one; admittedly to a lesser extent in the second but still moreso than this film.  That is: I believed in / cared about computer-generated Rocket and Groot, and the non-Earth settings felt like they had logistics and grounding.  In Ragnarok, Hulk, Surtr, Hela, her undead minions, all flit around ping-ponging off each other without emotion, and The Grandmaster’s battleworld of Sakaar – not to mention Asgard – are like pre-production sketches of “generic fantasy movie X.”  This is absolutely a discredit to the immense amount of detail worked into those characters and settings – which is in opposition of my design comment, that I looked at these things and found them visually interesting, as standalone images – but as components of a film: weightless.

Nothing mattered.  And this sensation was there from the opening scene, and just piled on and on as scene after scene doubled down on not making this into an adventure film, or a film of conflict, but one of hopeful distraction.  In my case: the distraction failed.

Thor’s sister, Queen of the dead, wakes up and attacks Asgard.  Thor fucks off to space, drinks with Hulk, and flies a spaceship back to Asgard for a fight.  Stakes are raised and lowered whenever it makes sense for a joke or for dragging out the action, and then there’s a lead-in to Avengers 3.

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