finally has a watchable solo movie with a tinge of personality. Yay! Third time's the charm I guess.
By hiring a bunch of indie directors with phenomenal vision and cramming them into their predetermined storylines, the Marvel Cinematic Universe succeeded in creating a massive eco-system which is currently 17 movies and 7 TV shows strong and has projects lined up till 2020. This leviathan now prints its own money by pleasing both kids, adults who have retained their childhood and a sea of trolls gliding through the interwebs. And the latest addition to their seemingly endless stream of content is Thor: Ragnarok.
The story begins with King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dying, which consequently unleashes his firstborn hellspawn of a daughter Hela, The Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett), onto Asgard. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) try to fend off her evil advances, but sure enough, following the trope of The Dark Knight Rises
and Iron Man 3
before it, Hela takes away the superhero's source of power and strands him on a planet straight out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Sakkar. Thor has to fight his way out of this hostile environment and save his home realm of Asgard with the aid of The Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie and many more new additions who will most definitely feature in Avengers: Infinity War.
I've always felt that the best superhero film lay somewhere between the gritty and grey noise of the DC films and the overblown orgy of colour and needless levity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A good superhero film needs to be an amalgamation of both aspects with proper stakes, well-rounded characters, amiable banter and payoffs that resonate and reverberate throughout the entirety of the franchise. It's not just about pleasing the internet-savvy fanboys with references and Easter eggs, it is more about storytelling.
And at that avenue, Thor Ragnarok both thrives and falters with its inability to merge the off-kilter sensibilities of its director Taika Waititi and the predetermined checklist that an MCU movie is supposed to fulfill which has "HAVE NO LASTING STAKES" listed so prominently that the final sequence of this movie rings hollow instead of poignant.
This insistence on being popcorn fun and nothing else gives an airy feeling to the proceedings. The movie is chocolate or cotton candy or pani puri or whatever else gives you a spike in good feelings even though you know it's bad for you. It is big budget blockbuster entertainment at its finest, and that truly means the narrative will go through a ring of fire, jump the shark and nuke the fridge to keep itself entertaining.
The entertainment on display is in line Waititi's forte. Taking a page out of the Flash Gordon and Big Trouble In Little China colouring book, Waititi fills frames with bright and loud colours, broad humour laced with gut-busting deadpan, and a soundtrack that screams out Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song at its most badass moments like Top Gun does with Danger Zone.
While letting Waititi cut loose with his sensibilities would have helped the film have an identity of its own in the sea of sameness that is the MCU, like we've seen recently with Marvel and their overlords Disney, stepping outside their pre-set boundaries is a non-starter. Edgar Wright, Phil Lord and Chris Miller found that out the hard way. To paraphrase the Joker from The Dark Knight
, these films are only as good as Marvel allows them to be.
Thor, himself, finds himself exploring a new shade to his character while re-examining his fish-out-of-water situation a la his first cinematic outing. His character is driven by his being a literal god, and the film itself making light of his lack of growth as a person and the general nonsense that permeated his mediocre solo films and the truly bad Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Chris Hemsworth and the rest of his long-standing cohorts are as adept at playing their characters as Hugh Jackman was at playing Wolverine
. The movie doesn't offer them anything well and truly challenging to pull off even if The Hulk has a very real character arc slyly tucked away under the bright lights. We know Thor and The Hulk will be back in Infinity War, and that fact alone robs the movie of any genuine tension. Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston are back being the best pound-for-pound actors the film has to offer, while the talented Tessa Thompson follows the Marvel template of being that one "strong" female character.
Veteran actors Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett, while quirky and inexplicably sexy respectively in their roles, seem like nothing more than minor inconveniences to the good guys. I say this because we live in a universe where The God Of Thunder can summon thunder and lighting and The God Of Mischief lives up to his name but their sister The Goddess Of Death can do nothing more than throw big black spikes at fools instead of killing them with a single thought. Even if this is how the comic was written, it makes little to no sense for a person who has been named The Goddess Of Death to have an executioner. The threat posed by this supposedly menacing villain is minimal as these Avengers have dealt with disposable CGI armies of nothingness and giant creatures before with consummate ease, and all the while quipping consistently.
Pedalling back to the points I made earlier, this is what sours my experience with Marvel films in general and this is why I'm yet to wholeheartedly enjoy a Marvel film since the first Iron Man
. The base stories are all too familiar, and no amount of bright lights, loud noises, '80s music, good-looking talented actors and endless jokes can fill that void. This is the first enjoyable Thor film, yes, but it is also quite similar to the 17 other films you've watched in one way or the other.
Simply put, I will most definitely remember 2011's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo using Immigrant Song more than I will Thor Ragnarok for the simple fact that the former had a look, feel, tone and personality of its own while the latter may have entertained me now but will fade in my memory when the next popcorn, candy floss Marvel juggernaut comes along to entertain the masses.