Randy’s Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Marvel introduces 1st intergalactic road, buddy comedy

Taking a page from its popular “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, Marvel decided to add a few more chuckles than normal to this third edition of the Thor storyline. Though the priority of “Thor: Ragnarok” is to prevent Ragnarok — translated to mean “the end of everything” — you wouldn’t necessarily get the seriousness of the situation from the wise-cracking vibe which permeates the two-plus-hour installment in growing Marvel cinema footprint.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), still in pursuit of the elusive Infinity Stones, finds himself dangling, chained and a prisoner of Sulfur, a fire demon with plans to destroy Asgard and begin Ragnarok. During the classic bad guy monologue, Sulfur reveals his plans and mentions that Thor’s father and ruler of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is absent from the kingdom. News to Thor who of course breaks free in the nick of time, stops the demon, fights off hordes of demons and barely escapes back to Asgard via the Bifrost Bridge.

No longer manned by Heimdall (Idris Elba), who has been mysteriously banned and is being hunted by Odin, Skurge (Karl Urban) now handles in-and-out duties to Asgard. Thor immediately confronts the (spoiler alert) imposter Odin — his trickster adopted brother Loki (the brilliant Tom Hiddleston) — who is watching a play (featuring some great actor cameos) portraying the tale of Loki’s heroic death at the end of “Thor: The Dark World.”

Thor drags Loki back to Earth to locate Odin who Loki placed there. The two are aided by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who helps them locate their missing father so they can leave Earth and return home. But Odin confirms that despite Thor’s triumph over Sulfur, Ragnarok is eminent as his first born, daughter Hela (Cate Blanchet), the God of Death, is being unleashed from her banishment and will return to Asgard to take her rightful place as the ruler of the kingdom and power mad queen seeking to expand her control in the universe.

Hela shows up on Earth, confronting Thor and Loki, destroying Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and chasing them through the Bifrost. Both Thor and Loki are tossed into space as Hela makes her way to Asgard, dispatching the fighting forces with little trouble and naming Skurge as her executioner as she begins her rule over the frightened citizens.

Thor crash lands on the planet Sakaar which appears to be a dumping ground at the center of multiple wormholes. He is immediately captured by a trapper, Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), and taken before the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), an Elder of the Universe, who entertains himself and his never-ending party crowd in the planet’s resort, with a gladiator-like Contest of Champions. Thor is brought in, gets a hair cut and is tossed into the arena to challenge the contest’s champion for the chance of being set free.

The champion is no other than the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) of course. Following an epic battle, the two former Avengers teammates find themselves rooming together. Hulk now has an elementary-level vocabulary and is enjoying his training and fighting life on Sakaar. Hulk has no desire to leave the planet, but Thor knows he must escape and return to Asgard to save his people and defeat Hela. In order to do that, he must not only find a way out and back to his realm, but he needs some help to get the job against the almost unstoppable dark queen of Asgard. He enlists the help of Hulk, but he’s still a couple of people short as he prepares to embark on his next adventure with his big green friend.

Unlike the previous “Thor” films, and “Avengers” films for that matter, this version of Thor has a wise-cracking sense of humor ... and so does everyone around him. The only characters in the film who seem unattached to the comedy makeover are Loki, Heimdall and Hela. They play it pretty true to character. Even the Hulk and Bruce Banner get in on the rib-tickling which seems a bit out of character. But somehow it works.

The audience was literally laughing out loud throughout the film which was a huge departure from previous “Thor” films. I credit director Taika Waititi for taking the screenplay and making it his cinematic playground. Waititi even gets in on the act himself, voicing Thor’s CGI gladiator buddy, a creature made of rock named Korg, who has a funny bone of his own.

There’s still plenty of Asgard-style, cosmic adventure and sci-fi entertainment fans of Marvel's continuing film thread have come to expect; but the creators decided to change up the formula and drop some “Guardians”-style humor into the mix. While it was different, it was good.

On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, “Thor: Ragnarok,” in spite of its switch to action-comedy genre, still loads up 4 1/2 tubs of buttery puffed corn worthy of an Asgardian God of Thunder. Marvel traditionalists might be a little thrown off by the barrage of scripted humor, but this third Thor tale still delivers on action, characters, bad guys and a little in between continuing the journey toward next summer’s “Infinity Wars” tale. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theatres in Spencer.