‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Review: Hidden behind visual brilliance and irreverent humor, story and character fall flat

Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), attempts to make up for the weaknesses of Thor, an otherwise bland character, by enveloping him in the immense potential of the universe’s magic and humor — or, in truth, by making it similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.

For the first two-thirds of the film, the jokes land, and land hard, pulled off with pitch perfect timing by Waititi, the editing and Chris Hemsworth, in one of his finer performances. In fact, the momentum of the film’s energy, fueled plenty by the comedy, is so vivid and infectious that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in Ragnarok. It’s also quite refreshing to get a superhero film that knows how to shoot action and render visually interesting spectacle. Colors pop brilliantly through production design, CGI and costumes. Dynamic choreography, along with coherent composition, create action scenes that are easy and exciting to engage with.

But it’s hard for the energy and visuals to keep us engaged when the film, all along, has been failing its character and, thus, its story. Toward the end, there comes a moment when Thor is meant to realize something about his family and the Asgardian people, about who he is now that the villain, Hela, has broken his hammer — similar to Iron Man 3’s journey of Tony learning to be a hero without the suit. It’s the close to an arc that would’ve been fascinating for the character — had Thor actually traversed and earned that arc. Throughout the film, there are obstacles placed in front of Thor, but they never create conflict in his character. He’s simply resolute in that he has to save an endangered Asgard from Hela, which is not a journey that holds much depth, since it strangely has no effect on his character. Ironically, at one point, Thor says that Loki hasn’t changed and won’t, when it’s actually Thor who’s not changing one bit in this film.

In fact, the film seems to be strangely aware of its own shortcomings. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) appears, and Banner has some dialogue that addresses how Thor is simply using the Hulk because he’s a good fighter. And he’s right. The film makes no legitimate reason for Hulk to be present in a way that makes sense with his character. It seems like simply a ploy for the sake of spectacle. And Hela is yet another entirely whiffed villain in the MCU. Cate Blanchett is great, but the character is one-dimensional and disappears for much of the second act.

It’s tough to hate Thor: Ragnarok, as the film is beautiful to look at and one of the funnier entries in the MCU. But it’s more difficult to love it, especially because the failures in story and character make the beauty and humor feel empty and tiresome in the final act. It’s not a bad film. It’s just rather frustrating, given its potential.

Grade: 6.5/10

 

Featured image via Marvel.