Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Film -

In the stand-alone films of the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse Thor al­ways seemed to get the short end of the stick. The Thor films were never as pop­u­lar as Iron Man, and didn’t gain steam like Cap­tain Amer­ica. They were per­haps a lit­tle too se­ri­ous and a lit­tle too dull — none of which was the fault of star Chris Hemsworth, whose performances in the role have been so seam­less and charm­ing that he al­most doesn’t get enough credit.

But “Thor: Rag­narok” has been touted as a dif­fer­ent take on the God of Thun­der. Marvel Stu­dios and The Walt Dis­ney Co. signed up a voice-y di­rec­tor in New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, whose ri­otous vam­pire mock­u­men­tary “What We Do In The Shad­ows” dis­played a unique comedic sen­si­bil­ity. They took away Thor’s ham­mer, gave him a hair­cut, added some Led Zep­pelin and told the set de­signer the more neon rain­bows the bet­ter.

The re­sults are pretty de­cent, though per­haps not the to­tal de­par­ture that had been hyped.

The bones of the story are pre­pos­ter­ous as ever. It turns out Thor has a long lost older sis­ter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who his fa­ther Odin (An­thony Hopkins, who ap­pears to have shot for about two hours) locked away be­cause she was so dan­ger­ous. An event hap­pens that releases Hela

to the world. She’s re­ally strong, like stronger than Thor strong, and re­ally an­gry and ba­si­cally punches Thor into an­other di­men­sion and she heads off to As­gard to take the throne.

The movie lit­er­ally splits in two at this point. Poor Blanchett, who has gone full vamp as Hela, is good as al­ways but how lame it must be to be in the “fun” Thor movie and have to play one of the most blandly writ­ten vil­lains ever. While she’s off wag­ing her deathly se­ri­ous takeover, Thor gets to join an ir­rev­er­ent com­edy sideshow on the planet Sakaar — a sort of waste­land at the end of the uni­verse run by a Grade-A weirdo who calls him­self Grand­mas­ter, played, fit­tingly, by Jeff Goldblum.

It’s this sec­tion that is pretty amus­ing and where Waititi’s ir­rev­er­ence re­ally gets to shine with prat­falls and witty writ­ing.

It’s no sur­prise that this is right up Goldblum’s al­ley, but the real de­light is Hemsworth who knows just how to sub­vert the Thor char­ac­ter with­out turn­ing him into a to­tal mock­ery. He’s a real comedic tal­ent, which au­di­ences got a taste of in “Ghost­busters.” And Tessa Thomp­son is fan­tas­tic as Valkyrie, a hard drinkin’ fighter with a se­cret past she’d rather for­get.

I imag­ine “Thor: Rag­narok” is one that might im­prove on sub­se­quent view­ings, when you have a chance to re­lax with the jokes di­vorced from the pres­sure of jug­gling the silly/se­ri­ous plot. But it’s a fairly flawed movie on the whole with egre­gious tonal shifts. Some of the gags go on too long with the Hulk with too lit­tle pay­off and some­times it seems as though there’s a man­date that ev­ery 25 min­utes there will be a big fight no mat­ter what. One par­tic­u­lar army of the dead se­quence seemed like it could have been lifted from a “Pi­rates of the Caribbean” movie — which is not the most flat­ter­ing com­par­i­son.

While Waititi’s en­ergy and wit is ap­par­ent in the film, it still feels as though he had to op­er­ate from the same Marvel “base fla­vor” and was al­lowed on oc­ca­sion to sprin­kle a few of his own orig­i­nal top­pings on.

“Thor: Rag­narok” is the most fun of the Thor movies by a long shot, but it is still very much a Thor movie for bet­ter or worse.

(From left) Mark Ruf­falo as The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tessa Thomp­son as Valkyrie, and Tom Hid­dle­ston as Loki in a scene from "Thor: Rag­narok."

Karl Ur­ban as Ex­e­cu­tion (left) and Cate Blanchett as Hela.

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