During the penultimate action scene in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, as Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” thundered through the Dolby Atmos speakers with its tell-tale syncopated drum cadence highlighting John Bonham’s legendarily quick right bass drum foot, I thought to myself, “damn I usually hate when movies play rock songs to make me feel a certain way, but this is working for me.” This moment was a microcosm of my viewing experience. Ragnarok is fun, irreverent, WEIRD, and takes very few things seriously: especially the rich Marvel movie history that has grossed nearly 10 BILLION (!!!) domestic box office bucks to date.
That’s right, the newest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe features gratuitous CGI, frame-filling action, a world-dominating villain, but goshdarnit, it also features HEART — an element curiously absent from these movies that Disney cranks out of their creative laboratory. Most importantly, it operates as a satire of the MCU itself, dishing out self-aware jokes left and right.
The flick’s satirical tone is no surprise given the director. Taiki Waititi, a New Zealand Native of Flight of the Concords fame, allows the comedic freedom of the actors to breathe. He understands that punchlines take time, and set-ups must have a satisfying and well-timed pay-off. I would be shocked if most of the script wasn’t improv. In addition to his duties behind the camera, Waititi voices the hilarious and scene-stealing Korg, a gladiator and revolutionist ally of Thor who is also made of rocks. “But don’t let that intimidate you,” Korg says, “You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors! Just a little Rock, Paper, Scissors joke for you.”
It’s high time to deem Chris Hemsworth the most underrated comedic actor working today. He’s the Mike Conley of Hollywood. Hemsworth’s Thor working with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk/Bruce Banner makes for one of the more interesting buddy action movies this side of 2010, right down to Thor telling both Banner and Hulk — whichever happens to be present — that he prefers them: Banner for his brains and Hulk for his bulk, much like a dude would appease two chicks that he’s dating at the same time.
Visually, the picture is, for lack of a better word, trippy. Colors abound that fit the weird world that Thor finds himself on mid-picture. It also features some of the most striking shots I’ve seen in a Marvel movie, as if a Grecian mural were to come alive on the big screen. Just look at and Marvel (ZING) at this shit:
Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death villain, has more than a mere bee in her bonnet. She’s got some family history, and she’s arrived to settle a score. Blanchett wisely hams up the role here but still comes across as menacing and unpredictable. She moves like a servant as she walks, her hips swaying back and forth rhythmically.
And last, but certainly not least, Jeff Goldblum playing, well, basically Jeff Goldblum is a pure cinematic delight. He’s the only one person on God’s green earth that could play the Grand Master, and you’d be hard pressed to convince me that Jeff Goldblum doesn’t run a slave gladiator ring in his free time. If Goldblum ever questioned how he should style his character, I have no doubt Waititi replied, “just, uh, well…just be you.”
All told, just go see this movie if you like being happy. Towards the end of the picture, Odin, Thor’s pops, pep-talks a concerned and apparently defeated Thor, “what are you, Thor God of Hammers?” Nah bruh, more like Thor: God of Fun.
[images courteously borrowed from Disney Video, Daily Express, and Gigazine]