Jeff Goldblum is a Sexy Beast - My Review of Thor: Ragnarok
One of the things that modern kids probably don't realize is that in the 70's and 80's when I was first growing up, a live-action comic book movie was really the worst type of banal entertainment. With some limited exceptions (think the original Superman movies or Tim Burton's Batman), the vast majority of those movies were poorly written, ridiculously acted, and incorporated (special or practical) effect superpowers that almost never came close to looking like the ink-on-the-page variety (think Flash Gordon, Howard the Duck, or Batman after Tim Burton). You really had to be willing to sit through a 2hr monstrosity as some B list actor spoued dialogue that was already ridiculous in the original comic-book panels and hope that your eyes didn't bleed too much.
Tonight, as my family was leaving "Thor: Ragnarok" we ran into some friends. The adults quickly realized that we had all been more excited to see the latest Marvel movie than our respective kids. Somehow, these giant tentpole movies with dayglow colors and enormous special effects budgets that have probably made New Zealand as rich as Wakanda also include great actors and surprisingly compelling storylines.
I've always thought the Thor movies got rough treatment, especially in comparison to the excellent Captain America movies, Robert Downey Jr. assimilation of Tony Stark as Iron Man, and the obvious playfulness of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. I thought the Thor origin story was decent (it introduced Phil Coulson as an actual character, at least). Though Thor: Dark World definitely had issues, I feel like the short Team Thor videos redeemed his character and also showed how funny Chris Hemsworth can be.
There has been a lot of positive buzz about Thor: Ragnarok and I think it was worthwhile. The early trailers played with our expectations and the actual movie doesn't disappoint. It seems director Taika Waititi figured out how to use everything that was understated and hilarious in "Team Thor", mold it into a feature-length film and then mashed it together with the neon glow of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. There are surprising revelations, emotional payoffs, entertaining battles and loads of funny, silly moments. This is not a deep movie and sometimes it seems to bend-over-backward to make even the most barren, existentialist moment into a joke about a hibernating alien. However, in comparing the character of Thor in the first moments of the original movie to the character he becomes by the end of this one, you can see the growth and evolution of an Asgardian that has moved beyond the confines of those original comic panels.
A few quick takes:
- Chris Hemsworth may look like a musclehead, but he is fantastic at comedy
- Cate Blanchett is a scenery-chewing genius on screen
- The battles are fun and entertaining in a bloodless way
- I was surprised by several plot points, even with the dozens of trailers, YouTube clips, and TV commercials that felt like they gave the movie away
- Jeff Goldblum steals every scene he's in