Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thor: Ragnorak

The Thor movies have been the least interesting of the Marvel super hero films.  I don’t fault them for improbability—all the Marvel films are improbable. But Thor is not very interesting.  He’s supposed to be a god, but his powers rely directly on his big hammer.  The mythology of the mythic Asgarde in which he and his colleagues dwell is haphazardly portrayed.  His trickster brother Loki is more interesting than he is.  For the most part the first two Thor films struck me as dull and dimwitted.
Something happened between the second and third film.  Could it be that the makers recognized, in a moment of clarity, after careful self-examination, that the series was bogus? That it was lurching towards commercial extinction, that involvement in the franchise meant personal and artistic compromise (as much as artistry in these films exists, as much as compromise isn’t a given)?
Thor: Ragnorak (2017; dir. Taika Waititi) is a hilarious parody of the characters and situations in the first two films.  Not that it is any less improbable, just that the makers recognized and exploited opportunities for satire and comedy.
Thor: Ragnorak offers most of the same characters: Thor, Loki, Odin (briefly), and others.  Their personalities remain intact but are exaggerated for comic effect.  Odin’s sister Hela is new to the series. She escapes from prison, to which her brother had consigned her when he grew fearful of her success and ambition.  She hates everything and everybody and is intent on assisting the fire demon Sukur in bringing destruction to Asgarde: this is Ragnorak, the preordained destruction of the realm of the gods in Nordic mythology. Sukur the fire demon is mainly DGI.  Hela, played in an intentionally overstated way by an unrecognizable Cate Blanchett, is effective, though she is mostly DGI too.  Everyone in the film overacts. Everything is overblown, exaggerated.  This lampoon of the earlier films is the best of the Thor films and in general one of the best of the Marvel films—I’d watch it again. It made me laugh.

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