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What is a warrior without a war?  Not much, really.  However, war has its consequences, and so itís with some surprise when we find the God of Thunder at the mercy of his foes; imprisoned by the fire demon, Surtur.  Thorís confinement - after a failed attempt to find the ever-popular Infinity Stones - means the demon can complete the eons-old prophecy that he will bring about Ragnarok; the end of Asgard.  Yet, somehow, we must believe Thor will be freed of his shackles and save the day, ďBecause thatís what heroes do.Ē

Unbeknownst to the golden-haired god, there is more than one key to the End of Days, and chaos is closer than he can imagine.  When all he knows is thrown into the wind, Thor will have to form new alliances and endure the loss of old, time-tested ones, to be the hero Asgard needs.

THOR: RAGNAROK is the best chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since THE AVENGERS.  It carries the same whipsmart, yet easy humour, and obvious respect and affection for the comic source.  Itís certainly got its share of action thrills:  Right out of the gate, thereís a great use of Mjolnir, Thorís literal Hammer of the Gods, in a rip-roaring battle that had me questioning whether the mallet was sentient?  In director Taika Waititiís hands, even slightly quieter moments, such as the Norse godsí first visit to a certain address on Bleecker St. in Greenwich Village, have a giddy fanís ďoutsiderĒ perspective that also makes those scenes exciting.  

More like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in spirit and feel than any of its THOR predecessors, RAGNAROK, is that rare superhero movie, where, while the action is exhilarating, it takes a backseat to the wit and cleverness of the script and the actorsí portrayals.  Under Waititiís direction, the good vibes on the set are palpable, with each person on the screen looking like they are having the time of their lives and giving their all to the production.  The action sequences are all-out and impressive, the jokes Ė subtle, broad, or downright silly Ė are delivered with unforced ease, while the dialog flows in the more emotional scenes.

Fun as it undeniably is, the film is not without heart, and Thorís complicated relationships with his godly family, his Asgardian brothers-in-arms, as well as his cadre of intergalactic superfolks (The Revengers?) are a big focus of the film.  The laughs and thrills subside startlingly in some cases, as there are big losses suffered by the God of Thunder - And thatís not even counting his hair (and other body parts).  For all the Norse godís bravado and former self-assurance, heís still got a long way to go before he can live up to the potential and wisdom he needs to lead his people.

Small flaws are some pacing issues and spending a little too much time in unnecessary places; like Thor and his mysteriously displaced (and strangely chatty) Avenger comrade Hulkís walk through one planetís Hulk Day parade, in praise of their green gladiator hero.  Some of the mass battle scenes seem a bit repetitive, as faceless masses are slaughtered by the filmís new bad girl, the exquisitely evil goddess, Hela. 

I wished less time and attention had been placed on Hulk, who we have seen on screen so many times, and always in the same rage-or-not-to-rage conundrum.  I could have also done without as much participation from a new character, a vengeful fallen Valkyrie, who seemed to me a much-less-interesting Norse version of Gamora from GUARDIANS, and not as mighty or magnificent (or convincing in her action scenes) as Thorís previous BFF, Sif (Who is inexplicably absent from these proceedings).  

Would that they had spent those minutes to expand on Hela, Goddess of Death, the (very purposely) forgotten child of Odin.  From her splendidly pointy look, to Cate Blanchettís robust, SśhrŪmnir-chewing performance, Hela shouldíve been one of the most memorable villains of the MCU pantheon.  Despite endless shots of her doing that cool hair-becomes-fabulous-antler-hat move, immaculate goth makeup and catsuit, and slaying thousands with big knives ejecting from her arms (and looking strangely older or plastically younger from angle to angle); Hela seems pretty one-note.  With the right treatment, she shouldíve had a lot of depth, and perhaps even some relatability as being a devoted daughter betrayed and cast out by her own father.

Speaking of fabulous antler hatsÖ Yes, thereís Loki.  Lokiís participation in the Marvel movie universe is clearly decorative at this point (Though this yearís wig full of lumpy twists doesnít do a thing for him. Same for Idris Elbaís tatty, Weeknd-ish Heimdall dreads).  Most of his presence is made of being either the mosquito-like bane of Thorís existence, or the butt of his jokes.  More jester than trickster, Loki has become a figure of fun for the audience to howl at his disgraces and indignities, and Tom Hiddleston seems perfectly happy Ė perhaps even liberated Ė by it.  One of the filmís most memorable sequences involves his extreme chagrin at the prospect of a reunion with an old foe who used him to hysterical ends in their previous meeting.  The sinister, seething, wronged prince is a shell of his former self (Though there is the tiniest hint at a return to his former badness), and placated being the leader of even a small band of morons.

Also played for laughs is the excellent placement of Jeff Goldblum in his best role since THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, as Grandmaster, an interdimensional tyrant with a thing for games. Goldblumís trademark off-hand delivery is a perfect conduit for Waititiís off-hand humour and directing style.

Along with Hiddlestonís Loki, our star, Chris Hemsworth now wears his God of Thunder like a comfortable leather glove Ė or the leather handle of Mjolnir.  With the twinkle in his eyes as Thor, the fun-loving brawler (whoís only too happy to take selcas with adoring fans), his physical prowess in the many action set pieces, and his unexpected vulnerability in the more emotional scenes, I cannot imagine the role in anyone elseís hands.

Having a director set such a signature stamp as Waititiís droll, sweet humour on a film that fans feel they own and have certain expectations for, mightíve been a risk, and to that end, Disney should be applauded for not underestimating the intelligence of their audience.  From its first fourth-wall breaking moments, itís clear that THOR: RAGNAROK is not your average superhero flick.

I canít tell why I love THOR: RAGNAROK more: Is it because it heralds the long-awaited global domination of the fabulously talented Taika Waititi, or simply because itís such great fun and truly one of the top Marvel movie entries?  Why not both?

Now if only they would promise to bring back Thorís lovely, long tresses for the next one... .

Run, go see. - And stay through the end.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 2nd. 2017



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