After the watchable Thor and borefest Thor 2, hopes were not exactly high for this third outing, but it seems like Marvel have a good handle on producing solid if unspectacular instalments in their various franchises. It is a back-handed compliment then for me to say this is easily the most entertaining and exciting of the three. Back-handed because in order to keep the Thor films relevant, they have had to completely reimagine how it works.
The original Thor has a certain tongue in cheek style to offset the ridiculousness of its comic book premise. I even bemoaned the fact that there was not more levity in the first film (and anything of interest at all would have been great in the second). But with Ragnarok, Thor has become full-on comedy. The tonal shift from the previous films is jarring but theoretically is not a terrible idea and could be seen almost as a soft reboot, which in a world of wider cinematic universes is the best one can do when you want to evolve your franchise.
However, there is a serious issue with changing up your franchise if all you're going to do is completely rip off another one. I get it, Guardians of the Galaxy was really successful, you want to emulate it, but don't just plagiarise it completely. The opening thirty minutes before the plot really kicked in was one of the cringiest experiences I have had in recent memory. I almost had to leave the screening because I was embarrassed on their behalf. It was like watching the office joker do stand up routines he's seen on TV and try and pass them off as his own.
Yes, I know they are all part of the same cinematic universe, but that is no excuse. The beauty of having the different elements is that you can do different things with the individual parts. If Guardians is the comedy side then let it be the comedy side. And if they weren't being made by the same company, they should have a copyright infringement lawsuit on their hands.
It's a shame that they were just copying another film because when it actually got going, the plot was engaging. It definitely had some issues but it was basically solid and made sense within its own story world. The major problem was that it threw up no real surprises.
For example, we are introduced to a slave trader character played by Tessa Thompson. She is obviously a bad guy as she enslaves our plucky hero Thor and drinks a lot. Which is strange because usually a skeevy slave trader would be played by someone like Omid Djalili. But no, this is an attractive young woman and therefore must be true at heart and will turn into a good guy and flirt with Thor a lot.
Similarly with Karl Urban's character, Skurge. He is introduced as a selfish slacker but is taken on by the Big Bad as a sidekick. We know he's not a very honourable person but whenever he does anything distinctly evil he hesitates and looks to the ground first. This demonstrates that he is VERY conflicted. He's done too much bad to live at the end but he will, of course, have an honourable turn at the end and sacrifice himself to save others.
It is this sort of simplistic characterisation and plot development that lets down a solid action piece that is also lacking in emotional depth.
The troubled relationship between Thor and Loki never gets deep enough for me. There are some serious issues there and to do them justice you need to centre the film around them. As it stands, even in the scenes where it is focused on, it comes across as flippant. Loki has done some seriously evil acts and killed or tried to kill people close to Thor as well as Thor himself. And yet he's almost treated like a cheeky scamp who can't help himself. This needs more gravitas and you have actors who could handle that emotional weight so use them.
This is made worse by the fact that the plot is so obviously set up to go into this when their long lost sister turns up to kill everyone. We have a lot of talk about Odin's past as a barbaric soldier who apparently mellowed in old age. What a great way to open up family wounds and see some real emotions. Do Thor and Loki really know their father? Are they concerned that everything they've ever known; the riches and power they have enjoyed is built on the bloodied backs of oppressed worlds and fallen soldiers? Do they have any empathy towards Hela, who really was screwed over by her own father who taught her everything she knows? These are all questions that are not explored in this film.
Speaking of Hela, who is the main bad guy of the film, Cate Blanchett certainly falls on the wrong side of pantomime and her character comes across as a Power Rangers reject. We get just enough back story to explain her presence without really understanding her motivations so she is just boiled down to a megalomaniac who wants nothing but power just for the hell of it.
But hey, Hulk is in it. You all like Hulk, right?
Remember Dr. Strange? We don't think you will by the time we rush out another film so here he is for no reason.
Distinctly lacking in original ideas but it does at least copy and paste efficiently; 6/10