Thor: Ragnarok might be the cinematic equivalent of fitting a square peg in a round hole in that the movie manages to fit an entertaining spectacle into what was formerly a rigid character, but you can definitely feel the strain of getting it in there.
Most of the challenges to the movie truly being transcendent is the opening act, where we find out that a demon is supposed to cause Ragnarock (not Hela surprisingly), finds out his brother has taken the kingdom for himself and their father is on earth, meet Dr. Strange and find their father, find out that Hela is coming, deal with her and two other bombshell plot points, get tossed into another dimension, and then Thor (Chris Hemsworth) becomes under the employ of the Grandmaster while Hela begins her conquest and now he has to are himself to save his people. WHEW. All of that in the span of 25-30 minutes. I’d applaud the movie for getting through that much plot if they had done a better job at making it seem seamless. It was really bing bang boom alright now we’re where we want to be. Thor: Ragnarok, once it settles in story/plotwise, hums along at a really entertaining clip finding new ground to mine in Thor’s journey. It’s aided in part by the brilliant supporting work of Cate Blanchett and Tessa Thompson. Cate is just delicious as the villainous Hela, her barely contained glee at being able to dispatch her foes and try and reclaim the throne. Everytime she was on screen I was a happier person. While Thor is trying to get back to his world, he’s put in the orbit of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. Tessa channels Thor a bit in this role but she more than makes space for her on her own. She’s incredibly grounded but super bad ass, Thor’s fangirling for her easily rolled over to me by the end of her first scene.
But even with all the praise I could lay on this movie, I felt like the movie wanted to keep me from fully embracing it. Everyone realized that the previous Thor movies were a bit of a droll mess and could use some sprucing up. The movie just tries entirely too hard to be a super humorous laugh riot OMG AREN’T THESE JOKES GREAT funny Thor movie rather than a Thor film that was funny. I don’t say this to say that the movie isn’t funny, because it is when the movie is relying on previously established moments within the series (there’s a scene with Hulk that had me in shambles). However, every piece of dialogue felt scripted for maximum funny effect and scenarios layered with extra cheese that it began to work against the characters. I get wanting to do something new but when it works against your characters, then maybe you should have tread a bit lighter.
Luckily, Taika Watiti uses his considerable talents as a director to hold you in as things get wackier and wackier by being about as assured with the camera as the best MCU directors have been. Thor: Ragnarok is successful because of his sensibilities as a director and should provide fans with good time at the theater.