“Thor:  Ragnarok”

 

            Chris Hemsworth makes for a likeable “Thor” because he manages this cavalier, tongue-in-cheek, one-eyebrow-raised kind of whimsy, as if we shouldn't take this too seriously, either.  After all, it's a comic book on film.

            And comic book characters have to be larger-than-life, with cosmic ambitions and superhuman powers, which we have here in abundance.  Never mind the theology or the cosmology; we're too busy settling family squabbles.

            Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, Thor's stepbrother, alternately a rival and an ally, but reveling more in the hate than the love.  When he's in charge, it's all self-delusion and self-indulgence, which might keep the demigod royalty aloof from the populace, but won't save anybody.

            Their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has decided that it's time for him to just disappear into the sunset.  He's like blind old Isaac blessing his favorite son but leaving the other sullen and resentful; not exactly a sibling relationship likely to improve with his precipitous absence. 

            Odin has managed, however, to ban this cruel and warlike daughter Hela (Cate Blanchett), but somehow his absence enables her to return from the Netherworld with a vengeance, and she's going to claim the throne that she feels is rightfully hers, even if she has to destroy the kingdom to do it.

            Thor finds himself banished to a hellish garbage world presided over by a casually overweening Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster.  But Thor might have a potential ally in a cynical and drunken Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), but even she won't help him when he's pitted as a gladiator against his old friend, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who's been in angry mode for so long that Mr. Hyde has almost forgotten there ever was a Dr. Jekyll.

            Not enough star power for you?  Then how about throwing in Idris Elba as Heimdall, who, like Moses, is leading the slaves to freedom, except he's going to need some divine intervention (well, Thor is the god of thunder).  We're not sure where Dr. Strange is supposed to fit into this, but Benedict Cumberbatch is always riveting, even in a cameo.

            Now blend in some Star Trek-type spaceship travel, along with some Star Wars-type internecine rivalry, and you have the makings of a real hodge-podge that almost doesn't hang together because of the constant change of context.  But it's the great actors that save it.  We want to believe them, and so we willingly suspend our disbelief, even knowing it's a juvenile yarn with a pubescent target audience.

            So just swallow the contradictions and pass the popcorn.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Which of your childhood family dynamics have extended into adulthood?

2)                  Which comic book heroes are your favorites?

3)                  How much do you know about Norse mythology? How much is still applicable today?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association