Thor: Ragnarok  (2017)

I'm always a couple movies behind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before this summer's "Infinity War", I still need to watch "Black Panther", but I was able to get to the third Thor movie before that. The MCU has had ups and downs, but I'm still sucked into this saga. I really liked the first Thor movie, the Dark World sequel has seemed to been erased from my memory (I kind of remember something about a portal, Natalie Portman gets powers, and Kat Dennings), so I was hoping that the third would step back up.

"Ragnarok" patches up a hole that was running through the MCU, explaining what happened to the Hulk and Thor after "Age of Ultron", and why neither character was around for "Civil War". Hulk had famously climbed into a jet and flew away into parts unknown, and Thor was cruising around the universe before heading home to Asgard. A whole lot of stuff happens, but the quickest summation involves Thor's long-lost older sister Hela returning to take over Asgard, and Thor and Loki being catapulted to a random planet which happens to be where Hulk landed two years ago and has been competing in gladiator games.

I really need to break this movie down into certain parts. The action was awesome; the fights were fantastic, the CGI was solid, the epic scale of the action fit the MCU. On the flip, the comedy was just too much. Every movie in the MCU is jokey - all the characters are quick-witted, there are visual gags aplenty. Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be the most "comedic-action" versus "action with some jokes" until I watched "Ragnarok." From the opening scene to the closing credits, it was joke after joke after gag after wisecrack, and really just ended up being fatiguing. Director Takia Waititi claimed that nearly 80% of the movie was improvised on-set, and I'm inclined to believe him because a lot of the jokes weren't necessarily good - it was a situation of quantity over quality.

The final thing that I need to delve into is the cast. The MCU is ever-growing, and with new character being introduced, there are plenty of openings for actors to say "Let me get in on some of that sweet Disney Marvel money". I love Chris Hemsworth as Thor (not the biggest fan of the haircut to be honest), I love Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I love Idris Elba as Heimdall. Mark Ruffalo has been solid as Bruce Banner, but his character fell into comic relief a bit too much. Anthony Hopkins brought his legit chops to the first Thor movie, but here seemed like he was phoning it in. Now, for the new meat: when I looked back at her filmography, I realized I've only seen a handful of Cate Blanchett's movies, but never really liked her in any of them. I don't think she fit the comic book style, but I will say her black-hair-and-heavy-eyeliner look appealed to my interest in goth girls. I liked Tessa Thompson in the TV show "Westworld", but she just never felt intimidating in this. I feel like Black Widow could kick my ass; I feel like Gamora could kick my ass; I never really felt like Valkyrie could kick my ass. Karl Urban was bad. I don't know exactly what accent he was trying for (admittedly I didn't know he was actually from New Zealand, so he may have been using some of his real voice), but his speech and his costume and pretty much everything was just blah. Finally, Jeff Goldblum. Oh, Jeff. He's become something of a caricature of himself, an icon of pop culture quirkiness, an ability to do no wrong a la Bill Murray. The issue with that is I felt like I was watching Jeff Goldblum, not the "Grandmaster." I understand the catch-22 of wanting a big name star for a role, then risking the role being overshadowed by the actor, but in this case it's like he didn't even try.

Good action, a mix of good and bad casting, and too many jokes. Not the worst movie in the MCU thus far, but not the best. I get that Waititi and Hemsworth wanted to break down and rebuild Thor, and I appreciate the effort, and it did end up being more memorable than The Dark World...but still, left me a bit deflated.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Thor: Ragnarok" a 6 out of 10.