Following the previous earnest entries “Thor” and “Thor: Dark World”, Kiwi director Taika Waititi introduced a very different aesthetic and tone to Thor: Ragnarok, bringing humour to the fore with considerable success.
After being rewarded with critical acclaim and decent box office, Waititi enjoyed further success with Jojo Rabbit, a risky but ultimately well received film, together with a blossoming acting career.
With Hollywood success comes freedom, the keys to the kingdom if you will, $250m to make whatever Thor film you wish to make.
To be fair, Waititi has not wasted his chance to indulge his every wish, whilst squandering the opportunity with the budget and talent on offer, to actually make a good film.
Relating a plot whose main focus revolves around two screaming goats pulling a Viking ship through a rainbow to track down an evil kidnapper of children in the “Shadow Realm”, becomes a pointless exercise.
Tone is important in a film, successfully moving between comedy, poignancy or tragedy is a proven Waititi skill, unfortunately not on display here.
“Thor” (Chris Hemsworth) is back, looking even more buff than ever, helping the downtrodden with Guardians of The Galaxy crew assistance, even if it means destroying the very thing you are attempting to save, job done, no thanks required.
When “New Asgard”, a village celebrating Thor’s exploits, complete with an amateur play populated by Hollywood’s finest, is attacked by Gorr and his Shadow Monsters, Thor re-encounters “Jane Foster” (Natalie Portman).
Mjølnir (Thor’s hammer) re-assembles, being more attracted to Thor’s old flame than to Thor’s call. Which is fortunate, as Jane needs all the help she can get to combat stage IV cancer, a nod to real life which grates with the cartoon characterisations that abound elsewhere.
The first half of the film is almost surreal, with little or no discernible effort at a structured narrative. Seemingly a lot of talented people having fun in the sun on the Australian set, with jokes falling flat and characters reduced to parody. It is difficult for a sense of awe and myth to exist when undercut by poorly timed humour.
The only person not receiving the “no acting required” email, was Christian Bale on bad guy duties, playing “Gorr – The God Butcher”. Gorr’s hatred of gods is forged when they show their disdain for ordinary folk’s pain, setting him on a mission to destroy all gods with the “Necrosword”. Bale does his best but should be in a different, better film.
The plot such as it is, limps home via various primary colour CGI fights, but not before providing an opportunity for Hemsworth to get naked in front of a stadium of gods, including the man himself “Zeus” (Russell Crowe). Quite what actors of Crowe and Bale are doing here must relate to financial reasons or offspring peer pressure.
Disappointing on every level imaginable, adding to a growing slate of Marvel stage 4 films post Avengers, that have stumbled critically, despite doing well financially.
However, with a box office haul of $750m, like the Fast and Furious franchise these films remain impervious to any form of critical assessment, with brand loyalty arguably blind to artistic or emotional merit.
Of course this reviewer could just be getting old…..