By Mario Ricciardi
It was a summer day back in 2014. Not a particularly hot day, nor particularly cold. Mild was the word. A foxy dame never came to my office. I didn’t even have an office for anyone to go to. Still don’t. I was wearing shorts and a bright yellow Macho Man Randy Savage T-shirt. I made my way to the local theater to see a little film by the name of “The Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Upon my exit, the notion donned on me like a man named Don approaching me on the street to say hello. The majority of Marvel’s superhero movies are going to stop being superhero movies. When I saw “Guardians of the Galaxy,” I didn’t see a superhero movie so much as I saw Marvel’s take on space epics like “Star Wars” or “Flash Gordon” starring superheroes. Don’t buy it? “Ant-Man” is Marvel’s heist film, “Spiderman Homecoming” is Marvel’s John Hughes coming-of-age tale and the “Black Panther” looks like it could be Marvel’s take on a political thriller.
I’m not saying Marvel will stop making their regular blockbuster superhero hits. I’m predicting from here on out most Marvel films will be playing a film genre type to keep things fresh. Without that angle, Marvel’s lasting power will exponentially drop. This brings me to Marvel’s take on the buddy comedy: “Thor: Ragnarok.”
On the wake of Asgard’s destruction at the hands of its original heir Hela, Thor finds himself imprisoned on the other side of the universe forced to fight the Hulk in an intergalactic gladiator arena. Having lost his home, his hammer and his hair, Thor must fight for his own survival so he can form a team powerful enough to return to Asgard and defeat Hela. Not to mention claim Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” from David Fincher’s “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” as their own along the way.
In “Ragnarok,” Thor buddies up with everyone from his brother Loki, to ravager she-warrior Valkyrie, to the Incredible Hulk and with so many buddies there is equally as much comedy. And trust me when I say there are plenty of laughs to go around. With the dialogue developed in an improvisational fashion like many other great comedies before it, we see just how funny Chris Hemsworth and his supporting cast can be.
Supporting cast? I thought you’d never ask. The movie features a monumental number of epic talents who all show that serious actors can also be funny. This group includes Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Damon. “Ragnarok” cranks comedy, action and talent up to 11 and does not disappoint.
That being said, some of the comedy plays to only those with a background versed in Marvel’s filmography and despite Cate Blanchett’s screen presence, it is hard to find her all that threatening because of how funny the rest of the movie is (and the fact that she does little more than walk around and do some Disney villain sorcery here and there). Most Marvel movies focus on the drama and try to add some comic relief. The focus of “Thor: Ragnarok” is on the comedy and moments of drama only show up to remind us of the stakes Thor and friends are facing. “Ragnarok” is a super enjoyable film focusing on humor and fun, but shows us enough of a plot cohesive to itself and the greater Marvel movieverse fans and non-fans alike will find things to enjoy.
Marvel’s intent for this installment of diversifying the franchise is reminding you just how fun movies can be and that it does.
???? (4/5 Penguins)