While lacking emotional resonance, Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” proves immensely enjoyable.
“Thor: Ragnarok” continues the adventures of Thor — portrayed by Chris Hemsworth — within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The destruction of Thor’s homeworld, Asgard, has begun, led by the malevolent Hela, portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Stuck on an obscure, disco-drenched planet called Sakaar without his iconic hammer, Thor must fight his way back to Asgard to stop Hela and save his people.
Waititi, who directed 2015’s “What We Do In The Shadows” and 2016’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” crafts an offbeat and relentlessly comedic film with “Ragnarok.”
Dripping with a colorful science-fiction style reminiscent of “Samurai Jack” cartoons, the film mirrors a comic book come to life. The film’s special effects and action scenes, bolstered by dazzlingly bright reds and blues, are spectacular.
The planets Thor finds himself on — particularly one ruled by an eccentric Jeff Goldblum — lend themselves to “Ragnarok’s” quirky sense of humor. Waititi constructs a universe where comedy can be mined nearly everywhere.
Waititi excels in finding comedy in awkward situations. Several scenes in “Ragnarok” feature at least two characters in frame, so viewers can see both their reactions at once.
The improvisational dialogue adds comedic weight and unpredictability to the film. The dialogue emphasizes meandering phrases and prolonged pauses, prompting laughs from characters’ confusion and social awkwardness, particularly in scenes with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.
This humor, while consistently crowd-pleasing, sacrifices much of the potential emotional weight of the film. Waititi seems to focus on comedy rather than drama, similar to James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
Numerous scenes throughout the film, particularly with Odin, Thor’s father, could have benefited from slower pacing. While undeniably entertaining, “Ragnarok” seems made to appeal to mass audiences, some with short attention spans.
Even Blanchett’s Hela, with her sharpened antlers and bloodthirsty persona, can’t be taken seriously. Any threatening aspects of her character are undercut in service of adding humor to the proceedings. The film’s comedic tone rarely pauses to emphasize her intimidating presence or the magnitude of her destruction.
While Thor’s journey to Asgard proves secondary to Waititi’s emphasis on comedy, the relationship between Thor and Hulk gets notable attention in “Ragnarok.” Their relationship remains the most endearing and compelling of the film’s characters.
If viewers approach “Thor: Ragnarok” expecting to be entertained, they won’t be disappointed. The film’s universal sense of fun overshadows the less-developed aspects of the plot and characters.
Rating: ⅘ Jeff Goldblums