*. In terms of its formula Thor: Ragnarok is just like every other Marvel movie, but to give it its due, its better in most regards. That means that while I could appreciate and even enjoy it, I’m sure I’ll never want to see it again and only a day after watching it there were big parts that I could no longer remember.
*. What’s the same this time out? The sprawling plot that draws in a crowded cast of extra characters played by big stars. The villain with an army of disposable mooks who wants to, yes, open another portal to Earth (here it’s the Bifröst Bridge) so that they can . . . I don’t know. Either kill everyone or else sit on a throne lording it over them. Motivation for these baddies always seems kind of vague.
*. As far as the story arc goes, it follows the tried-tested-and-true pattern of every pro wrestling match. The hero starts out strong, then gets taken by surprise and is humbled/loses his power. He has to spend some time on the outs, getting his mojo back/powering up so that he’s ready for the re-match, wherein he kicks ass and re-establishes the proper order of things.
*. Would these movies be better if they were a little more focused? Did we need to have Doctor Strange drop in here? Or the Hulk? The whole subplot where Thor is whisked off to a game-show planet where he fights as a gladiator has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, though seeing Jeff Goldblum do his shtick was fun, and made me wonder when Nicolas Cage might be coming back to Marvel. Was Ghost Rider that big a set-back?
*. As it is, the story didn’t need all these extras. It already has Thor (Chris Hemsworth) bickering as per usual with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). And there are other Asgardians like Heimdall (Idris Elba), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Skurge (Karl Urban). Anthony Hopkins as Odin passes the torch with some flabby words of wisdom. Plus there’s Cate Blanchett as Hela, another distinguished actor that Marvel squeezes into spandex but doesn’t give much to do but strike various poses. She seems bored by power. Hela, that is.
*. There’s little to add at this point. Director Taika Waititi, who also provides the voice of Korg, was going for something more comic, and he got it. Though the humour is still very much in the Marvel vein: dry wise-cracking in the face of danger, or just taking a poke at the sheer portentous ridiculousness of everything that’s going on. It’s a self-aware sort of humour, with the hero as a self-deprecating figure until he has to get serious for a bit, before going back to cracking jokes.
*. In sum, it’s a fun bit of cotton candy. Hemsworth looks impossibly buff. Thompson and Goldblum stand out in a solid cast. The use of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is inspired. So both more of the same and as good as it gets. I can’t be more, or less, enthusiastic than that.