Chris Hemsworth’s third solo movie is a light-hearted romp, but it might want to be something more.
Who knew the end of everything could be so fun? The reviews of Thor: Ragnarok are in, and everyone seems to be agreed: Taika Waititi’s first Marvel movie is the most enjoyable Thor movie to date — but that might not be quite the blessing it might be assumed.
“The relatively laidback angle on all the murderous spree-ing gives Chris Hemsworth a chance to find the comic groove beneath the title character’s beefcake godliness. He does it expertly, and the self-mocking humor is all the more welcome given Thor’s essential blandness,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sheri Linden. “Waititi’s interest in intimate stories was evident in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but it’s the knack for dry comedy that he brought to the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows that shapes the new Thor.”
Polygon‘s Brock Wilbur was equally won over. “Ragnarok is the child of confident filmmaking and understanding of what the Thor franchise could have always been,” he wrote, adding that the movie “sets the new standard by which the entire MCU will have to adhere to, including the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Rangarok is an intense space opera that genuinely cares about every character having a journey and doesn’t waste a second of screen time on anything artificial.”
Similarly impressed was James Dyer of Empire, who wrote, “Like a cosmic fever dream, Ragnarok is a disorientating cocktail of riotous color and batty antics that seem almost unreal after the fact. Try to fit it into an established mould at your peril, but roll with this and you’ll discover not only a top-tier addition to the MCU, but one of the most flat-out enjoyable comedies of the year.”
If anything, the movie might be too enjoyable, with a number of critics noting that the fun undercuts the dramatic tension that the movie — about a threat to destroy Thor’s home of Asgard — requires. “Comic-book movies have spent a long time striving to be taken as serious, grownup entertainment but Thor: Ragnarok is almost an admission that you can’t play this material straight,” wrote The Guardian‘s Steve Rose. “The price of this irreverence is the possibility of taking anything that happens all that seriously – even the potential destruction of the Norse gods’ home (that’s not a spoiler either: it’s the title of the movie).”
USA Today‘s Brian Truitt agreed. “The adventure leans hard into the campy Flash Gordon vibe and slapstick humor, so much so that when the third act save-the-world stuff comes, it doesn’t feel completely earned,” he noted, comparing it to other Marvel features. “The Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming and even Ant-Man struck an enjoyable balance between the absurd and the serious that Ragnarok just doesn’t quite nail.”
For the BBC’s Nicholas Barber, the problem with the movie is that “it’s all so bubbly and inconsequential that it can feel as if you’re watching a hugely expensive sitcom episode. For much of the running time, the heroes are bantering and squabbling on the Grandmaster’s glittery planet, and they seem to be light years away — emotionally as well as geographically — from anything that’s happening on Asgard, let alone on Earth. In theory, the fate of the universe is at stake. In practice, you’ll care more about Thor’s new haircut than Hela’s reign of terror.”
(But it’s such a good haircut!)
Not everyone thinks that the movie lacks depth, however. Cinema Blend‘s Eric Eisenberg argues that the movie manages to develop characters more than might be expected. “More than just having a spike in witty lines, Thor is free of the weight of whether or not to take Odin’s crown, as well as his obligations to Earth, and instead gets to use this sequel to stand up as the proud defender of Asgard in time of crisis,” he wrote. “Hulk has literally evolved, going from mindless beast to a syntax-challenged meathead who can finally start to articulate his side of his inner-conflict with Bruce Banner. And then there’s Loki, who actually proves everyone wrong by being a somewhat effective leader of his realm — even if it means letting everywhere else descend into chaos. As much as we’ve seen a lot of these heroes and villains over the last decade, this story successfully never feels stale.”
Leave it to ScreenCrush‘s Matt Singer to put it in perspective. Writing that “the movie is sometimes as sloppy as an Asgardian thunder god after too many pints of mead,” he suggested that the movie is exactly as fun (and funny) as everyone says, but ultimately emotionally empty.
“The reality is this movie is so colorful and zippy and packed with outlandish supporting characters, that Hemsworth’s job is relatively easy. He just needs to look great, kick ass, nail the one-liners, and ride off into the sunset (or Avengers: Infinity War, whichever comes first),” he wrote. “Thor: Ragnarok is sort of like a giant flatscreen TV hanging on a wall with an enormous hole in the middle of it. The TV is beautiful, but it doesn’t fix the hole. It just covers it up.”
Thor: Ragnarok opens Nov. 3.