**½/**** Image A Sound A- Extras B
starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins
written by Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost
directed by Taika Waititi
by Walter Chaw I've reached a limit with facility, I think--a point at which things that are professionally-executed and entirely meaningless just slide off into a kind of instant nothingness. I'm talking about machine-tooled product, a brand like Kleenex or Kellogg's, where the only time there's any awareness of consumption is when the experience of it is unexpected in some way. There's a reason people see the Virgin Mary in potato chips sometimes. Variation in extruded products is so exceedingly rare that it's akin to holy visitation: some accidental proof of the supernatural; a glitch in the Matrix. Marvel films are akin now to your daily lunch. You can remember the stray meal. Mostly, it's something you do knowing you've had one yesterday and are likely to have one tomorrow. If you're like most of us, you could probably eat better.
Thor: Ragnarok (hereafter Thor 3), is funnier than the usual Marvel product because it's directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), who voices a giant blue rock monster in the film. It also has a thing where the eldest daughter of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Hela (Cate Blanchett), is the embodiment of death. In Norse mythology, "Hel" is the daughter of Loki. In the Marvel Universe, she's a total badass who, in various slow-motion battles, demonstrates her ability to throw magic knives and kill lots of people. She helped Odin do a lot of murder, I guess, before Odin banished her somewhere and took on the role of benevolent ruler of Asgard. There's a parallel to this story as the picture begins with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the trickster god and brother of thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), pretending to be Odin and enjoying the pleasures of the crown. Anyway, if you wanted to you could make something of how powerful women are buried in history by the men who write the books. There's also a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who is a total badass, too.
If you care, Hela takes over Asgard and Thor finds himself marooned on a colourful junkyard planet presided over by a quirky character actor revelling in his dotage (Jeff Goldblum). There, Thor is forced into a gladiatorial contest against Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who, a few lunchtimes ago, flew off into a wormhole or something, and so here he is! Surprise! if you haven't seen the poster or any of the trailers. They team up and go fight Hela to save Asgard. Meanwhile, there's some Asgardian guy (Karl Urban) who decides to work for Hela and shows off a couple of assault rifles he got in Texas. This would be funnier if assault rifles weren't killing Americans at a legendary rate, but yes, it's funny that Texas is packed full of Texans. Urban's presence mainly reminds me that the better version of this sort of world-building is The Chronicles of Riddick, from which Thor 3 cribs not just Urban but also a scene where the conquering hero slumps in his new throne. Better would have been if Thor let Valkyrie sit in the throne--but, you know, let's not get crazy with the empowerment stuff.
The best part of Thor 3 is a three-minute sequence on Earth where Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), now a Jedi Master instead of an apprentice, does all kinds of crazy shit to Thor and Loki. Incidentally, one of the post-credit sequences from a different lunch resurfaces here in its entirety; I've never seen that before. I don't, for what it's worth, understand the post-credits sequence of this film, but I'm sure I'll get it the next time I watch a movie very much like this one. I believe I laughed more during Thor 3 than during Avengers Whatever, although the jokes feel grafted onto it the way you would stick a tongue-moistened Cheerio to someone's forehead just because both the Cheerio and the forehead were there. Not much of the humour has anything to do with situation or character. They're just jokes. They're charming. And then there's lots of Marvel stuff that ties up a few strings while fraying a few others for next time. It's beautiful to look at, though. I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Originally published: November 1, 2017.
THE 4K UHD DISC
by Bill Chambers Thor: Ragnarok arrives on the 4K Ultra HD format in a 2.40:1, 2160p presentation sourced from the 2K digital intermediate. There is a minor uptick in detail compared to the 1080p alternative that encourages a close examination of the Asgardian costumes and equally tacky/ornate sets and props, which reward the scrutiny. CG character flesh also registers with slightly more clarity and complexity--the softening techniques used to blend Hulk into the action, for example, don't feel as heavyhanded. But as usual, the real reason to gush about the 4K transfer is the addition of HDR (i.e., HDR10--no Dolby Vision this time around, at least according to the packaging). The latter half of the movie, a psychedelic tribute to the work of Jack Kirby, explodes with impossibly rich colours, while Hulk's pad is a red and white throne room that resembles a plastic kid's gym on Blu-ray but has an inviting metallic gleam in UHD. The Blu-ray is actually outstanding in and of itself, but the 4K disc turns everything up to 11; when Thor finds himself in an open field with his father, the grass truly is greener. For what it's worth, the comin'-at-ya opening title's radioactive circuitry is uncommonly three-dimensional in both HD and UHD, though the effect is amplified by the latter's more extreme contrasts. The 4K platter additionally has the edge on the Blu-ray in terms of audio, but only if you have Dolby Atmos (which I still don't). Without it, the Atmos track downgrades to a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix on par with the Blu-ray's 7.1 DTS-HD MA option. I found the sound in general to be surprisingly reserved--detailed and transparent and loud, yes, but not even as powerful as that of, say, Murder on the Orient Express. When Hulk smashes, he sounds kind of puny.
Supplementary material is entirely housed on the accompanying Blu-ray. That's typical, but why Disney couldn't at least include the commentary track on the UHD platter is a mystery. It features Waititi, who begins by singing lyrics for the Marvel logo and generally takes a piss for 130 minutes. ("[I]f you're expecting to get any incredible information out of me, like anecdotes or filmmaking tips, you have come to the wrong place.") I have no idea whether he's kidding when he says that Surtur's crown is based on an ancient boomerang that was given to the production in Australia, because two seconds later he jokes that he really was on fire while MoCapping said character. He seems to tire of being "on" and eventually resorts to delivering exposition on the plot's behalf, but to his credit he apprises us of this occupational hazard in his intro spiel. HD video-based extras begin with three extended scenes totalling 6 minutes in length. Featuring unfinished but partially-rendered VFX, they are sure to delight fans of Jeff Goldblum and his performance as Grandmaster, although one can see how they would've amounted to too much of a good thing in context (particularly an ad-libbed, Dr. Evil-ish lesson in charades that threatens to never end). Goldblum reprises the character for "Team Darryl" (6 mins.), a dryly funny video from "The New Zealand Documentary Board" in which a hapless L.A. transplant adapts to his new roommate, Grandmaster, the only one who answered his Craigslist ad. My favourite bit is when Grandmaster uses his "melting stick" to melt Darryl's friend Dave, then asks Darryl to help him rehearse an aplogy call to Dave's mom. ("What are you wearing?" Grandmaster almost immediately asks "Dave's mom.") The piece is uncredited but has that Taika Waititi flavour, and for what it's worth might be more quotable than Thor: Ragnarok proper.
A quintet of more conventional featurettes--"Getting in Touch with Your Inner Thor," "Unstoppable Women: Hela and Valkyrie," "Finding Korg," "Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown," and "Journey Into Mystery"--constitutes a 34-minute making-of. With only two actresses counted among the nine names above the title on Thor: Ragnarok's key art, all the gloating here about Marvel doing its part for gender representation feels hollow and premature (if not patently absurd), but it's gratifying to hear Kirby cited as a major influence on the production design of Sakaar. Still, these segments cumulatively register as slick, gratuitous filler, the documentary equivalent of a "having a good time, wish you were here" postcard. "Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years" (5 mins.) is a self-congratulatory recap of Marvel's recent cinematic legacy that places wistful emphasis on the first Iron Man. (And don't we all?) Marvel impresario Kevin Feige promises the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War will finally provide the answers to a decade's worth of questions, so I'm looking forward to the scene that explains why Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle used to look like Edward Norton and Terrence Howard, respectively. "Thor: Ragnarok: Bridge Battle" (2 mins.) is an 8-bit recreation of the movie's climax that perhaps without meaning to shows how much modern action movies are like video games. A gag reel (2 mins.) full of pratfalls and Cate Blanchett reflexively making sound effects for her toy weapons rounds out the extras. Black Panther's trailer cues up on startup of the Blu-ray; a digital copy of Thor: Ragnarok is bundled with the 4K platter as well.