Thor: Ragnarok 28.10.17
Two thirds of the way through Thor: Ragnarok, there's a superlative piece of slow-mo action that should have lasted longer. We see in a historical flashback the Valkyries – an all-woman army on winged horseback – approaching the story's villain, Cate Blanchett's Hela, in a final role of the dice. It's a scene akin to those of Lord of the Rings, when ancient battles held their decisive moments. Alas, this scene in Thor: Ragnarok goes no further, a plot hole forms – how did they defeat Hela the first time, when she seems to be invincible? – and a moment of fleeting beauty disappears.
The rest of Ragnarok is garish fun, with a strong middle section, and the occasional descents into nonsense. The opening half-hour is the worst, the film trying too hard to be cute and even parodying the superhero genre. A sequence of sharply-cut moments involving Dr Strange, in particular, is the cinematic equivalent of gibberish, and at a certain point left me feeling embarrassed, for a spoof that isn't funny.
What rescues Ragnarok is Thor's arrival on a junk-yard planet. Things settle, characters have time to talk, and action has its purpose. A strong cast in turn ping off each other – Hemsworth's Thor, Hiddleston's Loki and Thompson's Valkyrie are joined by Ruffalo's Hulk and their chemistry works; Goldblum is a wacky, amusing dictator, and a sub-plot with shades of Guardians of the Galaxy paints an engaging background, with monster-creatures wanting revolution.It's worth noting that in this middle section, Thor has lost much of his power, and his hammer is gone; these are heroes a little less super than usual. It's a shame, indeed, that we have to leave this planet. Once back on Asgard, the pointlessness of a battle between invincible heroes resumes, with fight scenes that sometimes resemble computer-game simulation. Yet it's here that I should also state, in fairness, that the ending has been set up, and completes the arc of Thor and the truth of Valhalla – Hela does eventually get a poetic comeuppance. It's also the ending that makes sense, generically, and for the middle part, the film carves its own identity, a weird, cosmic fantasy. Perhaps this is how to utilize the talents of Cumberbatch's Dr Strange, as well as Thor and Hulk, heroes a little bit too super for Earthly battles: I'd like to see more of these kinds of Avengers films with the super powers reduced, and wacky, fantastic worlds and characters made more of, a marriage of Hell Boy and Pan's Labyrinth combined with these Marvel gods to give us something truly otherworldly.