The first thing that struck me about Thor: Ragnarok was the dialogue; specifically, how the majority of it was simply dreadful. Cliched, predictable, and hammy, at one point I wondered if this was just one big joke on behalf of the scriptwriters, and the movie was actually making fun of me for having the credulity to purchase a ticket in the first place. Call me paranoid, but when you find yourself sitting through a movie with the line “I’ll pardon you… from life”, these kinds of ideas stop seeming quite so outlandish.
Luckily, I quickly realised that the dialogue wasn’t supposed to be engaging, or even interesting. The only reason it exists is to justify all the characters periodically engaging in various colourful, zany fight scenes, and thankfully, this is where the film manages to redeem itself.
The fight choreography is a spectacle, sporting an effortlessly cool disregard for the laws of physics, giving it a fun, feisty, and authentic comic-book-style feeling.
The problem is that there’s only so much action one can tolerate (even it’s as bright and stimulating as it is in Ragnarok) if the scenes outside the fights are consistently hamstrung by the aforementioned terrible script. There’s no effort made to establish any sort of compelling narrative, making the film drag in the second half; you’ll eventually reach a point where you just don’t care what’s happening on screen, whether it’s cartoonishly violent or not. Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) betrayal-and-redemption character arc is staggeringly formulaic, and substantial motivation for Cate Blanchett’s villain is nowhere to be found.
Ragnarok treated us to some very peculiar performances, like Jeff Goldblum’s, which wasn’t exactly bad, but still bizarre. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner/the Hulk was pretty awful, and was hardly helped by the laughable and childish attempts of the script to make it seem like Bruce is clever. But these oddities can simply melt away into the film’s wacky, playful vibe in a way that a lack of any palpable character development just can’t.
What Ragnarok gives us, then, is a film whose capacity for superficial entertainment falls a little short of making up for the gaping void left where an interesting story should be.