Thursday, December 14, 2017

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (2000)



PHENOMENALITY: *uncanny*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological*

This particular HOUND was the first of four Canadian TV-productions which starred Matt Frewer in the role of Sherlock Holmes. I find Frewer's reading of Holmes to be one of the worst ever, in that he plays Holmes as a mere smarty-pants fop. However, I chose to rate this TV-movie's mythicity as "fair" simply because in every other way it's a serviceable, if unexceptional, version of the classic Doyle novel. It's such a strong story that even though this TV-movie is obliged to strip the story down to its bare essentials, it does succeed in touching on all of the major mythologems of the narrative. That's more than one can say of what may well be the poorest adaptation ever, the blatantly unfaithful-- and uninsightful-- comedy version from 1978.

Frewer aside, all of the actors comport themselves well enough, from Kenneth Welsh's Doctor Watson to Jason London, whose Sir Henry Baskerville comes off as a likable character, rather than the more typical cipher. Rodney Gibbons, who directed the other three films in the series, allows for some nice location shots, though the production's too cheap to spring for fog-machines. And the filmmakers did exert themselves to get a pretty impressive "hound," one big enough to be credibly mistaken for a wolf-- which is something one doesn't even see in some of the classier flicks.

Monday, December 11, 2017

THE STRANGER (1973)





PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological, cosmological*


If MST2K hadn't picked up this flop pilot and given it their spoof-treatment under the title STRANDED IN SPACE, I don't know if even diehard SF-nerds like myself would remember it.
In essence, it looks as if the credited writer-- one Gerald Sanford-- simply watched the 1969 film JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN and recycled it into a potential series-concept. American astronaut Neil Stryker, along with two other companions, goes into orbit, but somehow he and his friends end up on "Terra," a near-duplicate of the planet Earth, but existing on the opposite side of the sun, where astronomers can't see it-- and also, supposedly never notice its effects on the solar system's integrity.

Stryker-- listlessly played by familiar TV-face Glenn Corbett-- soon tips to the fact that even though Terra looks almost exactly like Southern California, there are subtle differences, like the fact that most people are left-handed rather than right-handed. More tellingly for the potential of future plotlines, all of Terra-- or maybe just North America-- is controlled by an Orwellian government, "The Perfect Order," which somehow took over the world thirty-five years ago and brainwashed most of the populace into believing the Order to being beneficent. Stryker doesn't want a revolution, he just wants to go back to his world, but he has to dodge the Order's murderous agents, led by a taciturn Cameron Mitchell. Had some executive been foolish enough to greenlight this for a series, presumably most episodes would have dealt with the astronaut alternately fighting the Order and trying to find some way to the right Earth.

Since the script gives the actors only minimal emotions to express, it's not surprising that none of them do more than "phone it in." Director Lee Katzin, like scripter Sanford, spent almost his whole career in TV, though he did helm one Robert Aldrich production, the mediocre WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE?





Thursday, December 7, 2017

WITCHVILLE (2010), HELLHOUNDS (2009)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: (1) *poor,* (2) *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological, metaphysical*


Though SYFY's notorious giant-beast films have almost always been a waste of time, on occasion some of their low-budget fantasy-adventures have their moments.

WITCHVILLE is for the most part an adequate time-killer. In a vague medieval world, Malachi. the only son of the realm's king, is called back to assume the crown when his father passes. No sooner does he return than he's informed that the realm's crops have been devastated by an evil witch, the Red Queen, and her skull-masked soldiers. Strangely, neither Malachi nor his soldiers seem to believe that real witches even exist, but a local witch-hunter, Heinrich, proves that even an innocent-looking grandmother happens to be a pawn of the Queen.

Despite the fact that Malachi and his people know where the Queen's village is, he doesn't take the realm's army to wipe the place off the map, but naturally decides to attack her with a small handful of men and the magic-making witch-hunter. They pick up a few extra hands on the way when Malachi enlists to his quest some thieves who try to rob the expedition. On their way they're repeatedly attacked by the Queen's magic-wielding soldiers, led by her red-cowled daughter Josefa. Frankly, the design of Josefa's costume and the performance of actress Myanna Buring in the role is WITCHVILLE'S only real asset.

Malachi is a thoroughly bland character, and so, even though there's a big dramatic revelation as to his family history it has little impact. The action-scenes are adequate but unexceptional.



HELLHOUNDS also shows its paltry budget, but the direction-- by former kid actor Rick Shroder-- is considerably better, and the script shows some awareness of the archaic culture-- that of pagan Greece-- where the action takes place.

Greek warrior Kleitos is scheduled to marry his betrothed, Demetria. However, some unknown killer steals Demetria's soul and sends it down into Hades, the Greek afterlife. Kleitos and a small group of his fellow warriors actually brave Hades with the goal of reuniting Demetria's soul with her comatose body.

In many respects, HELLHOUNDS and WITCHVILLE follow the same basic template. However, one saving grace of HELLHOUNDS' script is that, although the warriors initially have no weapons capable of harming the denizens of Hades, they figure out that, since everything in the afterlife is created by the death-god, poison taken from one of Hades' monsters can be used against other guardians, like the titular Hounds of Hell.

Though a Canadian production, HELLHOUNDS was filmed in Romania, which may have helped it acquire a little more of an "old world" look.

Monday, December 4, 2017

MURDER BY DECREE (1979)



PHENOMENALITY: *uncanny // marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *good*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological, psychological*

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Just to get my phenomenological concerns out of the way, MURDER BY DECREE is predominantly a film of the uncanny. As I've done with a very few other entries here, I've denoted what I've elsewhere called the "centric phenomenality" first, while adding that there is an "eccentric phenomenality" that barely impacts on the narrative. In this film, the one element of marvelous phenomenality is that of a psychic who gives the hero some clues regarding the identity of Jack the Ripper. The psychic's abilities are presented as irrefutable, so they don't fit the model of the "ambivalent powers" that I've discussed in such films as 2004's RENEGADE. Yet the story certainly isn't primarily about this particular marvel, so that I judge that the element is eccentric in nature.

Another set of comparisons, perhaps more germane to detective-film fans, is that MURDER BY DECREE is the second major film to pit Sherlock Holmes against the Ripper, following in the footsteps of 1965's A STUDY IN TERROR. DECREE shares some of STUDY's concerns, which I summarized thusly:

Hill’s film uses the menace of the Ripper murders for the purpose of societal critique.  Throughout STUDY the fate of the prostitutes menaced by  “Saucy Jack” indicts the callousness of British society, an indictment with which the conservative Doyle might not have agreed.  Holmes is placed in the position of striving to both save the marginalized poor and to keep the government, whatever its faults, from falling into chaos.

It's certainly possible that someone involved with the later film, directed by Bob Clark not long after his seminal slasher-film BLACK CHRISTMAS, saw STUDY and decided to attempt the same theme with a bigger budget. (DECREE's budget was $5 million, while STUDY's was more like $200,000. At the same time, the official source for DECREE is a Holmes-less nonfiction book, THE RIPPER FILE, so a lot of the similarities may be attributed to popular speculations about the identity of "Saucy Jack." Still, it's interesting that actors Anthony Quayle and Frank Finlay appear in both movies, with Finlay even portraying Inspector Lestrade in both.

The greatest difference between the two films is that whereas STUDY's Jack is a genuine "perilous psycho" whose psychotic activities are covered up by representatives of the British government. In DECREE, there really is no "Mad Jack," but rather two relatively sane murderers killing English prostitutes in apparently ritualistic patterns. All of their efforts are devoted to throwing off suspicion about their real purpose: to conceal the past indiscretions of a real-life aristocrat. (False names are used for the conspirators, though originally they too were based on actual personages.)

Though director Clark had been associated only with low-budget films, the production has an "A-list" look all the way, particularly in its casting of Holmes and Watson with top-decker actors Christopher Plummer and James Mason. Their chemistry provides the film's best moments, particularly in little moments, like Holmes' impatience with seeing Watson try to pick a single pea off his food-plate without squashing it. However, for a Ripper film there are relatively few "spooky" moments, and gore is more implied than seen. Clark shows a few scenes in which the Ripper commits murders without showing his face, so that he seems in line with the killers of both giallo flicks and slashers. However, when Clark does let his "fake Ripper" be seen, the actor doesn't inspire fear or even convey the sense of being a tough customer. He and Holmes have a running battle near the conclusion of the film, but it's nowhere near as spirited a fight as the one in STUDY IN TERROR. On top of that, the fight is concluded when the fake Ripper gets caught in a fishing-net and somehow gets strangled in its coils.

Clearly director and writer chose to avoid the "thriller" aspect of STUDY IN TERROR, placing more emphasis upon the drama of Holmes' conflict as he learns that many of his country's high officials are implicated in the sordid case. Since even the presence of the fictional Holmes couldn't be allowed to contradict the established history of the Ripper, in which the killer is never publicly identitifed, Holmes is obliged to keep the solution of the mystery secret. John Hopkins' script demonstrates an admirable acquaintance with the political concerns of the time-- 1887's "Bloody Sunday" is referenced-- and the degradation of the English prostitutes is conveyed no less ably than in the 1965 film. Indeed, the dominant myth of DECREE, as with STUDY, is that of women's misuse by the male-centered culture-- though I tend to think the women in STUDY are given a bit more fleshing-out.

The Ripper murders are of course "bizarre crimes," and though there's no real psycho here, there are killers posing as a madman, which means that the film uses a "phantasmal figuration" trope not unlike that of THE CAT AND THE CANARY.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

ZETA ONE (1969)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*


I suppose it might seem anile to speak of a dopey sexploitation film like ZETA ONE-- also known under such names as ALIEN WOMEN and THE LOVE FACTOR-- in terms of any sociological ramifications. And in truth, ZETA doesn't have any of the oddball charms I found in, say, a similar breast-obsessed flick like INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES. ZETA's main sources of interest are twofold: (1) it represents a specific type of sexploitation typical of Great Britain in the "swinging sixties," and (2) it's a rare example of a sex-comedy where the women are at once empowered and disempowered.

It's hard to tell if ZETA expresses any personal fetishes on the part of its one-shot director-- who reportedly gave Tigon Studios an incomprehensible potpourri of footage-- or the unbilled raconteurs who stepped in to film additional scenes that made the flick slightly more coherent. The inspiration for the film stemmed from a British sex-picture magazine in which models posed naked or semi-naked in sci-fi outfits. The magazine may have been a response to the influence of the Barbarella comic book, but it's awfully hard to picture writer-director Michael Cort having opened any kind of a book.

Though there are some piddling references to the James Bond spy-craze-- mostly in a frame-sequence involving an agent named "James Word" (Robin Hawdon) -- the film's strongest trope is that of "aliens abduct humans for sexual purposes," seen in British movies as far back as 1954's DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS. Usually, the aliens are deficient in one gender and are making up the deficit with Earthpeople of said gender. Here, the alien "Angvians" (a jumble for "vaginas") are,  for reasons not well explained. abducting Earth-women to take back to a planet full of other women. Earth-agencies seem only dimly aware of this incursion, and play no role in contending with the "alien women." Instead, the extraterrestrial enchantresses get opposition from an evil group of Earthmen, led by a mastermind named Bourdon (James Robertson Justice). Bourdon, having somehow learned of the Angvians' existence, wants to reverse the abduction-project and start capturing alien girls for exploitation on Earth.

Predictably, the movie has no intent to do anything with this "battle of the sexes" except to put a lot of semi-nude women on display, and if ZETA does nothing else, it does assemble an admirable list of British starlets, including Yutte Stensgaard, Anna Gael, Brigitte Skay, and Valerie Leon-- three of whom, for no appreciable reason, sport the names of the Greek Moirae: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Equally nonsensical is the name of the Angvians' leader, Zeta, played by a covered-up Dawn Addams, who easily turns in the most mechanical performance. Addams doesn't have many scenes, but she plays them all the same, with a forced cheery air that probably reflected her relief at not having to parade around half-naked like the younger actresses.

The plot is merely a farrago of scenes in which the agent of one side gets captured by the other side, interspersed with dull explanatory scenes-- one of which even makes a game of strip-poker tedious. The film's only memorable sequence transpires at the conclusion. Bourdon, having captured one of the Angvians, assembles his men to hunt her like an animal in the forest. A troop of warrior-women, all in pasties and bikini-bottoms, descends to fight Bourdon's men (the villain himself inexplicably disappears from the story, probably due to actor Justice walking off the set). Though the Angvians have been seen performing some very mediocre martial arts back on their own world, the warrior-women defeat the evil exploiters of womankind by pointing their fingers and zapping them into unconsciousness with invisible beams.  Then, with the villains defeated, the Angvians belatedly decide that it might be nice to have a stud around the house, so they invite James Word to join them on Angvia for endless hetero romps. This, far more than showing the hot actresses semi-nude, is a more disempowering message. At least when agents like Derek Flint and Matt Helm end their adventures getting oodles of quim, it's because they-- unlike the worthless Word-- have actually DONE something to merit the hero's reward.




Monday, November 27, 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *psychological, sociological, metaphysical*


Last year I wrote of BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE:

For me scenes of head-scratching confusion probably outnumbered scenes of wonder and awe. And yet, the mere fact that the production chose to steal from the best, from Miller’s definitive Batman work, suggests that the new Warner-DC Universe might be able to formulate a superhero universe with its own unique tonality, rather than doing what a lot of DC comic books did to poor effect—simply copying the Marvel method of doing things.
I can't say that JUSTICE LEAGUE succeeds in putting across "a superhero universe with its own unique tonality," at least not to the extent that BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN differs in tone from the dominant formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Possibly LEAGUE would have maintained the same tone as its predecessor had director Zack Snyder completed the film as he conceived it, although I think it would have been no less filled with "scenes of head-scratching confusion" than BVS, to say nothing of being, like BVS, considerably longer than the 120 minutes of the finished LEAGUE. Some fans have made much of the compromised vision of Snyder's original concept, citing narrative discord between Snyder's scenes and those re-shot or created from whole cloth by pinch-hitting co-director Joss Whedon.

I assume that most of the resemblances between LEAGUE and 2012's AVENGERS-- also directed by Whedon, as well as a film that cemented the mainstream reputation of the MCU-- came about prior to the enlistment of Whedon's services. Whedon came in to substitute for Snyder when the latter left the production in response to a personal tragedy, and so I have to assume that the biggest similarity between the two films-- that both films feature involved scenes of superheroes kicking the asses of alien invaders-- had an analogous plot-function. Both AVENGERS and LEAGUE are primarily concerned with the interaction of an ensemble of heroes, in response to an outside threat. However, AVENGERS shows the heroes being brought together by a prime mover, Tom Hiddleston's charmingly malevolent Loki, who only unleashes an alien horde toward the film's end. In contrast, LEAGUE chooses to open the film with the first probes of an impending alien invasion. The ensuing film concerns the heroes-- Batman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg-- assembling in order to forestall the incursion. In what seems like a throwback to the MacGuffins of 20th-century serials, lead villain Steppenwolf can only initiate his invasion if he gets access to three complementary objects called "Mother Boxes," arcane devices borrowed, like Steppenwolf, from the mythos of Jack Kirby's "New Gods" concept. When the five superheroes learn that Superman's death was a factor that encouraged Steppenwolf to launch his invasion, Batman-- driven in part by guilt at his part in Superman's death-- conceives of resurrecting the Man of Steel.

To get the "villain problem" out of the way, Steppenwolf is no Loki. He was a minor, short-lived character in Kirby's universe, and the version concocted by scripters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon has even less depth. Steppenwolf seems like a video-game villain, with no existence save to punch heroes or be punched by them. Even his role as a leader of his minions-- "parademons," insect-men who are either natives from Steppenwolf's unnamed planet or transformed Earth-people-- has no resonance. Though Zack Snyder shares no credit in the script, it's possible that Steppenwolf was modeled on the director's execution of General Zod in MAN OF STEEL as a pitiless conqueror. Unfortunately, this makes Steppenwolf utterly boring, and his one-dimensional snarlings detract from every scene in which the character appears.

However, LEAGUE also emulates one of AVENGERS' better points: the interaction of the ensemble. Again, it's impossible, without further research, to know how much of this was Snyder, putting aside his cumbersome meditations on The Nature of Power in order to bring forth a group of heroes who play off one another in both comedic and dramatic ways, a la the MCU Avengers. Given Whedon's reputation for writing funny lines, I imagine that his participation made LEAGUE a much richer film in terms of humor than a "pure" Snyder work would have been. For that reason, I, unlike the earlier mentioned fans, think that the collaboration of Snyder and Whedon resulted in a better balance of talents than either could have accomplished alone. Given the serial-like nature of the movie's plot, there's no point in addressing it further, but it serves quite well to give the viewer a series of enjoyable dramatic and comedic moments, which include:

*Batman getting testy with Wonder Woman over his plan to resurrect Superman, in which he manages to bring up her lost love Steve Trevor, prompting the Amazon to lose her customary cool.

*Superman resurrected with only partial memories, resulting in him battling the other heroes, including a fine moment in which he catches sight of Flash in super-speed mode even as he's fighting the others.

*The promise, in a coda, that a future LEAGUE film will bring about what no live-action superhero film has yet accomplished-- a face-off between a team of superheroes and an "injustice gang" of super-villains.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began at a point when the company had optioned their most popular franchises, chose a "bottom-up" approach to constructing the universe, introducing-- or, in the Hulk's case, "re-introducing"-- most of the future Avengers in individual films in order to build up their appeal. DC Comics, a division of corporate entity Warner Brothers, had no problems relating to optioned characters, but Warner's cinematic arm apparently had no faith in any properties except Batman and Superman, resulting in a "top-down" approach. Wonder Woman, arguably the third most recognizable DC hero, only earned her own film after appearing in one devoted to both the Dark Knight and the Kryptonian crusader, and it appears that Warners wanted to follow the same game-plan by introducing both Aquaman and Cyborg in association with LEAGUE, with at least an AQUAMAN film set for release in December 2018. As I write this, LEAGUE has not been remarkably successful, so there's no guarantee that there will be another film in the series, with or without an Injustice Gang. But despite various minor weaknesses, I was refreshed to see a live-action superhero film that wasn't plagued by truck-sized plot-holes. It's also one that attempts, with whatever success, to get beyond the "grim and gritty" motifs of earlier Batman and Superman films, and which might, in time, to lead to films that better represent the imaginative scope of the DC Universe.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *fair*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *metaphysical, sociological*


Don't call this film a "Twilight of the Gods;" it's more like a "twilight of the THOR franchise."

Thor's brother Loki may be adopted, but it's the God of Thunder who has always been the "red-headed step-child" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as I pointed out in my reviews of THOR and THOR: THE DARK WORLD. I explicitly stated that I didn't hold the movie-makers to the high standards of Lee and Kirby (not the hierarchy one usually encounters in film / comics comparisons, but one I find valid). But RAGNAROK makes clear that. whereas the film-makers made some effort to formulate movie-mythologies for Iron Man and Captain America, the only effort they could make for the thunder-god was the effort it took to milk a cash-cow.

I went into RAGNAROK with cautious optimism. Though I'd read no full reviews, I'd heard good comments on the film's humor, and whatever the failings of the MCU, humor has usually been one of its strong points. But in this film, the comic elements become so overbearing as to usurp those of adventure. Moreover, whereas most MCU films have had some sense that "less is more," RAGNAROK merely proves that "more is too much."

The tone is quickly set by an opening "teaser-sequence." As part of an espionage mission, Thor lets himself get caught in the realm of the fire-demon Surtur, In comics Surtur has sometimes assumed the role of a "Big Bad," but here he's very close to being a "throwaway villain," like Batroc in WINTER SOLDIER, and only Surtur's role at the climax of RAGNAROK makes him slightly more of a significant presence. The teaser owes its basic concept to a similar sequence in 2012's AVENGERS, wherein the Black Widow lets herself be captured as a means of interrogating her captors, But the RAGNAROK script ruins any potential suspense with its over-reliance on goofiness, which quality scarcely ever lets up for the remainder of the movie. The teaser is capped by an "almost failed rescue" caused by an inattentive contact man, which goes back to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and which has certainly gotten long in the tooth these days.

Chris Hemsworth's "surfer dude" version of Thor is the only virtue of this dull sequence, but it's telling that as soon as he gets back to Asgard, the script wastes no time bringing him back into contact with his shifty brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). It's hard to blame the scripters much on this score, since the Hemsworth-Hiddleston chemistry remains solid. An earlier plot-thread, in which Loki bundled Odin off to Earth in order to take over Asgard, is disposed of by having the brothers seek out their lost parent on Earth, though this simple plot-action is needlessly extended with a time-wasting guest-appearance of Doctor Strange. No sooner do Thor and Loki find Odin than, tempus fugit, Odin reveals that he's about to die. The writers and director rush through this revelation as quickly as possible in order to announce that Odin's death will unleash a new menace on the cosmos.

In Norse mythology and in Marvel's THOR comics, Hela is called a "goddess of death" because she reigns over a domain of deceased souls. RAGNAROK's Hela ( a slumming Cate Blanchett) is sometimes called a "death-goddess," but this seems to be a synonym for "Badass Who Kills a Lot of People." Hela is Odin's first offspring, and it's loosely established that long before Thor or Loki existed, she helped Odin conquer the Nine Worlds. At some point Odin became sick of all the bloody killing-- a development that serves only to bring him into line with the original depiction of the ruler in the first film-- but Hela wanted to keep on killing, just because she liked it so much. So he exiled her, and somehow kept everyone else in Immortal Asgard from remembering her existence. However, once Odin dies, Hela pops up and tries to kill both of her brothers, since they're rivals for the rulership of Asgard. Hela's attack results indirectly in the two gods getting flung elsewhere. The evil goddess goes on to easily bend Asgard to her will, and to create an army of zombie warriors.

Thor and Loki both end up on the planet Skaar, whose other name in Marvel continuity is "Planet Hulk." Skaar is an entirely stereotypical "gladiator world," which exists for no reason but to pit alien fighters against one another. Loki gets separated from the thunder god, which is to Loki's benefit, since for the next twenty minutes Thor gets captured and subdued by the high-tech of a cynical warrior-woman, who in turn sells Thor to Skaar's nutty ruler, the grandstanding Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, reprising his usual quirky character-type). Before Thor goes into battle against his first opponent, the hero learns that the woman who sold him is a Valkyrie of Asgsard-- indeed, she's a take on Marvel's "Valkyrie" character, though I don't think the script ever gives her a formal name. It also comes out that she, unlike the rest of Asgard, remembers Hela because she was the only surviving member of a force that sought to master Hela. (Why did the Valkyries need to fight Hela at all, if Odin had the power to exile her? Who knows?) In any case, she's a shallow, badly conceived and poorly acted character.

Inevitably, Thor comes to grips with the Grandmaster's champion, the Incredible Hulk, whose appearance on Skaar was set up at the end of the second AVENGERS movie. The battle of the two titans is one of the film's best aspects, and their subsequent dialogue might have proved a lot funnier had it nor been preceded by tons of juvenile pratfalls. The film spins its wheels for another thirty minutes trying to figure out how Thor can get back to Asgard in the company of Hulk, Loki and Valkyrie when none of them want to leave Skaar. An earlier film might have had the hero inspire the others with his tenacity and courage. Perhaps the political climate presumably wouldn't allow Thor to "mansplain" things to the recalcitrant warrior-woman.  Finally, the hero-team makes it back to Asgard, where they find that they can't oppose Hela-- who is belatedly said to draw her energy from Asgard somehow-- so the only way to triumph is to bring about "Ragnarok." The script makes a minimal effort to give this development "deep meaning," by emphasizing the necessity of Thor saving his people rather than his realm. However, given the MCU's rash tendency to annihilate prominent mainstays of Marvel continuity-- most chimerically, the destruction of SHIELD in WINTER SOLDIER-- I suspect the film-makers merely wanted a big scene to cap what looks like the last of the THOR films.

I saw the film with an audience that laughed at all the jokes, so I'm in a distinct minority regarding my "less is more" conviction. I imagine that actor Hemsworth liked the emphasis on comedy, since he'd probably like to get other roles than that of thunder-god, and I wish him well on that. But for me the main virtue of THOR RAGNAROK is that it exposed viewers to the superlative designs of Jack Kirby for both Hela and the minor character of The Executioner-- even if neither character was anything special.