I just screened “Thor: Ragnarok” [VIDEO] yesterday and I have some strong mixed feelings about this interesting superhero film. This write-up of the film will include quite a few heavy spoilers. First of all, count me among the many who loved Taika Waititi’s wonderfully hilarious “What We Do in the Shadows,” a sophisticated “mockumentary” film that was off-the-wall funny and clever. When I read that Waititi was directing the new "Thor" movie, I was excited by the possibilities that a director of his unique perspective and artistry could bring to the franchise. When I saw the trailers for "Thor: Ragnarok," my hopes for something different and interesting seemed to be confirmed.

The trailers suggested a movie not just funny and clever but offbeat and perhaps even singularly unique in terms of the look and tone of the film. And I think we did get that to a degree.

A funny and dazzling film

The first three-quarters of the film or so, we get a funny and playful film, a film that doesn’t take its hero or its subject matter so seriously, which the first two films in the franchise did to a tiresome degree. Further, the much talked about color scheme was wonderful, giving the film a much different look, which I don’t think is just about giving us some wonderfully delicious eye candy, but a color scheme to go along with Waititi’s lighter tone and his sense of creating cool and eye-popping compositions. In terms of the latter, that shot of the Valkyries attacking Hela (Cate Blanchett) was just breathtaking, as were some of the other shots and compositions in the film (e.g., that shot of Thor coming down on Hela’s “ancient dead” crew, accompanied by the electric Led Zeppelin “Immigrant Song,” was tremendous).

In terms of the film’s comedy element, the film is often refreshingly and organically hilarious, especially during the whole segment on the Grandmaster’s planet. I especially loved the banter between Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), two old warhorse superheroes in a quiet moment, giving us some intimate “manly” (and hilarious) bonding time. In sum, because of these strengths in the film, I did enjoy the film quite a bit. However, in my view, the film also has some troubling moments, especially in the ending sequence:

The underwhelming fight between Hulk and Fenris

The Hulk versus Fenris (Hela’s wolf) segment was just terrible, messy and little in the way of a sensational battle. And since Hulk doesn’t do much else beyond fighting Fenris, why in the world was he even included in this ending climatic battle sequence???

What climactic showdown between Thor and Hela?

The showdown between Thor and Hela wasn’t as bad as the Hulk/Fenris battle but it was still pretty weak, what amounted to an abbreviated beat down of Thor.

Yeah, Thor gets in one good lightning bolt but otherwise, he gets his butt kicked by Hela. Thor’s seeming ingenious ploy to defeat Hela (conspicuously giving Loki something to do and giving him the opportunity to, um, steal the Tesseract!) is to activate Surtur, who, now in Asgard (apparently some combination of being revived by The Eternal Flame and Ragnarok itself makes Surtur invincible) is easily Hela’s match. Now, I am no Thor scholar so I’m sure Thor fans will set me right on this point, but it seems to me that Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost could have found some more creative way to have Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the Valkyrie/Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), and Hulk defeat Hela. Such a choice would have done a couple of crucial things, give Hulk and Loki something to do – and who wouldn’t want to see two of the most powerful beings in the (Marvel) universe (e.g., Thor and Hulk) fight together to defeat a greater power – and save Asgard, a pretty cool and unique world. I know a lot of people are saying that by destroying Asgard, the film does something bold and audacious, but, for me, this is becoming all too common, trying to create uniqueness by just killing and destroying things and people instead of going the harder route and investing us in ways for our heroes to overcome a seemingly impossible adversity.

Making the Asgardians disposable

My most serious issue with the ending and the film overall is this: Where are the Asgardians? Why are they such sheep? And why do I care so little about them? In terms of the first question, the remaining Asgardians are not very numerous, which either suggests that Asgard is not highly populated, Hela has killed a lot of Asgardians off, or some of them are still somewhere else, to be killed off at the end (More likely, this is a contrivance, since getting a whole populace onto one ship would have been too unwieldy!). Moreover, my understanding is that all Asgardians are “gods,” so why do they seem so sheepish at the end, lambs to the slaughter of Hela’s horde? Most disturbingly, the film so desensitizes us to the death of others that when Hela slaughters the Asgard army (and the beloved Warriors Three) and oppresses and – or so it is hinted – at least kills some of the Asgardian citizenries, Waititi has made their deaths and oppression so comic bookish that we don’t feel anything. In short, the Asgardians are merely props for our heroes to do their heroic thing. Their individuality -- their humanity -- means less than how they prop up the heroic deeds of Thor and company. Add in that Waititi so stresses the humor and lightheartedness of the film, that he doesn’t organically transition to any real tragedy in what should be real tragic deaths. I mean, where is the scene where Thor mourns these losses, especially of his beloved Warriors Three? The deeper implication of this choice is disturbing, a further throwaway-ness of human beings, where people are made disposable, for the propping up of larger than life heroes. Such a desensitization of people being killed has real-world implications.

Hela's useless horde

Finally, one last problem with the ending sequence: Speaking of being useless, Hela’s “ancient dead” horde is equally useless, seeming to also be nothing more than props for Thor and company to look good knocking them down (I mean since Thor can’t defeat Hela, he must have somebody to look heroic against, right?). There is this tendency in superhero movies to create these stick figures to make heroes looks heroic (or give lesser heroes something to do). A better solution would have been to let the Asgardians fight Hela’s horde and thus let our heroes concentrate on Hela and Fenris.

Though the ending was where most of my beef with the film lies, I have a few more issues with the film, one of which, for me, is a deeply disturbing issue:

Making Hulk a killer???

If I’m getting this right – and do please let me know if I am not – Hulk has been on the Grandmaster’s planet for two years and thus has been the Grandmaster’s champion, killing his adversaries?!? What??? Hulk has been turned into a ruthless killer?!? Tell me it isn’t so…

The lackluster death of Odin

Odin’s death seems contrived to me: The suggestion is that due to Loki's stripping of Odin's powers and banishment of him (see "Thor: The Dark World"), that this somehow leads to Odin's death (And, by the way, if this is the case -- that Loki is the cause of Odin's death -- isn't that unforgivable?). Is Odin just tired of living and just decides to die? Or is he still alive somewhere? The whole Odin bit seemed like a contrivance to bring on Ragnarok. If Odin is going to die, give his death meaning, give it life so to speak, not this drab, unremarkable (meh!) death. By the way, Hela suggesting that Odin has a hidden monstrousness to him (which is somewhat suggested in previous films) is a nice touch but now that he is dead and can’t face his son or other loved ones, it doesn’t really mean much coming out now!

Where are our complex and interesting villains?

Hela would seem to be the dark heart and climax of the film but, for me anyway, the Grandmaster steals the show as the most interesting villain. I have to say that I am just so tired of one dimensional pure evil villains. I have no problem with evil villains but make them interesting, complex, offbeat, something. The best villains in superhero films (Doctor Octopus/"Spider-Man 2," Joker/"The Dark Knight," Magneto/"X-Men," Catwoman and Penguin/"Batman Returns") are not just one-dimensional evil, they are more than that, each having their own psychological issues and/or idiosyncrasies. I don’t want to be too hard on Hela. Apparently, she is the first female villain in Marvel, which is a fantastic development, and she is cool to look at. Moreover, the ever-brilliant Cate Blanchet gives her some panache. But, in my view, she is finally just another throwaway one-dimensional evil villain.

Gods or not gods?

Finally, just one question: I could be wrong about this, but I seem to recall that at one point in a previous film, Thor clarified to someone that though Asgardians are thought of as “gods,” that is just an archaic signification that no longer applies, e.g., that they are just a powerful species who were looked on as gods at one point by others. If I’m right about this, why make Thor still call himself a “god”? Can we just be done with the whole “god” bit?

A great filmmaker with some clear limitations

In short, Waititi is very good at creating eye-popping visuals and fun and hilarious and clever repartee, but boy, in my view, he has shown a clear lack of deeper meaning. That is, by not matching a sophisticated plot and complex art direction and compositions with the complexity of meaning and deeper issues, including creating at least some moments of real pathos and tragedy, Waititi has created another fun superhero film but not one that will rise to the level of greatness.