Thor: Ragnarok

Third time’s the charm. It’s not that the first two Thor movies were bad. They were films that took themselves a little too seriously. Instead, Thor: Ragnarok finds our favorite Asgardian, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled in the psychedelic, heavily-synthesized cosmos, made popular by the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor: Ragnarok takes place several years after the events of Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The city of Asgard finds itself in a time of uncomfortable peace. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) continues to disguise himself as Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor has shunned his royal lineage choosing to become galaxy’s defender instead.

“Thor is exiled in the psychedelic, heavily-synthesized cosmos…”

Thor returns to Asgard to reveal Loki’s deception. Thor follows Loki to New York to retrieve Odin only to find the senior center where he left him is demolished. This leads us to the first screams of the night—a Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cameo. Dr. Strange helps reunite father and sons in Norway.

As with any good story, the happy reunion is a short one. Odin reveals that Thor and Loki have a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett). She served as Odin’s military muscle as he used the spoils of war to build Asgard to its current “prominence” over the nine realms. Hela’s thirst for violence grew, forcing Odin to imprison her in a cosmic cell. Only his death can release her and poof! Odin is dead. Immediately, our heroes come face-to-face with the sister they never knew.

While trying to escape on the Bifrost Bridge, Hela is a kick-ass fighter and immediately dispatches her brothers to the planet Sakaar. While on Asgard, Hela single-handedly defeats the Asgardian guard and takes the throne as the queen. What is a Ragnarok? Glad you asked. It’s a prophecy about the destruction of Asgard by fire.

“As silly as this film is there are serious moments sprinkled in the right spots to keep our eyes from rolling to the back of our heads…”

Meanwhile, on the planet Sakaar, Thor is taken captive by the scavenger Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). She sells him to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who uses Thor as a combatant in his Contest of Champions. Thor is promised his freedom if he can beat the grand champion—a large, green, hulking brute (Mark Ruffalo).

Once again Marvel Studios produces yet another fantastic film. Why? First, tone. Director Taika Waititi nails the correct tone from beginning to end. As silly as this film is there are serious moments sprinkled in the right spots to keep our eyes from rolling to the back of our heads. Waititi’s transitions from silly moments to serious moments are perfect.

Second, acting. Chris Hemsworth continues to flex that comedic muscle that started with Vacation and Ghostbusters. If the lead actor can do comedy, let him do comedy. Jeff Goldblum was and is brilliant casting as the Grandmaster. He packs everything we love about Jeff Goldblum into the Grandmaster and amps it up to eleven. Tom Hiddleston continues to perfect Loki into the guy we love and love to hate. His low key performance is the perfect contrast to Hemsworth. Hey, Cate Blanchett is in the Marvel universe. She’s so evil and at the same time hauntingly beautiful. She even makes her odd headgear look good.

Third, story. The Thor story has and is a tough one to tell. Based on the little-known Norse mythology I don’t think Marvel ever understood it. Writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost tell a simple story in spite of its complexity. Simple, because this is Thor’s story to tell. We learn a lot about Thor and more importantly, what exactly his powers are. Complex, because there are a lot of new characters introduced and very few of them feel like throw-aways.

“We learn a lot about Thor and more importantly, what exactly his powers are…”

Just a few final notes. Mark Mothersbaugh’s score is delightful from the musical majesty of Asgard to the 80’s techno synth of the planet Sakaar. The production design of the garbage-planet Sakaar is reminiscent of Logan’s Run, Space 1999 and Buck Rogers. Rufallo’s version of World War Hulk Hulk is great. But as Bruce Banner, he comes off as a little buffoonish.

Sit back and enjoy the roller-coaster ride known as Thor: Ragnarok. Do yourself a favor and see it in a packed theater. If you can’t do that, then head right to the couch and pop open your favorite beer and have fun.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Directed by Taika Waititi. Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeff Goldblum.

4 out of 5 stars

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