Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeff Goldblum
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe Thor, the god of thunder, gets the short end of the hammer. Having two feature films and numerous cameos, Thor has been relegated to somewhat of a supporting character position within the heavy hitters in the Avengers. Iron Man is charismatic, Captain America is proud, Hulk is smash, and Thor, well, he has a hammer. Both stand-alone films, which weren’t very good, failed to establish the powerful son of Odin as much more than an ego driven hero who doesn’t really understand, or learn, what his purpose is. The most memorable part of the Thor films was always his brother Loki, played by the scene stealing Tom Hiddleston.
“Thor: Ragnarok” makes some exceptional changes; supported by the vision of talented director Taika Waititi, who helmed last year’s fantastic “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, the film adds a welcome dose of humor and a structure that resembles something akin to a “buddy cop” movie. And who might Thor’s partner in heroics be? Non other than the Incredible Hulk. “Thor: Ragnarok” is easily the best Thor movie and, surprisingly, the best Hulk movie
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is searching the worlds for his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who has been missing since Loki (Tom Hiddleston) deviously found his way onto the throne in Asgard. Just as Thor begins to fix the mess his brother and few former foes have created, his long exiled sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) returns to reclaim her rightful position as heir. Thor and Loki, while trying to fight Hela, are sent to a different realm and Hela returns to Asgard to wage war. Thor finds himself enslaved, positioned to fight as a gladiator in a tournament organized by a flashy showman who calls himself Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
Director Taika Waititi has a way establishing a charming human quality within his stories, one that utilizes witty banter and silly premises while also composing wholly unique characters that seem to fit perfectly into every aspect. This is refreshingly established in different ways throughout “Thor: Ragnarok”, however the most noticeable change is the use of humor in the film. Thor, who is typically on the receiving end of a good joke in “The Avengers” films, is the primary focus of most of the jokes here. It creates a playful tone, especially when the supporting cast gets involved in the jabs.
And the supporting cast is a great mix of actors. Jeff Goldblum makes a wonderful appearance as Grandmaster, playing a flamboyant master of ceremonies. Mr. Goldblum is excellent in the role, chewing scenery with glee. Mark Ruffalo returns as Bruce Banner, providing a nice emotional quality in a few scenes to the character who here is mostly the raging Hulk. Tessa Thompson plays a member of Thor’s ragtag group and fits comfortably in the mix with the heroes. Cate Blanchett plays the formidable villain, there are moments were the character offers a nice counterbalance to the heroes but also times when she isn’t given much to do except wait for the heroes to return and perform in an occasional fight.
This use of Ms. Blanchett is an example of how “Thor: Ragnarok” struggles; the narrative operates in such a familiar way that it becomes rather tedious, we know the moves this kind of story is suppose to make. With so many superhero movies coming out during the year it's becoming easier to identify these plot devices. We know a big fight is suppose to happen, we know new characters will enter the journey, we know the hero must fall before they can rise again; with this film many of those devices are present and predictable.
Still, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a surprisingly fun if altogether overly familiar. You’ll laugh quite a bit, you’ll get to see some pretty impressive effects, and Jeff Goldblum is here to make you remember how great he is at tailoring a character; all the entertaining check marks will be checked. However, change is on the horizon for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so enjoy the lightheartedness of “Thor: Ragnarok” because it may be the last laugh before things take a serious turn for the Marvel superhero friends in 2018.
3.50 out of 5.00