Action Adventure

'Thor: Ragnarok' Film Review: The most fun Marvel movie this side of 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

November 2, 2017Ben MK

Think back to 2012's The Avengers. At the end of that movie's climactic Battle of New York, the Hulk and Thor stood victorious, side-by-side, when out of nowhere, Hulk delivered a powerful punch that sent Thor flying off-screen. It was one of the most laugh-out-loud scenes of the film, and it's a genius moment of Marvel cinematic chemistry that's harnessed to perfection in Thor Ragnarok.

Directed by Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok serves as something of a reinvention for the Asgardian God of Thunder. Over the course of two standalone films and two Avengers films, Chris Hemsworth's approach to Thor has essentially been to play the straight man to other more humorously inclined teammates like Tony Stark. But with the mastermind behind What We Do in the Shadows at the helm, Hemsworth has finally been given free rein to show off a whole different side of his character. And we're not just talking about his new superhero garb and radically different buzz cut.

Picking up two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the story — a joint effort by screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost — sets Thor on a mission to prevent Ragnarok, the prophesied destruction of Asgard. It's something he thinks he has succeeded in doing when he beheads the fiery, horned demon Surtur (Clancy Brown) during the film's prologue. But when Thor's formerly-exiled sister, Hela the Goddess of Death (a deliciously vampy Cate Blanchett), resurfaces to invade Asgard and claim Odin's throne as her own, it quickly becomes apparent that stopping Ragnarok won't be nearly as straightforward as initially thought.

With the plot thus set into motion, the majority of the movie takes place on the planet Sakaar, where Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) both end up marooned after Hela destroys Thor's hammer and sends them hurtling through space. There, they encounter the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Sakaar's flamboyant ruler who also presides over the gladiator battle known as the "Contest of Champions," Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a jaded, booze-loving Asgardian warrior, and, of course, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who's been suppressing his puny alter ego, Bruce Banner, ever since he crash-landed on the planet after disappearing at the end of Age of Ultron.

With some of the most vibrant visuals this side of Guardians of the Galaxy and a colorful cast of characters that also includes a bald and bulked-up Karl Urban and Waititi himself voicing a soft-spoken rock creature named Korg, the result proves to be a worthy contender for the coveted title of Marvel's most fun movie yet. A far cry from 2013's Thor: The Dark World, Ragnarok takes the usual cataclysmic stakes underpinning the superhero genre and reverse-engineers them into a brash, laugh-out-loud funny buddy action-comedy.

Bolstered by a kick-ass '80s synth soundtrack and what might quite possibly be the best — if not coolest — use of a Led Zeppelin song in a film, Ragnarok is also happily unconcerned with shoehorning itself into the larger arc of Marvel's big screen superhero machine. Of course, that's not to say that the MCU won't be feeling the ramifications of Thor's third adventure; but aside from bringing the Hulk back into the fold, Waititi and company aren't burdened by the need to close any narrative loopholes. Instead, Thor: Ragnarok is free to be the tongue-in-cheek spectacle that is, and moviegoers are free to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thor: Ragnarok releases November 3rd, 2017 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 10 min.

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