There is no question about the influence of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy success on another of its franchises with this third cinematic installment of the Thor series. There may have been laughs in the first two Thor movies, but they were much darker and more serious-minded than what director Taika Waititi and writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost have cooked up in Thor: Ragnarok, essentially a flat-out comedy disguised as a superhero comic book movie. Here, as I say in my video review above, it is really much more about the comic part than anything else in the venerable Thor annals.
Waititi, who directed the much smaller but terrific The Hunt For the Wilderpeople as well as the vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, clearly brings the same offbeat sense of humor evidenced in those films to this one as well — albeit on a much larger scale than he has ever worked in before. The trappings of what we’ve seen in dozens of these Marvel movies are still there, but the tone is wildly different and much welcomed. It is all much closer in spirit to what we see in Guardians with shticky setups and throw-away one-liners galore.
Fortunately there is a superb cast here that is very comfortable not taking any of this too seriously. Leading the way of course is Chris Hemsworth, back for his third solo outing as the title character, and the third time is indeed the charm. He has proven he has comic chops before — particularly for his preening Stone Crandall in the last Vacation movie reboot — and that timing serves him well with this script which is full of laughs right from the beginning, when he must weasel his way out of a bad situation when he is captured and quartered by a fiery creature (to say the least). He eventually finds his way back to home and Asgard, where shifty brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), thought to be dead, is actually posing as their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who has been shipped off to an old people’s home on earth. The clever byplay between the two brothers is as sharp as always, and they have the rhythm of the dialogue down to perfection.
Enter long-lost sister Hela as embodied by Cate Blanchett, who is a hoot as this Goddess of Death. Going all brunette on us, and at times wearing a fright headpiece made from antlers, Blanchett reigns over the priceless silliness as she drifts perilously close to Maleficent territory with a Hela of a look and attitude. Her sidekick Skurge (Karl Urban) is a nice addition. Eventually, Thor finds himself abducted again and taken on a wild ride to Sakaar which is ruled by the wacky Grandmaster, played to the hilt by Jeff Goldblum, who finds his sweet spot with this goofy leader. The big set piece here is a fight to the death, gladiator-style in a huge arena, between Thor and his old Avenger buddy Hulk, who can’t seem to recall who exactly Thor is. This face-off duel is delicious stuff, and eventually Hulk returns to his day job as Bruce Banner with Mark Ruffalo adding just the right balance to Hemsworth’s heroics.
Along the way there are appearances from Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, the bad-ass female warrior with an eye for Thor, as well as Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, and some other surprises. I loved Korg, a giant of a stone guy just looking to get his rocks off — literally. The CGI effects and large-scale battles pile up as you might expect, but Waititi keeps it mostly on the light side and we are all the better for it. This one is a lot of fun.
Producer of the Marvel outing is, as always, Kevin Feige. Disney opens this certain blockbuster on November 3 as the official kickoff to the holiday movie season. With this summer’s Wonder Woman, the smart reinvention of the Spider-Man series, and now Thor: Ragnarok, it appears comic book movies are getting their groove back.
Do you plan to see Thor: Ragnarok? Let us know what you think.