The two Thor movies were, for the most part, serviceable but not particularly memorable. They were the most generic movies in the MCU, the ones that most copied the MCU house style. They weren’t necessarily terrible. Chris Hemsworth has some nice comedic charisma on display, giving Thor a strong “fish out of water” feel. Loki’s original plan didn’t involve blowing up lots of things with brute force by raining destruction down from the sky like most MCU villains, and Tom Hiddleston’s own screen presence made the bad guy someone to love more than hate.
But now Thor is back for a third and possibly final solo film. And he brought some friends for a very different style of movie.
Yes, Thor: Ragnarok takes a very different tact from the previous movies by recognizing Hemsworth’s comedic side and making it more of a buddy comedy with your standard MCU elements. New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi has some strong comedic sensibilities of his own as seen in his own work What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Recognizing that Thor has worked best as a humorous character, as has his onscreen partner in destruction the Hulk, gives the series a new tone, a more distinctive one that was needed for the Thor character. Thor spends as much time bantering with the now-verbal Hulk as he does fighting him. Fortunately, Waititi seems just as capable in the action scenes as the comedy ones, as Thor and Loki first locate the missing Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and then learn of the older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), that they never knew existed. Hela’s coming back, and she wants what she thinks is rightfully hers.
Much of the middle of the movie, as Hela solidifies her hold on Asgard, takes place on the planet Sakaar where the Grandmaster (a great Jeff Goldblum at his most Goldblum-y) runs a “contest of champions”. Thor is reduced to a gladiator and Loki is trying to maintain the eccentric Grandmaster’s favor while the mysterious Valkryie acts as a bounty hunter for collecting fighters for the Grandmaster’s games. Thor will need to rally her, Hulk, and Loki if he’s to stop Hela from bringing fire and destruction not just to Asgard, but to as many worlds as she can get to.
This is just a fun movie, and while Hela may not have the most developed motivation ever (this is an MCU villain we’re talking about here), Blanchett seems to be enjoying herself so that must count for something. Hemsworth and Hiddleston still have that fun brotherly banter going on. Goldblum is just hilarious. Mark Ruffalo gets some work in as the Hulk and Banner. Even director Waititi scores some laughs as giant rock man Korg, a large gladiator with a soft, New Zealand accent. About the only problems here may be a potentially pointless Dr. Strange cameo and the movie not knowing what to do with Karl Urban’s Executioner, who comes across as mostly superfluous. Let’s say nine out of ten awesome usages of “The Immigrant Song”.