Genre: Superhero action comedy
Running Time: 130 mins.
Premise: When his long lost sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) returns to Asgard to reclaim the throne, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are cast off to another planet called Sakkar, led by the deliciously Goldblum-y Grandmaster. There, Thor faces off against Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and tries to build a team to head back to Asgard and save his people from Hela's destruction.
Behind-the-Scenes: This is the 17th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Looking for a firm identity for the Thor films and someone who could embrace Hemsworth's considerable comedic talents (previously on display in Ghostbusters), Marvel tapped Kiwi actor/writer/director Taika Waititi, who made his name with low-budget comedy gems like What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi appears in the film as the motion capture character Korg, and has said in interviews that he was inspired by Flash Gordon and would have asked Queen to do the soundtrack if Freddy Mercury was still alive (Mark Mothersbaugh ended up doing the score).
The Good: Waititi puts his own personal stamp on the Thor franchise and it shows. This is the first MCU movie that plays more like an out-and-out comedy. It's certainly the funniest film I've seen this year. Yeah, there's the typical fight scenes and overuse of CGI that permeate most Marvel movies, but credit goes to Waititi for continuously undercutting any bloat or bombast with a laugh or sight gag. This movie has its eye dead set on entertaining you, and it does so in spades. Hemsworth has always tapped into the humorous aspects of Thor, but Ragnarok doubles down on all of that. He and Ruffalo have excellent buddy comedy chemistry, and seem happy playing off each other and their shared history in the MCU. The other cast members all deliver the goods, especially the new characters. Blanchett vamps it up in high style, and Tessa Thompson rocks as Valkyrie. Give this woman her own franchise already! Mothersbaugh's score is a synth-heavy delight. The middle section of the film is so weird, colorful and wild, and doesn't seem a bit concerned with playing by the usual narrative rules. This feels like the kind of movie the upcoming Solo would have been had Lucasfilm stuck with Lord & Miller as directors.
The Bad: It's so jokey and flippant that, despite Asgardian lives hanging in the balance, there are no real stakes in the story. Everything is played for laughs. A Doctor Strange appearance early on is fun, but feels shoehorned in to set up his inclusion in Avengers: Infinity War. Blanchett is barely in the movie, and Idris Elba is pretty much wasted in the returning role of Heimdall.
Should You See It?: Yes. Bring the whole fam. If you're waiting for Marvel to fail, you're going to keep waiting.
Star Rating: **** out of 5 stars.
Better Than: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman
Worse Than: Spider-Man: Homecoming, What We Do In the Shadows
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