With brilliant direction, special effects, and performances from its fantastic cast, Thor: Ragnarok is the perfect combination of over-the-top action and character-driven comedy – far exceeding the previous two Thor films in every way.

Since his last appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor has been scouring the galaxy in search of the Infinity Stones all the while being plagued with visions of the catastrophic end of his homeworld: Asgard. In his quest to prevent the Asgardian apocalypse, he is reunited with his stepbrother Loki just before they are flung across the universe to the hub world of Sakaar – where Thor is enslaved and forced into gladiatorial combat against the Hulk. Together with friends, both erstwhile and new, the son of Odin must escape and make his way back to Asgard before Hela can take over the planet and renew her intergalactic crusade.

The previous two installations in the Thor franchise had been, for lack of a better phrase, relatively lackluster. Not bad, per se, but definitely failing to achieve either a cohesive narrative or a distinct tone. It’s not for the lack of trying however, as its characters have been used to great effect in the Avengers films.

Who knew that all it would have taken to rocket Thor into postion as one of the best MCU films to date was Taika Waititi: an indy film director from New Zealand. Waititi’s other films, including What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, are the best kind of weird, and the director’s distinct voice blends incredibly well into the superhero genre. What’s more, the story itself pulls away from the increasingly formulaic pattern of the more recent Marvel films – giving the characters depth and room to grow rather than just giving them a bad guy to fight.

The film uses its characters incredibly well, playing off of relationship tropes rather than blindly embracing them. Thor and Hulk/Banner are ridiculously fun to watch – building on the sort of good-natured rivals pairing that was briefly created in the first Avengers film. Thor and Loki are not just slaves to their classic relationship; they are in complete awareness of their natures and come to some sort of acceptance with each other despite their difference and betrayals.

Even some of the series’ smaller characters get a chance to shine, in particular Idris Elba’s Haimdall – who is absolutely awesome as the watchman-turned-resistance leader. The film’s pair of villains, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster and Cate Blanchett’s Hela, are equally fun to watch even if they don’t exactly steal the show each time they’re on screen.

The special effects and music are used brilliantly and in just the right time and place to add to the story rather than as a distraction for some narrative shortcoming.

Thor: Ragnarok is a great film that is genuinely fun to watch from start to finish and revitalizes some of the more stagnant characters in the overall MCU. If this is the kind of trend we can expect from future MCU films – this next phase is going to be a blast.

4 and a half out of 5 stars

 

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch
Runtime: 2h 10m
Release Date: November 3, 2017 (USA)
Post-Credits Scene(s): Two stingers – one after the animated credits and one at the end of the black-screen credits

Official Trailer:

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