Marvel’s seventeenth installment in their superhero cinematic universe, “Thor: Ragnarok,” hit theaters on Friday, November 3, and has since garnered intense praise from critics and moviegoers alike. The film finds Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, the god of thunder, banished to the faraway planet of Sakaar after the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) takes over his homeworld of Asgard. There, he is forced by Sakaar’s dictatorial ruler, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), to fight a gladiator style battle against his friend and fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Desperate to protect the universe from Hela’s rule, Thor teams up with Hulk (and his less intimidating alter ego, Bruce Banner) as well as his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Valkyrie, a hard-drinking female warrior (Tessa Thompson), to stop her.
The tone of the movie is a welcome change from that of the series’ previous two movies, both of which were much more serious and dramatic. “Ragnarok”’’s director Taika Waititi was determined to separate it from its predecessors, and he accomplishes that by creating a much more comedic and colorful world (reminiscent of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies) and allowing Thor to be more of a goofy, outgoing, likeably arrogant character than before– very similar to Hemsworth’s own personality. “Ragnarok” is easily Marvel’s funniest film to date, and a lot of that can be traced back to Hemsworth’s performance. He is in almost every scene, and the joking aura with which he carries himself gives the movie a level of enjoyability that the other two “Thor” movies didn’t quite have.
Hemsworth’s isn’t the only great performance. Mark Ruffalo does an entertainingly fantastic job of switching between the powerful Hulk and the out-of-his-element Banner. Each personality develops a unique friendship with Thor, being heartfelt but hilarious at the same time. Tom Hiddleston is another returning actor, reprising his role as Loki, the god of tricks and Thor’s brother. In both “Thor” and “The Avengers,” Loki was the main antagonist, but here, he’s almost an anti-hero, still following his own agenda but returning to help Thor in the final battle against Hela in the end. The relationship building that the two brothers go through also is sweet, although whether or not it will last to the next movie is anyone’s guess.
The new characters really hit the mark as well. Thompson’s Valkyrie is a very different female lead than Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster from the last two Thor movies, and the change is refreshing. Valkyrie’s character has a stronger personality, and she plays off of Thor very well. Blanchett’s Hela, the first major female antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is also entertaining. She doesn’t have as much of a character arc as some of Marvel’s other villains, but she has such a domineering presence–from the black antler helmet she wears into battle to the vicious swords she conjures out of thin air–that she holds all the attention in every scene that she’s in. But the real show-stealer is Jeff Goldblum, playing the lunatic Grandmaster, ruler of Sakaar. His dry humor and sarcastic remarks keep the audience in stitches, and he expertly manages to come off as a laid-back old fool but also vaguely threatening at the same time.
As good as the comedy is in this film, it hurts the movie in some places. There are several major character deaths in the beginning, and the light-hearted, nutty tone doesn’t allow for the proper emotion at these moments. Also, the serious parts of Hela’s takeover of Asgard are rushed and often end with the main characters making jokes about the situation, which doesn’t feel like the reactions they should be having at the destruction of their home.
Despite this, “Thor: Ragnarok” is still a wildly entertaining film, and I would definitely recommend it to any fan of Marvel, comedy, or just plain superhero movies. It will be sure to ragna-rock your world!