'Thor: Ragnarok' Review: Chris Hemsworth's New and Much Improved God of Thunder

Ragnarok, which in Norse mythology and Marvel canon refers to the end of the world, begins with a recap from Thor (via a *record scratch* “I bet you’re wondering how I ended up here…” gag): Following his muddling cave vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor set out across the Nine Realms to investigate his premonition and search for Infinity Stones, misadventures which eventually find him held captive by a fire demon, Surtur.

A good rule of thumb with Marvel movies is it’s best to go in as unspoiled as possible so I’ll attempt to be somewhat vague with the specific plotting, but after escaping Surtur and returning to Asgard, Thor runs afoul of Hela, the Goddess of Death (played by Cate Blanchett), who has a very specific axe to grind with certain Asgardians. And although Thor is absolutely more interesting than he’s ever been, it’s stiff competition whether he’s the most interesting player in the mix. Blanchett is endlessly watchable as the film’s main villain, as deranged as she is sexy. With a sneering smirk and akimbo stance, hip perpetually cocked out, Hela seems simply bored by it all as she decimates entire armies, but Blanchett is having a blast doing it. Her Hela strut is everything.

After Hela destroys Thor’s trusted hammer, Mj√∂lnir — which isn’t much of a spoiler since it’s shown in all the trailers — he is dumped from a (non-The Devil’s Anus) wormhole on a wackadoodle planet called Sakaar, where a former warrior-turned-bounty hunter, Valykrie — Tessa Thompson, arguably the real standout of the movie, a prickly antihero, badass and surly, swaggering and so damn cool — forces Thor to compete in a Tournament of Champions. Overseeing the tourney is The Grandmaster, an ancient being played to fizzy perfection by Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblum-y. It is evident from the jump on Ragnarok that Waititi loves banter, and no one does banter better than Goldblum. (The director plays his own supporting role as a rambling rock monster named Korg, who manages to steal off with plenty of the limelight.)

Even if you have only seen a YouTube pre-roll ad for Thor: Ragnarok, you surely know this is about the point when Thor reunites with his “friend from work,” Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, also appearing sans mo-cap as Bruce Banner), during a stretch of the film that adapts the fan favorite Planet Hulk comic book run. While the gladiatorial battle better the two Avengers has been a crux in all of the movie’s advertising, watching it play out in all its rollicking glory is still properly epic, with more great one-liners than the aforementioned one (all around, the Hulk is pretty darn adorable in this) and plenty of thrilling action. All of the action sequences, really, are impressively built, even as the movie gives in to the temptation to fill the final act with flashing lights and CGI effects. Under Waititi’s guidance, it remains focused.

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