Opening nationwide on Thursday, Nov. 2 is “Thor: Ragnarok,” the third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to chronicle the solo adventures of the Norse God of Thunder. The movie, directed by Taika Watiti, brings a slew of new personalities into the universe, including Hela (Cate Blanchett), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and Skurge (Karl Urban).
“Ragnarok” opens on Thor trapped in a desolate cave and playing the ironic narrator. After his captor promises the doom of Asgard through an event called Ragnarok, Thor bests him and thrashes an undead skeleton army in usual hammer-swinging style. Upon returning to his kingdom, he discovers Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has displaced his father on the throne. Following their search for Odin, the brothers come face to face with Hela, Odin’s oldest daughter with a terrible power capable of destroying Asgard. Banished to the far reaches of the Nine Realms, Thor must rally new allies and old friends to save his kingdom from the wrath of Hela.
“Thor: Ragnarok” is, for lack of a better word, a complete romp. In tapping Watiti to direct, Marvel took this film in a vastly different direction than its predecessors and it paid off. Further, the characterization of Thor in this movie has matured in the best way possible: no longer the naive pretty boy of the first film, or the brooding boring guy of “Thor: Dark World,” Chris Hemsworth’s Thor emerges in this film as a wry strategist, still prone to wide-eyed optimism, but just as prepared to do verbal (or physical) battle with Loki.
There is an abundance of star power in this movie as well, and each new role pays dividends. Cate Blanchett’s Hela is as sarcastic and scary as she is smoky eyed with knives as sharp as her tongue. Tessa Thompson is equally delightful and provides the bulk of the film’s butt-kicking quota. The Grandmaster and Skurge play less significant, but very entertaining roles. “Thor: Ragnarok” also sees the largest appearance yet of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and the long overdue development of the grunting green guy’s personality.
Finally (and for me most importantly), “Thor: Ragnarok” marked a return to how blatantly, deliciously fun Marvel movies can be. While “Captain America: Civil War” has strengths upon strengths, it was really refreshing to enjoy the relative low-stakes, low-drama of a movie where the most heart-pounding revelation is a haircut.
This movie is definitely worth seeing in theaters, even if you have not seen “Thor” in a while or missed “Dark World” completely. “Thor: Ragnarok” stands as a shining example of what Marvel does best: superhero movies with just the right formula for a glorious good time.