Thank you Taika Waititi for finally giving Thor a sense of humor.
The comedy in Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo adventure for the God of Asgard, is the key ingredient that makes this cinematic adventure a slice of delight amid the early rush of Oscar season.
Let's be honest. After the first two Thor films, I was ready to move Chris Hemsworth's avenger into the "supporting" department of Marvel. Like Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, there was only so much to the character that an isolated story ran dry too quickly. You were good with a partial serving instead of an entire dish.
And then Waititi, who made me laugh out loud in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, added a touch of light to the man with the hammer, focusing on the charisma of Hemsworth's hero while adding the slick action packed excitement that Marvel fans have come to expect.
Thor: Ragnarok catches up with the mighty one stuck in a series of dilemmas, the chief one being that his evil sister, Hela (a very game Cate Blanchette), wants to imprison and destroy the Asgardian civilization. In order to stop her, Thor has to team up with Ruffalo's Hulk (we find out what's he been up to since Avengers: Age of Ultron!) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston, giving the former villain longevity in the series), and newcomer Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to try and stop her.
The adventure includes capture on Grandmaster's (Jeff Goldblum, hamming it up to good effect), which leads to the much hyped fight between Thor and Hulk. It includes short visits with father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the revisiting of past allies, Heimdall (Idris Elba, getting more to do in round 3) and Skurge (Karl Urban). Oh, and there's an evil old curse/spell/something called Ragnarok that could destroy the planet all together.
There's nothing new here plot wise. There's good, bad, and a few characters riding in between the grey area of anti-heroism. Marvel films don't have to blow your mind with plot development; they simply need to create a fun and fresh environment for the heroes to bring out their greatest strengths.
This is easily Hemsworth's finest film in the role of Thor, a God who simply doesn't understand how powerful he actually is. Armed with a screenplay that plays to the actor's versatile skill set, Hemsworth is having the time of his life, and it spreads throughout the cast. Ruffalo gets a juicy role to expand Bruce Banner with, teaming up nicely with Hemsworth for several hilarious moments. Blanchett creates the best villain since Hiddleston's Loki, creating a new kind of malevolence that chews just enough scenery while providing some depth as well.
It helps to have Oscar caliber talent like Blanchett and Hopkins around to surround the good looking heroes with. The only character that wore on me as the film carried on was Thompson's Valkyrie. She rides an overly familiar character arc, which kept her from making a huge mark by the end of the film. I left wanting someone else in that role.
The real star though is Waititi, who breathes fresh air into the Thor series by simply giving his characters, especially Hemsworth, a sense of humor and free will. The director of What We Do in the Shadows was the perfect guy to re-calibrate a dull series. Now, instead of wishing they'd be done with these films, I want more. Waititi also voices Korg, the kindhearted rock made character who helps Thor in a series of adventures.
Thor: Ragnarok is the latest example of Marvel believing in story and character over simple glitz and glamour. They took an indie director and let him unleash his sense and sensibility into a big budget film, which was the same thing they did with Jon Watts earlier this year with Spider Man: Homecoming. Style only gets you so far. Substance keeps you in the game.
It also helps that this is a gleefully silly film with several superhero fanboy moments, including a slew of cameos that run from hilarious to enlivening. Thor: Ragnarok never gets too dark or dreary, remaining light on its feet with a two hour plus running time. This is the opposite of Civil War's serious tone, which is what Thor's storyline needed.
After as couple underwhelming attempts, the third time is the charm with Thor. All the most powerful avenger needed were a few laughs.