Thor has always been the least interesting character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Nothing against Chris Hemsworth, who was born to play the role, but the character has always been kind of stale.
The first two Thor movies are the weakest entries in the entire MCU for a number of reasons. The love subplot between Thor and Jane (Natalie Portman) never worked and you could argue that the best thing to come out of the Thor world isn’t Thor, but his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
I’ve also always been bothered by the fact that Thor is a God and should be able to handle any situation in the MCU. He is by far the most powerful Avenger, but his powers have always been conveniently inconsistent to allow other Avengers to shine.
With all of that out of the way, “Thor: Ragnarok” is not only the best Thor movie to date, but the most unique entry in the entire MCU.
After returning to Asgard following another conquest, Thor finds his home in disarray as his brother, Loki, has tricked everyone into thinking he is Odin (Anthony Hopkins) due to his shapeshifting power. But that’s the least of Thor’s problems.
He discovers that he has a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who like Thor was cast out of Asgard. She’s returned to seek revenge and erase Asgard from civilization.
In an attempt to stop Hela, Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe. Now he has to fight fellow avenger, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), escape the planet and return to Asgard to face Hela.
Marvel has always thought outside the box in their directors for the MCU, but Taika Waititi is by far the most inspired choice. The New Zealand director previously directed the gloriously dry vampire comedy, “What We Do in the Shadows,” and one of last year’s best films, the buddy adventure movie, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”
The budget for those two films probably covers catering on a movie like “Thor: Ragnarok,” but despite the step up in budget, Waititi leaves his unique signature all over this film.
From the opening scene, “Thor: Ragnarok” has a vibe and tone that can only be compared to maybe “Iron Man 3.” But unlike that film, which worked as a Shane Black movie but not necessarily as an Iron Man movie, “Ragnarok” has a euphoric energy and lightness that runs consistently throughout the runtime that was missing in the previous two films.
Hemsworth showed off his comedic chops in “Vacation” and “Ghostbusters,” but here he’s frequently hilarious. Whether it’s mocking a monster while hanging from a chain, describing his unconditional love for his hammer or not knowing what to do with his hands when surprising someone, Hemsworth is a revelation. He was charming in a frat-boy sort of way in the first two Thor movies, but here he’s graduated to class clown.
There’s almost too many jokes in this movie to the point where you wonder how Waititi convinced Marvel to let him make it. But the tone never veers too far off course. Waititi is still able to weave in great dramatic elements like Thor’s relationship with his father and the cost of losing his people on Asgard.
As mentioned earlier, Hulk is in this movie like you’ve never seen him before. After leaving Earth in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Hulk winds up on the same planet as Thor and has been enslaved by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to fight as a gladiator.
Previous Marvel movies have balanced Hulk and Bruce Banner, but here it’s mostly Hulk on screen and he gets to speak. The scenes between him and Thor are particularly funny, but Hulk is also given lots to smash.
“Thor: Ragnarok” also features the first female villain (It’s about time) and Blanchett is loving every minute of it. She’s one of the best actors working today and it’s great to see her cut loose, wear a hat with giant antlers and kick ass. I wish there had been more of her.
Tessa Thompson also shows up as Valkyrie, a warrior who once fought Hela, lost, and has since become a scoundrel with a drinking problem. She’s so good in this that I wouldn’t mind a Valkyrie spinoff. She’s the Han Solo of this movie.
“Thor: Ragnarok” reminded me of the first time I saw “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s colorful, energetic and immensely entertaining. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still able to exist within the MCU and shake up the universe with what it does to the Thor character.
Now I know how Waititi convinced Marvel. He made a movie that feels fresh and original despite being the third movie in a trilogy. I’m also positive he’ll never direct a Star Wars movie.