'Thor: Ragnarok' movie review: Marvel's Irreverent & fun space romp
The "Thor" films have been an underwhelming part of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe - but the immensely fun and raucously entertaining "Thor: Ragnarok" (opening in theaters nationwide Nov. 3) reboots the franchise by injecting it with a new edge and redefining Thor's world entirely.
In short: The mighty thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself trapped as a prisoner on a planet of gladiators while the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) threatens to destroy Asgard. Also stars Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson with Mark Ruffalo and Jeff Goldblum.
"Ragnarok" is easily the best entry in the "Thor" series and one of the most flat-out entertaining and fun entries in the entire MCU series. In terms of tone and tenor, "Ragnarok" shares more in common with the free-wheeling and irreverent "Guardians of the Galaxy" flicks than it does with either of the previous "Thor" movies, which were essentially family dramas. "Ragnarok" has hints of the Asgardian royalty drama dynamics between Thor, Loki and Odin -- but all that takes a backseat to a crazy adventure through space.
Director Taika Waititi ("Hunt for the Wilderpeople," "What We Do in the Shadows") infuses "Ragnarok" with a specific clear and confident tone that rivals even "Guardians" director James Gunn. It truly feels like Marvel top brass stepped back and let Waititi make the film he wanted to make - Waititi surely wasn't just a warm body behind the camera. The MCU is an ever-expanding realm - it's great to see filmmakers getting the opportunity to truly play in the Marvel playground.
While "Ragnarok" is an absolute joy of a ride, it's a meandering and unfocused journey. The film's central threat, Hela, arrives at Asgard ... and doesn't do much. She proves herself to be a lethal and dangerous villain - certainly one of the stronger MCU antagonists - but her character doesn't get to do much. If Hela is the main threat, the majority of "Ragnarok" focuses on Thor's weird side adventure on a prison planet. While it offers a great opportunity to throw the Hulk into the mix, "Ragnarok" feels like two disconnected plots awkwardly smashed together.
A number of important characters from previous "Thor" films are either treated as little more than redshirts unceremoniously killed off. The absence Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) - Thor's love interest of the two previous movies and a very critical character in "The Dark World" - is explained away in a throwaway bit of dialogue. Arguably only one "Thor" mainstay gets a notable on-screen death on Asgard -- even the death of another major "Thor" character happens too early and feels rushed.
Final verdict: "Ragnarok" is an unabashed joy of a romp through the Marvel universe. While it is certainly among the most purely entertaining MCU films yet, it does lack the character or story depth that several other MCU films brought to the franchise.
"Thor: Ragnarok" opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 3. This Marvel fantasy, sci-fi adventure has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.