Movie review: Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel universe takes a rather comedic turn in the latest installment

Thor: Ragnarok
Directed by Taika Waititi
With Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

The latest entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Universe delivers fast-paced escapism. Thor: Ragnarok has Chris Hemsworth back as Thor, the hammer-wielding god of thunder, not taking himself entirely seriously. Hemsworth has a quite a good comedic talent, which has used in other roles, but so far not so much in the Marvel series of films.

The somewhat flippant tone helps keep Thor: Ragnarok afloat, as the story grows impossible to take seriously, especially for people just casually following the series.

Like the Guardian of the Galaxy films, which are also part of the Marvel universe, the balance of humor and action gives the film a broad appeal beyond the base of comic book fans.

The plot builds on events from the rather more serious Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: The Dark World, and doesn't spend a lot of time helping people to catch up. If you missed those films, you just have to jump into it and not worry about the mythological terms that fly past rather quickly.

Rangarok is an event long told of in a prophecy, and stopping it from happening is the main thrust of the plot.

The opening is in some sort of underworld ruled by over by a fiery demon named Surtur. Thor sets the film's tone from the start, making one-sided conversation with a skeleton while both are trapped in a hanging cage. He soon tries to do a big impressive scene to intimidate Surtur, but his timing is way off, leaving him looking foolish while he waits for his magic hammer to appear.

The film's first big action follows, making good use of Led Zeppelin's hard rocking “Immigrant Song” as background.

The rest of Thor: Ragnarok, save for a couple of minutes on Earth, is set in finely detailed fantasy realms including Thor's home of Asgard and a trash-filled planet called Sakaar, where time and space don't function normally and the main fun for everyone is a gladiator game presided over by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).

The plots cut back and forth in old-school cliff-hanger fashion between the coming of the dire prophesy on Asgard and the escape plot on Sakaar.

The Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo) is one of the key Avengers to turn up in the film. Some others make little cameos. Thor's adopted sibling Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who can' be trusted, pops up to do untrustworthy things as expected.

The only one who doesn't seem to be in on the idea that the film is an elaborate cosplay joke is Anthony Hopkins as Odin. He takes it all a bit too seriously.

New to the Marvel universe is Cate Blanchett in an evil role, which she plays to the hilt, creating a formidable villain who seems to not know why people don't like her. She chews the scenery quite a bit, but that suits the rather large scale of the character.

She is not the only strong female character in Thor: Ragnarok. Tessa Thompson, who previously appeared in the films Dear White People and Creed, as well as the TV series Veronica Mars and Westworld, is a tough, hard-drinking scavenger on Sakaar who has her own spaceship and more than enough attitude, plus a few secrets.

Director Taika Waititi was motion captured for the mild-mannered rock creature Korg, another comic performance in the film. Korg is also trapped on Sakaar and tries to be sociable with the new arrivals, which is at odds with his rocky appearance.

The action, though, isn't played for laughs. When the Rangarok prophesy starts to unfold, the superheroes and villains do what they are supposed to do.

The film is long, at 130 minutes, but never drags. The various worlds created for the film are captivating and the new characters keep the story from being stale by often doing the unexpected.

Look carefully for appearances by Sam Neill and Matt Damon as actors in a play on Asgard. Also, as always, stay through the credits for two more scenes that have crucial information for the upcoming films.

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