WHAT’S THE DEAL: Chris Hemsworth’s Thor swings his magic Mjolnir hammer for his third solo film outing between AVENGERS movies, this time facing off against his twisted sister Hela (a game Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, who is determined to rule the realm of Asgard. But first, he must escape the Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum) gladiator games on a distant planet and survive the ultimate clash with The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).WHY SEE IT: This is the best THOR movie yet, hands down. It’s full of humor, scope, excitement, and creativity. Marvel films now deliver on what seems like an absolute obligation to integrate multiple characters from other storylines into one film, and the additions of Ruffalo’s Hulk, along with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange in the early section, are welcome ones. Ruffalo and Hemsworth display great comic chemistry together, and there are plenty of Hulk scenes in which the big green guy finally gets to stretch a bit. Get Hulk his own movie already, will ya Marvel?!? It’s also a treat to see Strange get his moment to shine with the confidence of a full-on sorcerer, fresh off his own inaugural outing/origin story.In RAGNAROK, Chris Hemsworth has finally come into his own where Thor’s physical humor is concerned. He’s having fun with the role and the swagger, and so are we. I still prefer it when the big-screen Thor is part of a team and not riding solo, however, which is why RAGNAROK works so well for me. He misses being part of the Avengers, so he tries to recruit others to accompany him on his mission to save Asgard. His team of unlikely “Revengers” — including the fallen Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, who gets heroic moments while remaining his deliciously devious self; he is the god of mischief, after all), as well as the rocky alien Korg (voiced by director Taika Waititi) — is a fun, ragtag bunch. The god of thunder also gets help from afar by Heimdall (Idris Elba, who finally gets more to do than just guard a portal and give sage advice in a THOR movie), which helps to connect the action from separate worlds.As the heavy, Blanchett clearly relishes her role, chewing the scenery as Hela with her skin-tight costume and wild-antler helmet. She makes for a formidable foe, balanced by Goldblum’s quirky Grandmaster, who is that much funnier due to his fish-out-of-water stunt casting. And while THOR: RAGNAROK is lushly produced, director Waititi chooses to go for a straight-to-video, ‘80s VHS action vibe with select soundtrack moments (courtesy of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh). It gives the film a kooky charm and tells the audience that this flick does not take itself seriously. Plus, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” could not be better placed when it’s time to watch Thor kick ass and take names in the big climax.THE FLICK FLACK: Sure, RAGNAROK is a movie that could be easily dismissed as a CGI-overload, battle-heavy no-brainer that blends with the noise of Marvel movies for those experiencing superhero-movie fatigue — and have no humor. I checked my expectations at the door and thoroughly enjoyed this movie. If there’s any flack I’d want to throw its way, it’s perhaps that many recurring characters who normally appear in a THOR film are absent — notably Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster who, when last seen, was the reason why Thor decided to stay on earth rather than rule in Asgard up on high. And the various realms and Sci-Fi setting of this movie, with nifty spaceships and laser battles aplenty, feels like the perfect opportunity to integrate the Guardians of the Galaxy. So I was a bit disappointed that Marvel chose not to place them into the story as well, not even as a tease. We all know they’ll unite for AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, but it would have been nice to get an early taste. Wishful thinking on my part.NOTABLE NOTES: Marvel movie honcho Kevin Feige is known for recruiting unlikely directors for his big-budget spectacles, and his gamble pays off yet again on RAGNAROK. Kiwi director Taika Waititi’s own sense of skewed humor breaks through the clutter, and his resume shows why: Prior to RAGNAROK, he directed the vamp mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, and he also worked with funnyman Jemaine Clement on a pair of episodes of FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. His capable action-comedy, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE with Sam Neill, is likely what sealed the deal for Feige’s confidence.
MORE INFO: http://movies.disney.com/thor-ragnarok
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