By Laurie Coker
Thor: Ragnarok rocks. It is a raucous, at times, hilarious ride through a exquisitely imagined universe. True to form, there are delightful, funny cameos, witty, sometimes cheesy, humor and insanely wild action sequences. Director Taika Waititi, brings his eccentric comic awareness to the film, making for fast-paced, perfectly timed entertainment. Waititi takes Thor to a level beyond others in the genre creating a fun, stand-alone addition to the Marvel Comic Universe adaptations. While fans of the comic series might find something to whine about, those of us who just enjoy campy, amusing humor and well-fleshed out familiar characters.
Thor: Ragnarok opens with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wrapped and hanging in chains, explaining his predicament to the audience, and soon he faces his first challenge, when he trades verbal barbs with Surtur’s (Clancy Brown), battles demons and snatches Surtur’s helmet. He returns to Asgard where he encounters his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), disguised as Odin, living the life of luxury. After mincing more than a few words, they head to Earth to retrieve their father – who Loki put in old folks home. Finding the home in rubble, Thor seeks out help – enter Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – who sends them to where Odin (Anthony Hopkins) stands at the end of a cliff. They learn of Hela – a.k.a. the god of death – (Cate Blanchet) their evil, older sister, and her desire to take over Asgard – as the rightful heir to the throne. Her power is greater than that of either brother and she manages to crush Thor’s hammer and banish the pair to the other side of the universe. Mishaps, misfortunes and outlandish meetings lead to the ultimate battle in which Thor must decide how to best protect his people from Hela.
The banter between Hiddleston and Hemsworth affords some of the film’s best comic moments, and whether alone or playing off others, this pair enchants. Thor is less often tricked by Loki, but the relationship is still hysterically edgy. Thor, for a time, winds up captive on Sakaar, a distant planet where he is forced into gladiatorial combat against his old friend the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Loki, too, is there, but he has a more comfortable status. Hulk (as Banner) and Thor team up with a reluctant Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to defeat Hela. Blanchet looks amazing and plays Hela as perfectly seething and sinister – she slithers almost snakelike through scenes wreaking havoc and destruction in her wake. Jeff Goldbloom makes an appearance as Grandmaster, the man in who enjoys seeing gladiator battles to the death. Helping Thor out is Korg (Waititi voices the character- an animate pile of rocks) Valkyrie is an uncertain ally but is as hard-hitting if not stronger than Thor and the others and Thompson wears the role well.
Waitiki fills Thor: Ragnarok vivid and colorful imagery – bright versus dismal, good versus evil, weird versus normal (well, perhaps not normal). While shown in 3D, 2D would be just as stunning – and better – no glasses required. The soundtrack amuses as well and includes Immigrant Song from Led Zeppelin. Thor’s new look – hair shorn by none other than Stan Lee in his trademark cameo – gives him a new appeal. Sure he is still a hunk of gorgeous man, but now he feels less god-like and more superhero. With Waitiki behind the camera and this exceptionally entertaining cast, Thor: Ragnarok, leads off the holiday season with a HIT, and punches, pokes, jabs, and hilarity.