‘Thor Ragnarok’ re-ups my faith in the superhero movie

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

Many agree that the first two outings in Thor’s standalone movie series were less impressive than, say, Captain America’s or Iron Man’s. That was the past. Now, with “Thor: Ragnarok,” the God of Thunder makes a case that his latest outing is Marvel’s most entertaining yet. My money is still on the other Chris’s (no, not Evans…Pratt) super franchise, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and its sequel…but I think I’m ready to call “Ragnarok” my favorite Groot-less MCU movie yet.

We find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in space, leaving his Earthly troubles (and Natalie Portman, who left the franchise) behind him. The death of his father (Anthony Hopkins) leads to the return of evil incarnate, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who promises to bring destruction to Thor’s home planet, Asgard. So when Thor finds himself a prisoner on an alien planet led by an eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), he’ll have to work together with old friends (including his brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston) and new (a scrappy fighter and Asgard native, played by Tessa Thompson) to escape his captivity and get back to Asgard in time to save his people.

Under the direction of Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeeple”), the latest superhero movie is injected with the New Zealander’s unique brand of humor. “Ragnarok” is hilarious. Not like Tony Stark or Ant-Man funny. Like Deadpool, Star-Lord funny. A different level. He takes the “Thor” franchise to a new place. But he doesn’t do it alone. Chris Hemsworth as Thor has always been funnier than his material allowed him to be. Hiddleston, too. But it’s the newcomers who lift “Ragnarok” on their shoulders. Tessa Thompson (“Dear White People,” “Creed”) is a rising star who acts like she’s been burning bright for a decade already. As one of Asgard’s famed Valkyries, she kicks ass and busts guts with her charming sense of humor. Waititi cameos in a voice performance that will leave anyone with half a funny bone in stitches. But only one guy makes “Ragnarok” worth it. Jeff Goldblum has seen a sort of renaissance this year, but it seems to be based largely on trailers for “Ragnarok” that made people confident his performance would be one for the ages. Well, Twitter, all of your expectations will be exceeded. He’s comic gold.

Superhero action needs to be well-choreographed, frequent, and life-threatening (if not for the hero involved, at least for everyday people nearby. “Ragnarok” checks all those boxes. Asgard is in trouble. When Thor and Hela take to battle, you fear that civilian casualties are imminent. “Ragnarok” falls into the same traps that its predecessors do, though. Mainly, the hoard of undead soldiers that Hela brings to battle. You never doubt they’ll lose, and you never care when they’re beheaded or obliterated. Like the aliens in the first “Avengers,” you know from the start their just lowly foils for our great protagonists, doomed to die. It’s just fun watching how Thor will kill them. You only ever worry about the fate of a protagonist when they’re fighting another named, prominent character. Otherwise, it’s all for show. These are pretty minor qualms, though. Otherwise, you can rest assured that “Thor: Ragnarok” guarantees the Marvel superhero movie isn’t close to dying.

7.5/10

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