D.C.’s Take: “Thor: Ragnarok”

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Not that this is all that shocking, but 2017 is looking pretty solid for Marvel Studios, with the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, respectively. Now, we have the third Marvel film to come out this year and the 17th film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a universe that's filled with memorable movies in the comic book genre. Can the return of the mighty God of Thunder in “Thor: Ragnarok” live up to the hype?

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor's quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

While I’m the type of person who gets excited about a new MCU movie, I was also hesitant to go into “Thor: Ragnarok.” Why’s that? Thor is known as the Avenger that’s fairly different from the rest. Some consider the “Thor” films to be the weakest in the entire MCU. The first film, “Thor,” wasn’t all that bad, mostly because of Kenneth Branagh's approach to the source material: making it a fish-out-of-water type story. But the 2013 sequel “Thor: The Dark World” doesn’t hold up, and is known as being a bland follow-up. But if the franchise is need of a boost, leave it to the third movie to finally make it work. “Thor: Ragnarok” is a blast from start to finish. Taiki Waititi was ultimately the best choice to direct this film, as he’s another of these directors who comes from a comedy background. He previously directed “What We Do in the Shadows” and the underrated “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (highly recommend). I was excited to see what he could bring into a comic book movie, and he nailed it. You can clearly tell that this is a Waititi movie. It shows off that “Guardians of the Galaxy” vibe, mixed with an ‘80s retro style. This really feels like it could’ve come out in the ‘80s. It's such a colorful film, set solely on the planet Sakaar, and with spectacular production design. The entire film felt so different from the previous “Thor” films and even the other MCU films, but, thankfully, it doesn’t become a parody of itself. Chris Hemsworth as Thor still brings his all, proving he has truly become this character. This is the installment that truly discovered what really makes him the God of Thunder. He doesn't even have his hammer, Mjolnir, for a large majority of the film, and that does play on something stronger later on. Looks like the writers finally figured out who Thor truly is, as with each film he's been “in progress” in a lot of ways. This film shows a well-meaning relationship with his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, as always, mischievously great). And it's been known that Thor can be a goofy character sometimes, and it shows in here. Hemsworth proves that he’s not too bad at comedy, as seen before in the “Ghostbusters” reboot. The action is very well-handled and exciting. The best scene is the gladiator match between Thor and Hulk. Both the action and humor are pretty good, setting a consistent tone throughout. The score, by Mark Mothersbaugh, a master of new wave synth music, was excellent, giving electric flavor to the music. By the way, if your movie has a Led Zeppelin song in it, particularly "Immigrant Song" (used well in the first teaser), then you got me, man. Honestly, it feels great to see Mark Ruffalo return as Bruce Banner/Hulk, and I like what they did with his character in this installment, making “Thor: Ragnarok” my favorite film involving him. This has some elements of the “Planet Hulk” storyline that I think fans will be pleased with. Just like Thor, we haven’t seen Hulk since “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and it really makes you wonder what happened to him at the end of the film. Surprisingly enough, he's given some depth, in a way that’s interesting and hasn’t been seen before. The camaraderie between him and Thor makes for a fantastic team, making this feel like a buddy road trip comedy. Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) as Valkyrie was such a big standout. She’s a strong bounty hunter, a heavy drinker and not one to fight with. Will she be a future love interest for Thor? It's quite possible. She’d be a better love interest than Jane Foster, if you asked me. She was awesome in all the scenes she's in. Besides her, the character of Korg (voiced and motion-captured by Waititi himself), a soft-spoken alien made out of rocks, is also another scene stealer. Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, ruler of Sakaar, was nothing but delightful. He looks to be having a great time with this role. At this point, it really doesn't matter what type of character Goldblum is playing, as long as he's basically being himself, or “Goldbluming,” in a scene, that's worth the price of admission (except “Independence Day: Resurgence”). Probably one of the aspects that I was very worried about going in was how funny this was going to be. Judging by the previous two films, when it comes down to comedy, the “Thor” franchise isn’t the best, especially when it’s on Earth involving Kat Dennings. Luckily, this was one of the funniest Marvel films by far. From what I heard, some of the film was improvised, and Waititi perfectly handles the humor. There were tons of moments that led to hilarity. This leads me to a complaint I’ve had over the past few months: Why are some people cool the humor in this, but everybody complained about “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” for having the same amount of humor? Is it okay for “Thor: Ragnarok” to be considered a straight-up comedy, while the other gets ridiculed for being the same thing? People, make up your minds! Marvel is known for having comedy in some of its movies, so this shouldn’t be a problem. As for flaws I encountered with the film, while Cate Blanchett was excellent in her role as Hela, she was kind of a weak villain. I personally didn't find her that menacing after her introduction. The film also did run a little too long, as the middle dragged. And although it has a lot of funny jokes, some don’t quite land, and some scenes could’ve done without something funny happening in the middle of a serious moment. In the end, “fun” is the easiest way to describe “Thor: Ragnarok.” It surpassed all expectations. I wouldn’t say it’s the best MCU movie out there, but I do believe that it’s definitely the best film in the “Thor” franchise. If Waititi was given the opportunity to helm another MCU film, that would be perfect, because his style is absolutely absorbing. It's hilarious when appropriate, the story is engaging and it's satisfying to see Thor in a more entertaining way. Thor: Ragnarok”'s radical take on the franchise is a win with this fun and adventurous installment while standing out as being totally different in the MCU thus far. Grade: B+    
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