More Humor, Less Hammer

Brimming with wit and comedic energy, the third Thor is an exuberant charm

nullThor: Ragnarok
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Kate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo & Tessa Thompson
Directed by Taika Waititi
PG-13

Less hammer, more humor.

That’s the formula for the third flick in the Marvel franchise about the Norse God of Thunder, played in all three by Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth.

Marvel learned that laughter was golden in Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, and Ragnarok forgoes gravitas for sheer, exuberant comic energy, even when the story’s stakes are apocalyptic.

The plot whirls around a doomsday event called Ragnarok, the end of days in the mythical kingdom of Asgard, Thor’s home. As Thor tries to prevent it, he comes into contact with a whole cosmos of colorful characters, including his trickster bro Loki (Tom Hiddleston), their dark-hearted sis (Cate Blanchett), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a dear old frenemy, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

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Tessa Thompson

Jeff Goldblum is a supernova smash as a campy character called the Grandmaster, who runs clash-’n’-smash gladiator matches on the planet Sakaar. Tessa Thompson (from HBO’s Westworld) struts as a Valkyrie bounty hunter. Thor’s sage old father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), advises him his hammer “was never your source of power,” it was only a channel for his great strength.

That’s important for Thor to remember—since he loses his tool early in the movie.

Other familiar faces pop up too, including some surprise appearances in a hilarious play—The Tragedy of Loki—on Asgard, where Thor discovers his mischievous brother has deceived everyone into believing he’s a hero, even a savior. And be ready: Marvel Comics’ founder Stan Lee continues his tradition of making brief, memorable, cameos in every movie based on his pulpy properties. And this one, indeed, leaves a lasting impression.

The seriously fun script (by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost) crackles with wit, and New Zealand director Taika Waititi (who also made the acclaimed indie hits Hunt For the Wilderpeople and What We Do In the Shadows) gives Thor’s traditional, comic-book core a fresh, zippy new spin. (Waititi also cameos as the voice of a rock-pile revolutionary named Korg, who becomes an important Thor ally.)

Hemsworth is a very funny guy, as he demonstrated in Ghostbusters, and he seems to greatly enjoy flexing his comedic muscles. He sets the cheeky, flip tone right off the bat, as the movie opens with our hero bound in chains, immobile, locked a dark, hellish dungeon.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he says. “Oh, no! Thor’s in a cage!”

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Kate Blanchett

There’s so much to see and do—interplanetary trash heaps; day-glo streets; a monstrous wolf dog; a Satyr demon made of fire; Idris Elba as the seer-warrior Hemdall; teeming planetary cities; clashing armies; thrilling aerial battles. As the evil sister Hela, the Goddess of Death, Blanchett is a total scene stealer. With her headdress of devilish black antlers, she’s a sexy, sinister siphon of pure evil, someone you’d never want to meet—but good luck prying your eyes off her.

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Mark Ruffalo (as the Hulk)

For a movie packed with so much, it does a great job of keeping everything giddily on track—when the characters zoom through a mean-looking space wormhole called the Devil’s Anus, when Thor and Loki take a business trip to New York City, when Thor and the Hulk face off for a smashing reunion.

There are thorny family and friendship issues to sort out, nonstop quips, explosions, fights scored to Led Zeppelin tunes and lots and lots of laughs.

At one point, Thor and Hela duke it out in the halls of Asgard. Thor is strong, but Hela—she is the Goddess of Death, after all—is stronger, at least momentarily. “To be honest,” she taunts him, “I expected more.”

You can’t expect much more from this. Thor: Ragnarok, the best Thor of the bunch, pretty much has it all.

In theaters Nov. 3, 2017

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