At The Movies: Thor: Ragnarok

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the great final battle where the gods fight and die and the world ends. Think of it as the viking version of Armageddon.

So you wouldn’t think a movie about such an event would be a funny, fun-loving adventure — and yet that’s what you get with “Thor: Ragnarok.”

When last we saw the God of Thunder (at the end of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) he had left Earth to seek out the Infinity Stones, which have been plaguing Marvel Studios’ movies for some time. As our new story begins, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is chained up in the subterranean lair of Surtur (Clancy Brown).

DIBDRP1UwAAtU6JSurtur is planning on bringing about Ragnarok, but his plans are thwarted by Thor’s hammer. Thor returns to his home in Asgard, only to find father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) missing and brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on the throne. (He would’ve already known this if he had watched “Thor: The Dark World.”)

With help from Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Thor and Loki find Odin on a bluff in Norway. Odin warns that despite defeating Surtur, Ragnarok cannot be stopped. Only now it’s going to come in the form of Hela, Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett).

As if on cue, Hela arrives. After a very brief skirmish, Thor and Loki and hurtled into space while Hela makes her way to Asgard. She is greeted by Skurge (Karl Urban), who has replaced the missing Heimdall (Idris Elba) as guardian of the Rainbow Bridge. Together they cut a bloody swath through the home of the gods.

Elsewhere, Thor lands on the planet Sakaar, a world run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). The thunder god is quickly captured by a bounty hunter who was once one of the Norse warrior women, the Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). She takes Thor to the Grandmaster for use in his popular gladiatorial games.

The Grandmaster’s reining champion turns out to be none other than Thor’s incredible avenging buddy, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Now Thor simply has to defeat the Hulk, escape the Grandmaster, deal with Loki, and return to Asgard to stop Hela. And all without his beloved hammer.

Director Taika Waititi (who also plays the friendly rock monster Korg) has put the Thor franchise back on top after a disappointing second outing. The laughs are welcome and plentiful, but there are also some grim, violent moments and some touching ones as well. The film has heart as well as humor, thrilling action, outrageous costumes and nifty special effects.

Some old favorites had to make way for all the new faces, but the additions brought a fresh feel to the film. The Thor franchise continues to prove it has the best villains in the MCU, with Blanchett’s Hela proving just as wickedly entertaining as Hiddleston’s Loki.

And it’s nice to finally see the Hulk get a voice and a personality beyond “smash.”

Granted, some of the comedy is overdone and the light-hearted tone doesn’t always mesh with the end-of-the-world plot. But as a big, goofy, sometimes absurd, superhero tale it gets the job done.

2017 hasn’t been a great year in many respects but it’s been an impressive one for superhero movies. “Thor: Ragnarok” joins “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” “Wonder Woman” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as stellar action-adventure entertainment. Will “Justice League” be in the same league? We’ll know in a few weeks.

 

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