For the first time in its almost decade of existence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released three films in the same year. Starting with “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” and continuing with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” 2017 completes the trifecta with “Thor: Ragnarok,” the third in its series featuring all different directors. This go ‘round, we have “What We Do in the Shadows” helmer Taika Waititi, who also voices one of the characters in his film.
Using Thor’s (Chis Hemsworth) vision from “Avengers: Age of Ultron” where he saw the people of Asgard in severe peril as a jumping point, the God of Thunder finds himself caught up in a race against time itself as he and his brother and God of Mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) try to prevent Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying their home world and everything in it. Along the way, he finds himself on a planet where he is captured by SR-142 (Tessa Thompson) and sold as the slave of the evil Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to take on his champion, gladiator style. That champion just also happens to be The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Thor is to me one of those characters that is more fan-friendly than marketable to the masses, and the first film of his actually was a pleasant surprise. With great visuals and a better-than-average origin story with big stars helped keep the MCU moving forward as the first “Avengers” film approached. It was followed by what can be seen as one of the most forgettable films in the franchise with “Thor: The Dark World,” which may have been a bit headier than it needed to be. It seemed to me like the studio made a choice in this installment to take a third direction and work more of a buddy cop/road trip/pseudo-team-of-misfits route, and to me, this is where they found what the series should have been all along.
“Thor: Ragnarok” finds the exact balance of story, action, and humor that a film featuring its characters has to. There are strong themes of family and honor that shine through, battle scenes that are nothing short of brilliant living paintings, and comedy that helps keep all of it grounded all at the same time. Hemsworth really walks the tightrope well after his turn in the “Ghostbusters” reboot, which showed his comedic chops, by keeping the God of Thunder light and funny without turning him into caricature. His work with Hiddleston has always been great, and this film takes it to another level with them getting a lot more screen time together. The new characters also fit in perfectly with the veteran characters, filling out the story with Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins being joined by Karl Urban, Blanchett, and even an appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange (in an extended version of the extra scene during the credits of his film) as well as Ruffalo.
At a runtime of two hours and ten minutes, this still runs at a break neck pace that feels like a lot less than that. This is a script that is engaging to the point where the time became almost irrelevant to me, and I am a guy that has a borderline obsession about time. This is truly a good time spent at the theater, and I would go as far as one of the best films in the entire MCU even redeeming the “Thor” film that came before it. With the big summer movies not just being limited to the hotter months anymore, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a prime example, and with The House of Ideas’ competitor releasing their latest fare two weeks later, they are going to have to bring it in the biggest of ways to dethrone the God of Thunder.