Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett with Karl Urban and Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Taika Waititi (Based on the Marvel Comic by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber)
My Rating: *****/5
The holiday movie season has got off to a thunderous start with the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Thor Ragnarok.” While the first film in 2011 and the sequel “Thor: The Dark World” in 2013 may have taken a dip in the oddity of the Marvel comic of the same name, director Taika Waititi takes a gleeful dive into the insanity of its source material and has easily crafted the best installment of the “Thor” trilogy.
After the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to his homeworld of Asgard. The absence of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), however; has brought the wrath of Hela, the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett). With the Asgardian apocalypse known as “Ragnarok” nigh, she destroys Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and banishes him to the planet of Sakaar to do gladiatorial combat under the eyes of the eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
In order to stop Hela, Thor must team with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the mysterious Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) amid a flurry of colorful action and eye-popping special effects.
While Marvel has never been shy about embracing the madness of its comic book source material, this film continues to help Phase Three break the mold for Marvel Studios and is the most delightfully mad of all three “Thor” films. The science fiction elements that began creeping in with “Thor: The Dark World” now blend seamlessly with the fantasy aspects of the series. On an extravagant budget of $180 million, the film shows off a mind-bending array of bizarre costumes, gorgeous set design and an array of showy spacecraft that would not be out of place in the worlds of “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and Marvel’s own “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.
Even in an age where weirdness seems to be part of everyday life, Marvel has once again found new ways to surprise you with this film. Stan Lee’s cameo is as a hairdresser that resembles a space-age version of Edward Scissorhands. Taika Waititi has a bit part as a stone soldier known as “Korg”, and he has a scissor-handed mute companion known as Meek. The Grandmaster also has a deadly serious counterpart known as “Topaz.” Despite wearing armor with the same color as her name, her deadpan performance contrasts Goldblum’s memetic hamminess perfectly. Karl Urban also stands out as the Asgardian warrior Skurge, wielding a pair of machine guns in the final battle against Hela as Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blasts in the background.
With the film breaking the box office records of its seniors and getting uniformly positive press (93% Rotten Tomatoes rating as of this writing), “Thor Ragnarok” ends the trilogy on a high note. With the film leading to the events of next year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” it’s definitely worth its weight in Goldblums and is highly recommended for fans of Marvel as well as a start to the holiday movie season.
Review by Steven Pryor