Marvel fans, rejoice! Yet another solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU, as we nerds say) is upon us. Thor: Ragnarok is like New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) disco fever dream. Or at least half of it is.
The movie opens with a cheeky speech by Thor (the underrated Chris Hemsworth) that provides a hilarious recap of all the God of Thunder has been through over the past few years. It sets the (mostly silly) tone for the rest of the film, which revolves around Thor trying to prevent the destruction of his home realm of Asgard. We learn very early on that the fall of Asgard is actually a prophesized event called “Ragnarok,” which may already be in motion despite Thor’s best efforts to stop it.
Before I explain the fever dream half of the movie, I must mention that there is a hilariously random cameo within the first 15 minutes—you’ll know it when you see it. Speaking of cameos, Marvel fans will be happy that a non-Avenger makes an appearance in an effort to kinda sorta help Thor and the not-dead Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). That’s right—Loki is back in all of his devilish glory, and it will come as no surprise that Hiddleston’s performance is once again a highlight.
But guess what? Thor and Loki aren’t Odin’s only kids. Turns out his firstborn is the serious troublemaker Hela (Cate Blanchett), whose appetite for destruction spiraled out of control to the point where Odin had to imprison her long ago. But now she’s back with a vengeance, and within moments of first meeting her brothers she kicks their collective butts so savagely that they end up landing on another planet.
And that’s where the fever dream half of Thor: Ragnarok begins. Between scenes of Hela wreaking Havoc on Asgard with the help of her reluctant executioner Skurge (Karl Urban), we’re treated to Thor and Loki trying to survive on a candy-colored planet that looks like a garbage dump of everything bad (or awesome, depending on who you ask) about the ‘70s and ‘80s, with a matching soundtrack to boot. This strange land, Sakaar, is ruled by the very odd Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who delights in having his prisoners battle to the death in a huge arena. It’s during one of those competitions that Thor is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Also on Sakaar is a woman who goes by “Scrapper 142” (Tessa Thompson). She’s a bounty hunter who loooooves her liquor but is still functional enough to capture Thor and deliver him to Grandmaster. But let’s be real, anyone with that kind of nickname and that kind of bad attitude is hiding something.
Grandmaster and Scrapper 142 are positive additions to Marvel’s character roster, but I could’ve done with a shorter stop on Sakaar. Thor: Ragnarok has a running time of over two hours, and I preferred its quieter moments—along with its comedic ones—to any of its many, many battle scenes. On that note, while Blanchett is always great, I just didn’t think her character was given much to do besides try to kill everyone. (I mean . . . Hela IS the goddess of death and all, but still.) On top of that, she makes a glaringly bad decision almost immediately after she arrives in Asgard, which weakened her as a true threat to Thor in my eyes.
Those are minor complaints, though. If you usually enjoy Marvel movies, you will undoubtedly have a blast at Thor: Ragnarok, and seeing Hulk/Bruce Banner and Thor back together and bickering like old times was especially fun.
As always, be sure to stay to the bitter end of the credits!