Greg Eichelberger reviews 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

While not reaching the cerebral heights (at least in THIS genre) offered by Kenneth Branaugh’s first installment of the Marvel Studios study of the God of Thunder, 2011’s “Thor,” this third installment (the less written about Alan Taylor’s “Dark World,” the better) is certainly a wild, fun ride and a worthy edition to the sub franchise.
Directed by Taika Waititi (“Boy,” “Hunt For the Winter People”), this project features the parental and sibling angst so prominently displayed in the last two films and continues as Thor (Chris Hemsworth, the horrid remakes of “Ghostbusters” and “Vacation”) the natural son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins, “Transformers: The Last Knight”) battles his rebellious adopted bro, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, “Kong: Skull Island”), only this time there’s a twist.
And, as Darth Vader once said, “So, you have a SISTER,” and the two are soon informed that upon Odin’s death (the franchise’s second or third, so far), the daughter, Hela (multi-Golden Globe winner Cate Blanchett, “Manifesto”) — born first — is baaaaack and, by the way, just happens to be the Goddess of Death, for whatever THAT is worth.
Her arrival in the mythical kingdom of Asgard ushers in the Ragnarok (Korangar spelled backwards), which we suppose means, literally hell on earth (or in Asgard, anyway), which necessitates the feuding brothers join forces to take on Hela and her minion army of long-dead soldiers (yes, yes, we know, just like the good guys in “Lord Of the Rings: Return Of the King,” as well as “The Mummy 3: The Emperor’s Tomb” had to deal with).
Here, though, the sons of Odin are aided in this quest by stock Marvel characters Bruce Bannon/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, “Now You See Me 2”) and Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), along with a dull and drunken Valkyrie (or Amazon) warrior, Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) and a host of revolting peasants (take that anyway you want to).
Of course, we know demise and destruction will follow, but even invincible deities are vulnerable in films like this and “Thor: Ragnarok” is no exception. Also expect the fire, fights, explosions and other Marvel pyrotechnics and terrific action sequences so prominent in these efforts, as well.
What many viewers may NOT expect, however, is just how humorous and witty this vehicle happens to be. The inclusion of Jeff Goldblume (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Independence Day: Resurgence”) as a planet’s smarmy “Grandmaster,” who runs that world’s gladiator contest that features the duel between Thor and Hulk, along with a lot of lively word play and real comedy obviously inherited by the “Deadpool” and “Guardians” series.
There is also a hilarious send up of the series with Matt Damon (the upcoming “Downsizing”), Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park”) and Luke Hemsworth (“Westworld” TV series).
Still, no Marvel film would be complete without the amazing special effects, here directed by Brian Cox (“Gold,” “Silence”) and fantastic art direction (Bill Booth, “Kong: Skull Island”).
Chris Hemsworth was obviously born for this role, even though his acting talent often struggles to keep up with his powerful hammer (though here he acquits himself well), while Hiddleston is a much better thespian and a delightful (if extremely incompetent) villain, but in Ragnarok, it’s really Blanchett who steals everything complete is slimming black leather suit with jet black hair that turns into antlers.
Now THAT’S frightening.
Grade: B-