There is not a moment in this movie where you will not be able to hear Marvel executives in the back of your mind discussing how much money 'Guardians of the Galaxy' made.
"Yeah, let's make it more like that."
"I mean, they're both in the same universe and they're both in space."
"And we have to set up Thanos' Death...girlfriend...person for 'Avengers: Infinity War' anyway..."
Much has been made in other reviews of how much funnier this movie is than the other two Thor films, or his portrayal in the two 'Avengers' movies. Thor has always been sort of funny. He's funny in that dry sort of way, where he is in an environment that he is unfamiliar with and comments on something that he finds odd or doesn't understand.
So, part of the humor in this film comes from Thor being in crazy situations and reacting to them. And the situations, characters and the planet he's on are much crazier in this film than in the others. But, admittedly, the writers of this movie did make him a bit more of a quipster than he was n previous films. But not so much that he isn't the same character. He's just been hanging around with Tony Stark too much and some of his humor rubbed off on "Point Break".
And that humor, both from Thor himself and from surrounding characters, is what makes 'Thor: Ragnarok' an enormous leap from the dull second movie. And the story. No longer is Thor pining over Jane Foster. Her character's absence is reduced to one line where a side character says "sorry Jane dumped you". Thor is back to his role as a warrior of Asgard. Picking up from one of the more interesting aspects of the second film, Loki has been taking Odin's place as king of Asgard and has been involved in some pretty extensive propaganda to make himself (his "son" Loki) out to be a hero of the 2nd film. Thor makes quick work of that before the villain (Thor's sister and Thanos' boo Hela) shows up and destroys his beloved hammer, as shown in the trailers.
After an extensive, funny, engaging prologue that ends with both Thor (without his hammer) and Loki on a planet ruled by the villainous Grandmaster (played by a flamboyant Jeff Goldblum), the movie turns into a buddy comedy between Thor and Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Thor has great chemistry with both Bruce Banner and his green CGI alter ego (both played brilliantly again by Mark Ruffalo) as they attempt to get off the Grandmaster's planet and back to Asgard to save it from destruction from Hela. Along the way, they form a small team as a drunken fellow Asgardian named Valkyrie is thrown into the mix.
This movie very much feels like 'GOTG' as far as the balance between an exciting sci-fi story and the humor goes. Thor is not as quippy as Peter Quill in GOTG, but he is surrounded by funny characters including Korg, a rock creature played by the director himself and Goldblum's funny showman, the Grandmaster. I personally liked the first Thor, as it was a story about humility, but after the second one, a new direction was welcome and this was a good way to handle that. Thor losing his hammer was a great opportunity for the character to grow as a person and if Marvel wants to make me laugh at the same time, that is fine by me.
There are lots of great little nods to previous and future MCU movies for the fans to dissect and some good cameos. All the acting is top shelf. Tom Hiddleston is always great as Loki. Cate Blanchett is great as well, providing some contrasting moodiness and some dark humor whenever the scene cuts away from Grandmaster's technicolor Flash Gordon-ish planet to her. But, the common complaint about Marvel movie villains just being there so the hero can fight them in the third act is true here and its the movie's one minor flaw. Yes, comic book fans realize that they had to set up Death as a character for Thanos' role in future films. So, she needs to be there and her performance is good. But you will be far more interested in following Thor, Hulk and company around.
4 lightning bolts out of 5.
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