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“Thor: Ragnarok” is one of Marvel’s best movies yet

The third installment of Marvel’s Thor films hits the nail on the comedic head.

Thor+gets+a+personality+makeover+in+Taika+Waititi%E2%80%99s+new+Marvel+film.+
Thor gets a personality makeover in Taika Waititi’s new Marvel film.

Thor gets a personality makeover in Taika Waititi’s new Marvel film.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Thor gets a personality makeover in Taika Waititi’s new Marvel film.

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In what first appears to be a fourth wall-breaking monologue, “Thor: Ragnarok” begins with the Asgardian god (played by Chris Hemsworth) caged and dangling from heights unknown in a hellscape dungeon. A pan of the camera reveals he is actually speaking to skeletal remains of slayed foes about his current predicament. This intro scene alone is easily funnier than anything I’ve seen in the previous “Thor” films, and sets up the rest of movie to follow the same comedic standard.

“Ragnarok” raked in over $121 million in its premiere weekend, making it the seventh biggest opening for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, topping the franchise’s last humorous release of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

The past two Thor installations have been the weakest additions to the cinematic universe and have done little to advance the overarching story of the franchise, other than teasing the introduction of the Avengers’ second strongest hero (a recurring joke in the new film) and his loveable antagonist brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston). The humor in both films has relied largely on Thor’s culture shock to life on Earth, which grew old shortly after he smashed a coffee mug on a restaurant floor in true Valhalla fashion in the first movie.

Directed by Taika Waititi, “Ragnarok” successfully breaks away from the tone of previous films and opts for a more lighthearted galactic adventure, similar to what “Guardians of the Galaxy” has delivered. Hemsworth seemed more comfortable than ever, embracing the comedic side of his character in this film.

The story follows Thor as he fights to prevent the fulfillment of prophecy of Ragnarok, which would destroy Thor’s home realm of Asgard.  Meanwhile, Hela the goddess of death (played by Cate Blanchett) declares herself the rightful heir to the realm’s throne. Thor assembles a team of new and old friends to keep this prophecy from coming true. With such a dire situation at hand, Marvel could have easily turned this into a much darker, grittier film. However, given the gloomier route DC has opted to take in its cinematic universe, it’s clear that audiences don’t need another Zack Snyder-esque film.

While many familiar faces return on-screen, “Ragnarok” introduces a diverse cast of new characters. From the wannabe rebellion leader Korg (which Waititi voices) to the alcoholic Valkyrie, a former member of the legendary Asgardian female fighting force, each character brings a different personality to the table.

With Marvel on top of the movie world right now, the studio has more freedom to figure out their formula and what has and hasn’t been working. Judging from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and this most recent installation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s clear that comedy is the secret ingredient for success.

But with any recipe, too much of one ingredient throws off the whole dish. There was almost too much comedy in the film to feel any sense of urgency for the matters at hand. Thor and his people are on the brink of extinction and all hope seems lost, but the onslaught of jokes made me feel a loss of immersion at times. Seeing Hela, who is supposed to be this harbinger of destruction and conquest, crack a lighthearted joke while slaughtering countless Asgardians just felt like poorly-timed delivery.

“Ragnarok” is at some points a little over the top with the joke to seriousness ratio. Some of the humor fell on deaf ears while others had the theater hysterically laughing.

Finding himself stranded on Sakaar, a dumping ground of a planet, Thor is forced to compete in a gladiator game headed by the mysterious Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum) in a witty and jovial performance. Though a bit of a slow point in the film, this is the first time where we see some character development for the Hulk.

With past appearances being chalked up to the typical “Hulk smash” scenes of chaotic destruction, it was a breath of fresh air to finally see the green brute given some lines. Waititi proved that the two Avengers whom many thought incapable of humor are more than able to deliver a few good punchlines.

Like any Marvel film, there is plenty of action to keep you entertained. Without going overboard on special effects, the film executes amazingly choreographed fights scenes that demonstrates each character’s’ individual powers. It was interesting to see Thor having to fight a majority of the movie without with iconic hammer, Mjölnir, while Hela’s costume design played a large role in her combat.

While the plot doesn’t deliver any groundbreaking storytelling, there is plenty of Marvel lore present that will leave fans of the comics happy. As with previous installments, we are treated to after-credits scenes that hint at the future for the film universe, but with “Infinity Wars” upon us, the Easter eggs are getting more and more exciting.

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