Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★

Based on the more middling reception that Thor: The Dark World received, it seemed like the potential for the Thor subseries as it was, what with the dynamics of Thor, Loki and the other Asgardians and the clash in culture between Asgard and Earth, had dried up in a stale, meandering tale that didn't suggest the greater things the MCU franchise was heading to at the time. With Phase Three fully established as a radically different beast than what we have seen with Phase One and even most of Phase Two, something had to be done with the next Thor film, a massive shake-up of this internal world that seemed anticipated based on the reveal of Loki's disguise as Odin in the second Thor film four years prior to this. Thus, with Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi, gaining notable traction for his New Zealand-style quirkiness of What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, was chosen to turn it all upside down and take a fresh new route that manages to stay consistent in its vision and take full reigns on this wild ride.

After Thor returns to Asgard after being imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur (which sets the heavily comedic tone quite nicely), he and Loki must search for their father Odin to prevent Ragnarök, prevented by first-born daughter Hela who sets their paths onto the garbage planet of Sakaar. This continues the idea of culture shock in the Thor subseries to its most illogical conclusion, by avoiding the sensible world of Earth in favor of a world of extraterrestrial Gladiator games and violent scavenger anarchy, all run by the ringleader himself, The Grandmaster, played perfectly by Jeff Goldblum as a bizarre leader ruling over bizarre inhabitants (makes sense, the role is basically himself). It takes a dive into the pool of ridiculousness, all while maintaining the gravitas of the main threat invading Asgard in an irreverent and lightning-fast pace.

On that note, it's of course important to note that what made this film a breath of fresh air it was for people expecting the next Thor movie to be a dour mess is the sheer fun of it all, and how all of its comedic timing and directions it takes the story land impressively well. Moments like Loki's death scene in The Dark World being performed as a play under Loki's Odin's rule as an over-dramatic self-serving piece, Thor meeting with Stephen Strange about the whereabouts of his father (which basically plays out like a short version of a Fawlty Towers episode), and pretty much anytime Waititi chooses to deflate any moment of drama/action that would have happened straightfaced in the last two Thor movies all serve to make this far from a dull experience and to serve as another example of a director injecting his vision to make something unique and memorable and not a tedious use of about two hours (looking at you Alan Taylor).

While I felt that the third act started to lose some steam and seemed to dip into the realm of competency that run throughout the weaker entries (and Surge felt like a character who was mostly there rather than someone to make an impact), Thor: Ragnarok still manages to have some surprises that make me recant that statement as more of a bother rather than a nuisance and is the type of unique master-at-work film I expect and enjoy most out of this franchise (also Jeff Goldblum is the best, have I mentioned that already?), all while keeping that Marvel flair and letting it co-exist with the New Zealand flavor this is doused with to allow some exceptional action sequences, and an overall light but still serious tone. The fact that this is now the third Phase Three film I've given a four-star rating to shows that Marvel has really gotten their craft together (ignoring what I felt was a misstep about three films ago) to provide some of the best the genre can allow, all from one studio and one overarching storyline (it's almost crazy to think that I've basically binge-watched 17 films now. Imma need a nap after all this)

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