OK. I’m in. Finally.
It took a few movies for me to really appreciate Thor. Now I’ve joined the ranks, because “Thor: Ragnarok” is a smart, often hilarious film with Thor at his best … and, more often than not, at his most bumbling.
“Ragnorak” from the title means an apocalypse, which is appropriate because this movie begins where the last one stopped. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) still is trying to save his home planet Asgard from his untrustworthy brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
Now they both need to contend with another sibling who appears. Cate Blanchett is Hela, the Goddess of Death, who brings destruction wherever she goes. The brothers must team up to defend their planet from their sister, who once led the armies of Asgard.
And then — shades of “The Hunger Games” — Thor finds himself without his hammer and, eventually without his golden locks, in a world where gladiator fights are all that matters. The battle grandmaster (played to the outrageous hilt by Jeff Goldblum a la Stanley Tucci) befriends Loki while he dispatches Thor into a battle.
Thor seeks help wherever he can, and hopes that a Valkyrie warrior (a wonderful turn by Tessa Thompson, “Creed”) may be part of his escape plan.
You could almost say that this is an Avengers story. After all, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is part of the action. And Benedict Cumberbatch appears in a funny but pivotal scene as Dr. Strange. And that’s not to mention another terrific Stan Lee cameo, as well as cameos by Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth and Sam Neill.
The tone of the film is set immediately. We first see a captive Thor dangled in front of a formidable but not exactly witty foe with whom he engages in (one-sided) clever repartee. This exchange is really funny, and the welcome element of humor continues throughout battle scenes and one-liners from various characters.
Hemsworth has been in other comedies, after all, and has solid comedy chops. His delivery is split-second perfect. Although this doesn’t have the same wisecrack quotient as the “Guardians of the Galaxy” flicks, it still will have you laughing more than you might anticipate.
Not surprisingly, this movie boasts some mind-boggling imagery, particularly during battle scenes. And what better music than the 1970 Led Zeppelin classic “The Immigrant Song,” with all of its references to Norse mythology, could better serve this action?
Also, as with most Marvel films, the fun isn’t over when the credits roll: There are two stingers (extra scenes), one at the beginning of the credits and one that’s just for laughs at the very end.