Marvel

After much fan anticipation, “Thor: Ragnarok,” the newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the third of the Thor movies, is finally out. While the first two Thor films have not been ranked among Marvel’s best, this installment seems to be taking a new, more self-aware approach to the God of Thunder. Could this entry be the Thor movie fans have been waiting for?

The story focuses on Thor who, after having a series of troubling visions, discovers a devastating threat coming to Asgard with the treacherous Hela, Goddess of Death, trying to reclaim her rightful spot to the throne. However, once Hela casts both Thor and his stepbrother Loki to the alien planet Saakar, the two brothers must fight their way out to save Asgard in time. Along the way, they team up with the vengeful Valkyrie, who wants revenge on Hela for her own reasons, and the Hulk.

Without a doubt, the highest praise this film can carry is that it is the best Thor movie by far. Director Taika Waititi brings a much more light-hearted and self-aware tone this time around and, for the most part, it works.

Allowing the film to focus more on other worlds also gives it that element of fun and world-building that was sadly missing in the previous Thor movies. While not feeling quite as grand as the first film, “Ragnarok” still succeeds at wrapping you up in the different environments that are all brilliantly executed through some top-notch, colorful production design.

The action, while nothing too groundbreaking from Marvel, is still exhilarating as ever. The battle between Thor and Hulk is worth the price of admission alone, with its gladiator-like setting and genuinely exciting moments. The other action sequences remain consistently fun throughout and add to the film’s great pacing.

The characters, both old and new, add a lot to the table. This time around, Thor still has the arrogance that feels right for the character, but is probably at his most likable yet in the way he interacts with the others. Loki remains as fun a presence as ever, and the film does a good job at keeping you guessing when and how he’ll try to deceive Thor. It is still fun to see them work together. The Hulk is also a blast, and this could arguably be the character’s best film appearance as some surprising developments make for a lot of potential. Valkyrie also fits well with the comical tone of the film, yet still contain an irresistible, no-nonsense attitude. Hela could have easily been another generic Marvel baddie, but thanks to Cate Blanchett’s Maleficent-like portrayal and her connection with our heroes, she easily becomes one of the better villains in the MCU rogues gallery.

“Ragnarok,” however, does suffer from some problems that could make the experience underwhelming. Easily its biggest issue is in its tone. The comedic moments constantly get in the way of any feeling of real danger or emotion, and given the film’s premise, one would hope that there were more moments where the film would take itself more seriously.

This also strips a lot of the potential dynamic that the characters and their backstories could bring to the table. Thor seems to be less powerful and more beaten up than ever throughout the film, but the movie is so insistent on throwing in jokes that any real feeling of that brutality is all but lost. Similarly, while it was a great idea to have Hela’s character connected with several of the main characters’ pasts, the drama that could’ve come from that is very underwhelming by the end.

As for other issues, the first act contains a lot of exposition, with most of the characters talking about their whereabouts since their last appearances in a rather forced way. It felt like very lazy writing and could’ve been done more creatively. Finally, while this film does stand out stylistically from the previous Thor films, it seems to follow in the veins of “Guardians of the Galaxy” with its comedic tone, exploring worlds and loads of 80s music. The formula here is beginning to feel apparent and it’s getting tired.

So while “Thor: Ragnarok” easily comes out as the best of the Thor movies, compared to much else in the MCU, it isn’t anything special. However, the energetic pacing, wonderful world-building, fun characters and great comedy all make this film a blast from beginning to end, though it misses out on any strong character development and drama that could have really helped this entry rise to the top.