The God of Thunder is back in action, but he's certainly not the same old Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Gone are the golden tressed locks, Asgardian armor, and the mighty Mjolnir. He's still a mythic hero, but throws as many punch lines as actual punches. Thor: Ragnarok is a major stylistic shift from the previous installments. The film is a wall to wall comedy. So much so, it strays into borderline camp territory. Fueled by Mark Mothersbaugh's (Devo) new wave synth score and a rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, I felt like I was watching the eighties classic, Flash Gordon. It's an all together enjoyable ride that runs a tad long at two hours and ten minutes.
The story picks up with Thor learning a vital clue to his nightmares. He continues to have dark visions of Ragnarok, the Asgard apocalypse. He returns home at long last to discover Loki (Tom Hiddleston) up to his old tricks. The brothers reunion is short lived. Odin's absence has heralded the return of Hela (Cate Blanchett). The Goddess of Death is a far more powerful adversary than expected. Thor finds himself exiled to the junk planet Sakaar. Where he is forced to fight in gladiatorial combat against a long lost friend.
Thor: Ragnorak will have you falling out of your chair laughing. The screenplay by Eric Pearson is loaded with all kinds of humor. The gags range from sly double entendres to near slapstick antics. Characters that were once bitter enemies become comedians on a vaudeville circuit. It's an interesting turn of events that goes a bit overboard. Asgard's impending doom at the hands of the villainous Hela doesn't feel all that threatening. I've applauded the comic genre's recent turn away from oppressively dark themes, but Thor: Ragnarok becomes too cartoonish. I found the levity to be entertaining, but some fans may pine for the old somber approach.
Hemsworth looks like he's having a ball playing the funnier, looser Thor. The relationship dynamics between several leads take a giant leap away from serious. The showdown with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and eventually Bruce Banner, is near sitcom in its execution. Director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) has an all-star cast with several big name cameos. Beyond the Ragnarok plot, groundwork a plenty is laid for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. There's so much jammed in, at points we completely forget about Asgard's predicament.
The Flash Gordon comparison is the best way to describe this film. The ultra-colorful CGI and Devo inspired score make for a fun, if not fast, time at the movies. Hemsworth takes Thor to a different place and the change is welcome. I just hope this is the limit to stand-up comic Thor. Don't leave before the post-credits scenes. There are mercifully just two this time, but they are worth the wait. Marvel Studios shows a sense of humor and out of box thinking with the character. Thor: Ragnarok is proof that they can deliver the goods with a smile.