Grade: A-
Entire family: No
2017, 130 min., Color
Fantasy action-adventure
Marvel Studios
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features: B+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Under the direction of Kenneth Branagh, Chris Hemsworth played Thor (2011) as a brooding, arrogant Adonis who thought he was God’s gift to, well, everyone. But I guess that being the son of the old Norse god Odin can give you a giant superiority complex. Even when he fought the Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World (2013) with Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor at the helm, Thor and his story remained dark and brooding.

But with Thor: Ragnarok (2017), this superhero series gets a sunny makeover. I didn’t believe it when fellow critics described it as being funnier than Guardians of the Galaxy. After finally seeing it on Blu-ray (it looks fabulous, by the way) I can see why that film comparison came to mind, and not just because Guardians is funny. The only thing missing here is a talking animal.

Sans the raccoon, Thor: Ragnarok has the same core as Guardians, with a hero joined by a bad-ass woman (in this case, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie), a big powerful guy (Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk), and a natural-world guy (rock man Korg, rather than tree man Groot). Yet, amazingly, there isn’t a thing about this movie that feels copycat or derivative.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins), God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston), gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) and even Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) make an appearance, but it’s that core Guardians-like supporting cast of characters that make Thor: Ragnarok so engaging. This Thor is more fun to be around, but like Chris Pine’s character in Guardians he has a little help getting him to lighten up. Trapped in a crazy faraway world run by Jeff Goldblum (who really camps it up as Grandmaster), Thor finds himself a gladiator trying to challenge everyone’s favorite: a big, green guy who squashes the competition. But he has bigger fish to fry, like trying to figure out how to return to Asgard to try to stop Ragnarok—the destruction of that mythic world caused by the return of Thor’s sister, the God of Death (Cate Blanchett as Hela).

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun ride that’s closer in spirit to comic books and the style of superhero film that fans today seem to enjoy. And the proof? Thor: The Dark World scored a 66 percent “fresh” rating at Rottentomatoes.com, while Thor: Ragnarok is currently trending at 92 percent fresh. Whoever tasked relatively unknown, non-mainstream director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) with the job of giving the Thor movie franchise a smiley facelift ought to be seriously applauded. It’s a huge improvement, and Hemsworth actually does just as good of a job as a tongue-in-cheek hero as he did when he was channeling Robert Pattinson or Tom Hardy.

To say more is to spoil the fun, so I’ll simply add this: Thor Ragnarok is now one of our family’s favorite Marvel universe movies, and probably Stan Lee’s as well, since Lee gets a longer cameo in which he actually gets to wield a gadget.

Language: Literally fewer than a handful of mild curse words, though the thing that’s apt to be repeated is an interdimensional tunnel known as the “Devil’s Anus”
Sex: Nothing here except a six-pack on display and Hulk’s green butt seen from behind briefly
Violence: Mostly sci-fi violence involving lots of grand explosions and punching and fighting with little serious consequence, though one character does melt and there are some skeleton warriors mowed down by gunfire and swordplay
Adult situations: One character chugs down beer but later “reforms” and characters you care about are put in jeopardy
Takeaway: When Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, the first Thor was already in development and probably the second one had already been greenlit, but it doesn’t surprise me that the tone shifted for the third installment; it’s what Disney does best

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