"Thor: Ragnarok" - Move over James Gunn, Taika Waititi is the future voice of Marvel

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The first two "Thor" movies were so self-serious and pompous that not even a director as esteemed and capable as Kenneth Branagh could save the initial launch. There were many problems, one of which was that Thor, hammer ET all, and is one of the least interesting characters of the Marvel canon, not to mention one of the least humane and relatable. The film also suffered from a thinly sketched love story between our beloved God of thunder and, of all people, Natalie Portman. Things got only worse, its sequel, "The Dark World," was an insufferable experience, overstuffed with special effects, lacking any kind of character building and, again, took itself excessively seriously.

I come to you as both the bearer of good news and bad news. "Thor: Ragnarok" is a vast improvement upon the first two installments. Part of the reason for this half-successful attempt resides upon its director Taika Waititi (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “What We Do in the Shadows”) who infuses the surroundings without the self-aggrandizing of the formers but instead with a healthy dose Meta humor, the word "wacky" comes to mind in describing it. Yes, this latest "Thor" follows in the footsteps started by "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Deadpool," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Ant-Man" and "Doctor Strange" of not taking itself so damn seriously. This pays dividends in terms of overall jumpiness and colorfulness, Waititi fills his frames with bouncy colors that match the overall tone he is going after.

It is also great to see familiar faces supporting Thor. This is not a solo outing like the first two movies. Doctor Strange, Black Widow, and, most notably The Hulk, show up to assist in raising the entertainment factor up a notch. “Thor: Ragnarok” is easily the best of the three Thor movies. Much credit must go to its writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost who fill the film with a joke-a-minute zippiness that sometimes does wonders to the otherwise bland plot, which, by the way, the script does make fun of in certain scenes. Hell, Thor even ends up garnering a new, shorter hairdo, courtesy of Marvel creator Stan Lee no less (in another hilarious cameo).

Yes, with "Ragnarok" the creators have decided to go out with the old and in with the new. After all, the game-changing 2014 "Guardians of the Galaxy" seemed to have sparked a new attitude in Marvel movies, why be so serious about a movie essentially based on a comic book? DC seems to have gotten the memo as well with this year's highly successful "Wonder Woman" being their most loose, amicable affair to date.

Kudos to New Zealand director Waititi for trying to find any sort of fun in Thor, a character that is otherwise, unlike his colleagues Tony Stark, Peter Parker, and Steve Rogers,  a pretty boring dude. Hemsworth is a capable actor as proven in films like "Rush," "Cabin in the Woods," and he all but stole the show with his cameo in the otherwise uninspired "Vacation." Waititi has not found the answers in making Thor a more exciting character, but he has found ways to go around this flaw and make his film a, sometimes, inspiring affair. Waititi has decided to rely less on Thor and more on the supporting characters especially Tom Hiddleston's Loki, The Hulk, and Jeff Goldblum, yes Jeff Goldblum.

The convoluted plot gathered for “Ragnarok” is once again Shakespearean-overkill as Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as Hela, check out the gothic leather gear and those devious antlers, who plays the older, troubled sister to Thor and Loki, returns to make good on ancient prophecy that would destroy their realm of Asgard. When facing off against her brothers, this Goddess more or less schools them, crushing Thor’s hammer, banishing them from Asgard and sending her brothers to Sakaar, a loony planet filled with trash and headed by Jeff Goldblum's "Grandmaster" who organizes gladiatorial battles and buys Thor off renegade and former Asgard-resident Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). A battle between Hulk and Thor is the film's highlight, brilliantly edited by Zene Baker and Joel Negronn, and directed with pulse-pounding velocity by Waititi, the fight is noteworthy in that it encompasses a wide range of shots but also uses, effectively might I add, the top of the art special effects Marvel has always utilized. The scenes in Sakaar are refreshing and noteworthy in that they try to distance the plot far away from Asgard, which always felt like a handicap for the "Thor" films. Influenced by the Norse legend, Asgard feels like a place overstuffed with cardboard extras masking as "population," whom are dressed up in the lamest cliché-ridden Greek-nurtured costumes imaginable.

Once the Hulk has morphed back into Bruce Banner and our heroes leave Sakaar and go back to Asgard to save the day, the generic aspect of the Thor films comes back and Waititi cannot do much to prevent the inevitable lack of subtlety about to come. There is an overabundance of monsters and, like most of these Marvel/DC movies, an anticlimactic finish filled with CGI overkill, battles and explosions galore.

However, the real star of the show is, quite honestly, Jeff Goldblum, milking it for the camera, and being his very campy self, he is an enigma when it comes to Marvel movies, never making any concessions to what has made him successful all these years, the 65-year-old actor was clearly hired to bring in the deadpan laughs and he succeeds in that department admirably here. If anything, his character is underused in the film. 
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