[Screen It]


(2017) (Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action: A superhero teams up with a small, disparate group of others to save his home world from his power-hungry, goddess of death sister.
While battling a gargantuan fire demon, the crown prince of Asgard, Thor (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), learns of Ragnarok, the prophesied destruction of Asgard. After defeating that demon, he returns to his home only to learn his treacherous brother, Loki (TOM HIDDLESTON), has not perished as he believed, and thus takes him to Earth to meet their father, Odin (ANTHONY HOPKINS). But the king is sick and right before dying, he informs his sons of his first-born, Hela (CATE BLANCHETT), the "goddess of death" sister they've never met. She once helped her then war-happy father conquer other worlds, but when she became too powerful and dangerous, he locked her away for good.

Upon his passing, she's released and on her way to take back Asgard for herself, she sends her brothers to the planet of Sakaar. There, Thor ends up captured by Scrapper 142 (TESSA THOMPSON), a bounty hunter and former Valkyrie who inserts a shock device into his neck to keep him under control and sells him to the Grandmaster (JEFF GOLDBLUM). As this world's leader, the Grandmaster, who's since befriended Loki, enjoys putting on a good show and stages gladiator battles and confines Thor among other prisoners such as Korg (TAIKA WAITITI), who informs the prince about the current undefeated champion.

But Thor is relieved when he sees it's his old friend and fellow Avenger, the Hulk (MARK RUFFALO) who hasn't returned to his human form of Bruce Banner (also RUFFALO) in years. The two battle but eventually join forces with Scrapper 142 in hopes of escaping and returning to Asgard where Hela has assigned a local man, Skurge (KARL URBAN), as her executioner, all while Thor's friend, Heimdall (IDRIS ELBA), has managed to rescue many Asgardians and hidden a powerful sword that Hela needs to rule their world.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
I'll admit I'm not and never have been a big fan of the "Thor" comic book character. When I was a kid I was obviously familiar with him due to his appearances in the "Avengers" series (one of my favorites), but I don't recall ever buying any of the character's individual comic books.

As a result, I've never seen either the introductory film from 2011 or its sequel from two years later, "Thor: The Dark World," in their entirety. I can't recall why I had another of our reviewers cover those films -- be that a conflict with other screenings or some other event, or simply lack of interest on my part -- but I've never had any desire to go back and watch them.

With the third film in the series - "Thor: Ragnarok" -- getting rave reviews, I figured I should check it out and having now seen the flick, I may have to go back and watch those earlier films if they're anything like this offering. Fun, entertaining, self-deprecating, sometimes downright zany and often quite hilarious, the pic is enjoyable from start to finish.

Like many of its Marvel movie brethren, this one doesn't exist in a vacuum and instead features characters from the rest of the Marvel universe -- some in just small cameo moments and others with more substantial parts. It's a smart if obviously not original move by screenwriters Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost and director Taika Waititi who milk those appearances and the chemistry with the title character for all their worth.

And they obviously have fun with that and the rest of the material, as evidenced early on when Thor (a returning Chris Hemsworth who certainly continues to look the part and then some) carries on a conversation with skeletal remains while caged, followed by pausing during a subsequent conversation with a huge fire demon for him to slowly rotate back around (while chained up and dangling) to face his adversary.

That's followed by the first of two uses of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" playing under an action scene (that works brilliantly in both cases), and then Thor returning home to Asgard to find his father (Anthony Hopkins, sort of) watching a play representing the family dynamics of him and his sons (with those playing the parts being some fun and funny little cameos).

Another entertaining cameo featuring another Marvel character pops up after that, with the main storyline then kicking in. It involves Thor not only learning his treacherous brother (Tom Hiddleston) is alive, but that they have a sister (Cate Blanchett) they've never met who their father locked away long ago to keep her insatiable and homicidal power hunger in check.

Well, she's now been released, and while Thor and Loki try to stop her, she ends up tossing them out of a dimensional portal and they land in a world run by the Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum, perfectly cast and hamming it up as usual).

That results in the introduction of two new characters (Tessa Thompson, terrific playing a kick-butt, boozy bounty hunter of sorts, and Waititi playing a rock character not that dissimilar from The Thing of "Fantastic Four" fame, although far, far funnier). And it also allows the Hulk to have a large and likewise funny part as he does battle with his fellow avenger in a gladiator arena.

Yes, there's all of the requisite action commonly found in the Marvel films, but having that slathered in humor -- much like what occurred with "Guardians of the Galaxy" -- makes it feel fresh and keeps it from coming off as comic book movie rote. While I didn't go in as a big "Thor" fan, I certainly left as one, at least as presented in this third installment of the franchise. Enjoyable and entertaining from start to finish, "Thor: Ragnarok" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed October 26, 2017 / Posted November 3, 2017

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