Marvel has handed the keys to the kingdom to New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who with his trio of writers unearths plenty of amusing character riffs, capitalizing especially on Thor and Loki’s squabbling fraternal ties.
Still, there’s a serious threat that must be addressed, eventually, as Thor spends ample time seeking to extricate himself from bondage and assemble the support he’ll need to have a shot at defeating Hela.
“Ragnarok” (the title refers to the prophesied destruction of Asgard) is definitely a step up in class from earlier sequel “The Dark World.” For better and worse, even these individual adventures have now been sucked into the maelstrom of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where promiscuous cross-pollination among heroes has become the norm.
Bulked up for the occasion, Hemsworth remains an enormously appealing lead, capable of pulling off funny lines and slapstick silliness while still inducing swoons when his shirt comes off. He is, in many respects, the most special effect “Thor” has to offer, setting aside the inevitable free-for-all that, it should be noted, inflicts a higher quotient of carnage than parents tempted to bring younger kids might deem appropriate.
In a sense, a movie like “Thor: Ragnarok” represents the apex of Marvel’s strategy — a giant spectacle that in many respects plays like a comic book come to life, while being liberated enough to experiment with light-hearted quirks and idiosyncrasies.
At a fundamental level, Marvel jams enough high-spirited entertainment into the movie to ensure that it’s worthy of the price of admission. It’s just that armed with such a potent and promising arsenal, “Thor: Ragnarok” manages to feel less mighty than the sum of its parts.
“Thor: Ragnarok” opens Nov. 3 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.