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November 01, 2017

'Thor: Ragnarok' is a tale worthy of a Thunder God

The most powerful version of the crown prince we have seen on the big screen to date

Despite being arguably Marvel's most powerful character and one of Marvel Studios' most important, Chris Hemsworth's "Thor" seems to have been overshadowed by two other Avengers' films – "Captain America" and "Iron Man" – and even those of "Guardians of the Galaxy."

In fact, one could argue that the Thunder God's cinematic exploits have been less well-received than those of Dr. Strange and Ant-Man as well.

Why? It all goes back to "Thor: The Dark World," which disappointed commercially and creatively. While it was not terrible, a dark tone and joyless action scenes or memorable villain make it the lowest-ranking of any Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date on "Rotten Tomatoes" – yes, even lower than "The Incredible Hulk" – with a 66% Fresh rating.

So, Marvel's Kevin Feige entrusted director Taika Waititi and screenwriter Eric Pearson to give us a film that would have the emphasis on fun.

For the most part, they've succeeded. Perhaps too much – and therein lies the problem.

Why? Because the film finds a lot of serious stuff happens in "Thor: Ragnarok." 

Thor finds himself imprisoned on the other side of the universe and squaring off against his fellow Avenger, the one and only Hulk – in gladiatorial combat. He not only has to survive that, but race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela, goddess of Death from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

Yet, these and other events that should be dramatic – Thor suffering a personal loss and the loss of something more important than even his hammer – are continuously undermined by a comedic tone, which seems horribly out of place in some moments.

Jeff Goldblum as a sadistic dictatorial ruler? Cue the laugh track. Loki's machinations resulting in heartbreak, destruction and death? Let's mine it for jokes! Bruce Banner awakens after two years of being the Hulk? Forget about how soul-crushing and scary that would be and add some more levity!

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the film is Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, who supposedly is portraying a tortured, haunted warrior, yet enters the film in an opening scene that is slapstick-y and hardly gets better – and that will have you missing Jaimie Alexander's portrayal of Sif very much.

However, lest you think this film is Razzie-worthy, it has three elements that make it a must-see.

First, there is Hiddleston. His Loki, as one character jokes, could have become predictable by now. But he is given enough to do and elevates both the script and situations he is put in. He reminds everyone why Loki is many people's favorite villain.

However, he is not even the best villain in this film . That goes to Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Hela, who dominates every scene she is in and kicks butt in doing so. If they had cut back on the humor a bit and focused on Hela a bit more, she would have cemented a place as one of the best cinematic villains ever – and she is easily one of the top Marvel Cinematic Universe villains to date. If only they had given her a bit more screen time and let the film be a bit more serious.

But what really makes this film unforgettable is Thor himself. From the point where Hela crushes his hammer, he is put through the wringer in many ways. Yet Hemsworth seems to enjoy the humorous lines he is given and it shows. Plus, hammer or no, this is the most powerful version of Thor we have seen on the big screen to date.

Between the special effects team and Hemsworth's performance, we are finally reminded – and so is Thor – just how powerful he is. At one point, you could believe that he can beat not only the Hulk, but would be able to wipe the floor with Wonder Woman and a certain Son of Krypton as well.

Because while a super man is plenty tough, Thor is the God of Thunder – not hammers – and when he and the audience is reminded of that fact, the results are pretty spectacular.