Thor: Ragnarok is the latest installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and if its presentation is a signal of the new normal within the MCU, the future looks bright indeed. Directed by New Zealand-native Taika Waititi, who is known more for comedies (What We Do In Shadows is phenomenal, and you owe it to yourselves to see it) than he is for blockbusters, Ragnarok is full of vivid colors and rich humor, all without losing the family-centric pathos we have come to expect from the Thor films.
Initially, I was concerned that the beginning of the film was cut such that the shifts from sequence to sequence were too abrupt, making the experience disorienting -- but, in hindsight, I believe this is something Waititi did intentionally. We are not supposed to feel comfortable or grounded through the beginning of this story. Thor has been having visions of his home of Asgard being destroyed in the apocalyptic fires of Ragnarok; some disorientation is definitely called for. Once Thor is reunited with the Hulk, however, he gets his feet underneath him and steadies himself, and so does the narrative.
The film has all of the easter eggs and cameos we’ve come to expect in a Marvel film. Yes, Stan Lee makes an appearance, and yes, it is fantastic. There are also unexpected appearances by very well-known actors in bit parts of the film. Waititi gave Chris Hemsworth permission to play Thor with a sense of humor, something that helps set him apart from the other tall blonde Chris on the Avengers roster. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki truly shines in this installment, Anthony Hopkins’ Odin makes the most of his time on-screen. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/The Hulk is wonderful, and all of our newcomers -- Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Karl Urban (Skurge), Jeff Goldblum (the Grandmaster), and Cate Blanchett (Hela) -- slide effortlessly into the ensemble. Blanchett, in particular, was clearly directed to act for the back row, as it were, and relished the opportunity to turn in a performance that would be too hammy were it not for the Buckaroo Banzai-esque tone of the overall production. It works.
Make sure you stay through the credits -- there’s a mid-credits stinger, as well as a second, more significant one at the end. It will be very interesting to see how the events of this story reverberate throughout the coming films. While this is not my favorite Marvel movie to date, it is a lot of fun to watch, and a very worthy addition to the MCU.