Marvel Studios has an ongoing publicity problem with their Thor films; namely, they can't seem to decide on an identity or tone. Thor was fine, Thor: The Dark World was a mess, and now, with Thor: Ragnarok, they seem to have simply decided to lean way hard into the feeling and aesthetic of the (arguably) superior and more popular series Guardians of the Galaxy.
We rejoin the titular Norse god (Chris Hemsworth) in the events after the previous Avengers film. He's struck out on his own to get answers for these horrible visions he keeps having, but it seems like the only real thing he's picked up is a pithy sense of humor. One could say this is about character growth, but really it seems like the filmmakers saw Hemsworth in the Ghostbusters reboot, realized he can be kinda funny, and chose to focus on that. It's light at first and even borderline enjoyable, but before long he just starts to feel like a cheap Starlord clone sans Chris Pratt's everyman charm.
Still, when a heretofore unheard of sister of Thor's named Hela (the goddess of death, played cooly and enjoyably by Cate Blanchett) shows up with a bunch of hurt feelings and violent ambitions, Thor and his adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are swept up into crazy galaxy-spanning antics and lessons about what's actually important in life. Spoiler alert: It's family or something.
Along the way, of course, other Marvel characters appear to lend a hand or comic relief, like the dickish Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) or the Incredible Hulk—who would have been a nice surprise if the trailers hadn't insisted on spoiling it. Thanks, internet—for nothing. Jeff Goldlbum is fine, also, as … himself, actually; he always just plays himself, though his unhinged intergalactic slave master character does squeeze out a few chuckles.
Everything else shakes out just like you thought it would, but if it weren't for a seriously hysterical one-liners from an alien voiced by director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), we might have already forgotten about this in favor of better Marvel films. Seriously, guys, don't start pigeon-holing yourselves now.
+Killer effects; Blanchett is pretty awesome
-Feels too much like other, better Marvel films
Directed by Waititi
With Hemsworth, Blanchett, Hiddleston and Goldblum
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 130 min.