Marvel movies can be hit or miss. Sometimes they blow you out of the water and sometimes they’re entertaining but relatively forgettable. When “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out, I was reminded as to what I liked so much about many Marvel movies–they’re fun, have their compelling moments and are a great ride from start to finish. “Thor: Ragnarok” was yet another pleasant surprise that had me on the edge of my seat from both laughter and the film’s intensity.

“Thor: Ragnarok” follows the same God of Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as he is captured and thrown into a gladiatorial ring on a foreign planet. His opponent? Thor’s old companion, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The “Grandmaster,” played by Jeff Goldblum, hilariously oversees the battles and contestants. Back in Asgard, the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), threatens all life as they know it, and Thor must fight for his freedom in order to return to his home and save it.

You might recognize the director’s name: Taika Waititi, and I would be willing to bet that his driving vision and fantastic sense of humor was largely what made this film a raging success. If you liked this off-brand type of humor, I would recommend hopping on Amazon Prime Now and watching his mockumentary, “What We Do in the Shadows” about vampires living in a bachelor pad in Wellington, New Zealand. He is also the lead actor in the mockumentary, and in the latest installment of Thor he voices Korg.

If Korg wasn’t your favorite character then we can’t be friends anymore. | Marvel Studios

In this sense, the comedy really hit a home run. There are moments that must have been scripted as they coincide with complex CGI, but under Taika Waititi’s direction (and the talented actors) the responses seem genuinely comedic and off the cuff. Jeff Goldblum, Taika Waititi’s Korg, Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Tompson and Karl Urban all made me laugh out loud multiple times each.

It was difficult to find a serious picture of Director Taika Waititi at the film’s premiere. (Christopher Smith/Invision/AP)

When I watch a movie, I often try to figure out what is really at the heart of the film. As the list of characters in the Marvel universe continues to lengthen, the common theme seems to be teamwork. While there are certain elements of this here, I think the primary focus is responsibility. It’s a lesson in short supply these days–sometimes the cards aren’t in your favor and sometimes life beats you down and tries to keep you on the ground. You’re stripped of all that you thought mattered to you. Still, you have responsibilities and you have to find some way to stand up and get things done.

 

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The visuals are pretty stunning. Sure, there are your typical Marvel battle sequences where heroes effortlessly cut down droves of CGI characters, and though a good bit of this film is CGI it has a freshness to it that sets it apart from the recent installments of Marvel films. Several particular scenes are particularly engrossing, and the most beautiful moments on-screen are intimately tied in with the character arcs–one flashback in particular was a gorgeous display of what CGI can really do.

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I keep a keen ear out for the music during a movie. Marvel has often failed to produce compelling soundtracks when it comes to a regular score, though “Guardians of the Galaxy” made up for this with its hit oldies. There’s a moment that comes to mind in “Thor: Ragnarok” that has the same element, and I definitely sat back in my chair and couldn’t help but smile at how awesome it was. You’ll know it when you see it. Besides that, the soundtrack did not particularly stand out to me, like many of its Marvel predecessors.

I would absolutely recommend going to see this movie. It’s a great adventure and I will no doubt be watching it again. I really have a passion for films that embrace what they are–this is an adventure/superhero film that takes itself seriously in the sense that it’s well made, but doesn’t take life too seriously as a whole.

“Thor: Ragnarok”
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Produced by: Kevin Feige
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins

Tessa Thompson plays a kick-ass warrior who drinks a bit too much as she struggles with a bitter past. | Marvel Studios

Featured image courtesy of Marvel Studios.