Resistance remains futile in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What else can you say about the Marvel juggernaut after witnessing “Thor: Ragnarok?” The MCU is simply too good at what they do by now. Any well-oiled machine analogies seem superfluous.
Ragnarok does bend the formula. It doesn’t break it, of course. There’s too much discipline behind the scenes to allow for that. The movie ups the humor quotient, delivering more laughs than “Baywatch,” “Rough Night” or any other recent film comedy.
Are there problems embedded here? Of course. Yet “Thor: Ragnarok” bludgeons you with entertainment until, by the third act, you give in and enjoy the ride.
You don’t have a choice.
“Ragnarok” opens with our blond tressed Avenger (Chris Hemsworth) smugly escaping a villain’s imprisonment. Right away it’s clear director Taika Waititi’s film will be lighter, more nimble than past “Thor” outings.
Thor quickly learns of a far greater threat. He discovers a long-lost sister hell bent on destroying his beloved realm of Asgard. That process is dubbed “Ragnarok,” but you can call it Armageddon if you like.
Hela (Cate Blanchett) shreds Thor’s hammer in a blink, sending him to a prison planet where his escape hinges on defeating an old green friend with anger management issues.
“Thor: Ragnarok” introduces some sly new characters sure to pop up in future MCU joints. Meet The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), a trickster in charge of the gladiator wars Thor must survive. Waititi knows well enough when Goldblum is doing his thing you simply back away and yell, “Action!”
Nothing else is required.
Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) makes a sizable impression as Valkyrie, a hard-drinking antihero with swagger to spare. The returning cast of characters won’t be easily upstaged, though.
Hemsworth, who proved nimble in the “Ghostbusters’ reboot, is even better here. He’s got a way with a tossed off line, and his slapstick, abetted by some CGI wizardry, is just as slick.
“Ragnarok” pulls off what the MCU does best, stuffing so many faces into the story without crushing the narrative. That means Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange gets a cheeky cameo and Asgard regulars like Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) earn their screen time.
The only actor who stumbles is Mark Ruffalo. His Hulk smashes on cue but looks lost at times in human form. He’s not quite sure If he’s in a superhero romp or buddy comedy.
Can you blame him? This is not your typical superhero film.
Still, Waititi keeps the mood consistent, a deft blend of “Asgard is falling” and seltzer bottle spritzing. Does that latter reduce the urgency of Thor’s mission?
How could it not? And a recurring verbal gag involving the anus falls flat every time.
FAST FACT: Actor Chris Hemsworth starred on the Aussie soap smash “Home and Away” for three seasons before embarking on a film career.
The film’s middle starts to sag under the franchise weight as well. Team MCU must have realized that in the editing bay and called in the reinforcements.
Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”
You won’t find a film use classic rock better than “Ragnarok.” Air guitars and costumed heroes? It’s better than peas and carrots.
So what about the action? It’s often quite good, although not near the dizzying heights reached by the Russo brothers in the previous Captain America outings. It’s still superior to the summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and proof Waititi can do more than wring belly laughs out of Asgard lore.
HiT or Miss: That goofy “Thor: Ragnarok” trailer didn’t mislead us. The third “Thor” film is a giddy romp with both new friends and old.