Director Taika Waititi wisely abandons the many things that weren’t working for the Thor series of films, and makes what basically amounts to an outright comedy, with “Thor: Ragnorak”. The occasional glimpses of what a non-comedy version of the film may have looked like are actually pretty intriguing (I felt damned teased by the gorgeous flashback sequence of the Valkyries fighting Hela, it was on a completely other level visually to the rest of the film, excellent stuff), but for most of the running time, this is an out-and-out comedy.
And what a comedy it is. The cast is utilised well across the board. Well, Cate Blanchett is stiffed as per usual for Marvel villains, but she seems to enjoy chewing the scenery. Chris Hemsworth is much better served playing a comic doofus here than he was in the more serious iterations of Thor in previous films. Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeff Goldblum do the fine work you’d expect of them, Tessa Thompson surprised me with just how effectively she made what could have been a difficult character work, and Karl Urban delivers the best performance in making what could have been a one-note character work very strongly and consistently beat-for-beat, managing some of the film’s tricky oscillating tone better than the rest of the cast.
It’s as Marvel as could be expected (enter the hero’s journey, the quips homogenising nearly every character into one, the endless faceless CGI hordes, the cameos, the underused villain, etc.), though Waititi deploys some welcome New Zealand and Australian touches, circumstances actually seem to change somewhat meaningfully between the beginning and ending, and composer Mark Mothersbaugh manages the very rare feat of maintaining musical continuity in a Marvel film (reprising themes from the first two Thor films both diegetically and non-diegetically in different scenes). Thor and Loki eventually have a confrontation about how static a character Loki has become, and it works well both as a meaningful interaction between the characters, and a comment on how the series deploys them. More than even the successful humour, I appreciated touches like that. If all Marvel films worked this well, the series would be much stronger. Three hammers, and a snake.