Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

How do you solve a problem like Thor?

Despite Thor, The God of Thunder being one of Marvel’s most iconic characters and virtual co-founder of The Avengers, making him a compelling action hero has been a tough task. Even with some great directors and sleek scripting, “Thor” hasn’t quite been as exciting as Iron Man or Captain America. He’s barely risen to the Hulk who, so far, has only had one movie and a hand full of appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With “Thor: Ragnarok,” Marvel has reached the point where audiences are familiar enough with the character that they can begin to change his identity a bit. In the end, he’s still Thor, the God of Thunder, but he also comes in touch with his god like abilities when he allows himself to embrace humility once and for all.

When Thor goes looking for the Infinity Stones, he manages to be captured by the evil demon Surtur, who is planning to destroy Asgard once he unites his crown with the mythical eternal flame. After defeating him, Thor and brother Loki (ruling Asgard in Odin’s form), are told by Dr. Strange where Odin has been hiding. Odin reveals that his imminent death will unleash the powerful Hela, his first born, from her prison. Packed with immense power and a thirst for revenge, Hela destroys Mjolnir, and conquers Asgard without hesitation, leaving Thor and Loki stranded in Space. Now held prisoner once again, and forced to fight as a gladiator, Thor finds a common ally in other prisoners, including the embittered Valkyrie, and The Hulk, who has become a powerful and beloved warrior.

Learning to work without Mjolnir, Thor tries to make it back home before Hela tracks down the sword that crosses bridges, allowing her to ally with Asgard’s worst foes. Director Taika Waititi’s direction is a welcome change of pace as he lends the “Thor” movies a welcome diversity while also realizing what makes the character so fun. He’s so much better when he’s down to Earth, and he is much easier to identify with when playing off a slew of colorful characters. In “Thor: Raganarok,” the Asgardian hero is able to shine because his persona is reflected off of skewed versions of himself. This includes the drunken ex-warrior Valkyrie, his deceptive brother Loki, and yes, his ultra powerful sister Hela, an immensely unstoppable being who was disowned by Loki.

In this iteration, Hela is disowned and banished by Odin, not just because she presents Thor’s worst fear of being eliminated for reaching his father’s level of supremacy, but because she’s also a woman. With Thor’s new position, Chris Hemsworth is allowed to play him with a slightly different temperament, portraying a god whose been toppled in every respect, and has to learn to embrace his humility and use it as a source of power. Hemsworth plays Thor with much more humanity and nuance this time, conveying a vulnerability that makes him a so much more engaging hero through and through. Waititi packs the film with a myriad exciting and colorful characters all of whom help Thor in his journey and help mold him in to a different kind of god. Tom Hiddleston is very good as Loki once again, while Tessa Thompson is fantastic as the fallen Valkyrie.

There’s also Waititi as the soft spoken rock warrior Korg, Karl Urban as the shunned Asgardian Executioner, and Cate Blanchett who is menacing and incredibly alluring as the villainous Hela. Waititi’s “Thor: Raganarok” is a dabbling in to the lighter more eccentric side of the Marvel universe, the likes of which we’ve seen with artists like Jack Kirby, and Jim Steranko. Taika Waititi takes Thor in to such a bold and fun new arena, celebrating everything unique and fantastic about his world, while also tapping in to the oddly raucous on-screen dynamic between Hulk and Thor. “Thor: Ragnarok” is a blast, and I am anxious to see where this new Thor goes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.