"Thor: Ragnarok" has a fresh look, synthesized '80s music and quippy dialogue that may make you forget the plot follows Marvel's tried and true (yet aggravating) method of creating movies.
It's the direction and spectacle of color that saves the movie from becoming just another Marvel film: a villain with little redeeming qualities or motivation has her eyes set on destroying the galaxy with a CGI army that a group of heroes must defeat with no concern of who perishes in the process.
To be fair, Cate Blanchett makes the most of her role as Hela, the Goddess of Death. If she had the chance to tackle the type of backstory Tom Hiddleston had when he portrayed Loki in the first "Thor" film, her role could have been much more interesting. However, she chews up the scenery regardless by simply hamming up her role as the villain, in the best way possible.
Aside from her, there's not much to the other villains. Karl Urban is wasted as a second-rate Asgardian warrior, and the computer-generated army of deceased warriors is almost laughingly bad at attempting to wound any hero in this story.
Jeff Goldblum is a bright spot in the film, being as Jeff Goldblum as possible in every scene. And it's these types of antics that keep the film from making you too aware of its faults.
Director Taika Waititi makes the most of Chris Hemsworth's comedic timing to the benefit of the film, and Mark Ruffalo and Hiddleston don't shy away from those comic duties either. Newcomer Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) is a welcome addition to this Marvel Cinematic Universe that could use a few more warrior women in its cast.
The four work well together as a ragtag, dysfunctional team, without becoming a B-list replacement for the overall Avengers team. The characters' problems (specifically those involving the Hulk and Valkyrie) aren't adequately fleshed out, but the actors all have good chemistry on screen that helps you get invested in their journey.
It's the dialogue and the colors of the film that help "Ragnarok" stand out from the other Marvel movies. But like the comedy of "Guardians of the Galaxy," it can come at a price when the more serious scenes arrive.
Without getting into specific spoilers, there are a number of characters who die in the film (with the understanding that they are really dead - unlike some Marvel characters), and the film does a poor job of making you feel any of those losses. Just as the first "Guardians" movie struggled with the scenes that were meant to be emotional, there just isn't much emotion here despite what the characters face.
And while action is critical for these superhero movies, "Ragnarok" is a little more disappointing - mostly because the movie relies on a character fighting mostly CGI monsters (whether that be the dead army or gladiator Hulk). Hela's fights save for a flashback are hardly worth mentioning, with too many cuts and too obvious uses of CGI stunts to make it interesting.
Thor's new power is the sole exception, but only appears in a few spots in the film.
Despite its flaws, "Thor: Ragnarok" is a fun romp whose plot actually does have an effect on the rest of the Marvel movies (unlike "Thor: The Dark World"). For those following the series' films, this is likely a must-see, even if it is another case of a once-and-done villain. Still, it's hardly a chore to watch. Just don't expect too much to go with the laughs and spectacle.