Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★★

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There is something almost elemental…primal in just how much fun the third Thor movie turns out to be. It’s as if they finally cracked the code on what these films were meant to be from the very beginning. 

Other Marvel movies have since recreated the basic feel of a Marvel comic book, with scenes that look like splash pages come to life. But the truth is this one here just amps that up to a whole new level. It is at once the Thor movie you always wanted to see and the Marvel movie you always thought you were seeing.

Its graphic novel feel seems very much in the spirit of campy, 70s sci-fi - and it is also a very specific representation of the comic book visions of Jack Kirby… But, above all, the movie carries with it the off-kilter, singular energy of its director - the genial Taika Waititi - who also appears in the film as an extremely endearing rock man that pretty much walks away with the entire picture.

Or maybe it’s not just him. Maybe it’s the wonderful Tessa Thompson who also steals the movie with her bounty hunter/badass character. Or maybe it’s Jeff Goldblum’s hilariously slimy and flamboyant alien overlord. Or maybe it’s - as the trailers promised - Mark Ruffalo having the most fun yet as Hulk: a much less primal, more verbose version of the character that should bring cheers to the hearts of most fans.

Maybe it’s Cate Blanchett’s icy witch of a villain… Or Idris Elba finally being given something of value to do as Heimdall.

Maybe it’s Chris Hemsworth, finally being given the chance to really cut loose in this role and have fun - demonstrating the charming charisma, sense of play, and gift for comedy the actor has demonstrated so well in other roles. Maybe, finally, the movie belongs to Thor.

Oh I know! It’s the score! It’s gotta be the score. Besides the best use of “Immigrant Song” since the opening credits of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mark Mothersbaugh provides an artful bit of electronic psychedelia that - if not exactly hummable in the John Williams sense - does make an indelible impression and feels like the perfect sonic accompaniment for these off-beat adventures our heroes are having.

The fact is, it’s all these things. All these elements converge into an imaginative piece of pop art that has been carefully designed and calibrated to have you watching with an ear-to-ear grin plastered to your face for the entirety of the film’s run time. And, yes, that running time is slightly over two hours and, sure, maybe it doesn’t need to be. But there is a sense of constant movement and invention that keeps you distracted and engaged.

It’s loads of fun… And it is also, finally, what these movies are always on the precipice of being but can only just make it - but this? Yes. It’s a true blue, terrific film.