There is significant growth to the Thor character; a maturity that wasn't always present in past films. There is a vulnerability in Thor that was lacking prior to now, and the impact on the character can be felt in his actions throughout the film. Forced to confront bigger threats and finally accept himself as the worthy hero, learning that power doesn't always come from the obvious sources, Thor finally finds his footing in a universe that has needed him to mature into the guardian he was destined to be.
Chris Hemsworth is given a long leash to showcase his comedic talents as well. That's in part to Waititi's direction and a solid script from writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost. Hemsworth shows adept comic timing along with the ability to carry the dramatic burden when called upon. Hemsworth has a frat boy charm and grows more comfortable in the role with each successive film.
This may be the closest we ever get to a stand alone Hulk film with Mark Ruffalo's version of the character. Hulk, as indicated by the trailers, plays a significant role in Thor: Ragnarok. Comic fans might relate some of Hulk's arc to the popular Planet Hulk comic arc, but that isn't really what this story is going for. There is much more of the character here, which only teases us for the possibilities of one day seeing a standalone feature. Hulk is a fun side character within this story, and feels as close to the intent of the character as we've ever gotten before.
Jeff Goldblum finds his way into the MCU, here as the Grandmaster of a garbage planet who imprisons potential warriors to battle his champion, Hulk. It is this set up that allows our title character to meet up with Hulk; a battle foretold in the trailers that does not disappoint. Goldblum is Goldblum. His character doesn't play out as anything essential. He is a clown prince of cinema these days, elevating scenes by his mere presence.
Tessa Thompson, as Valkyrie, is the other significant addition to the franchise. Angry and mysterious, Valkyrie is underwritten as a character. We learn that she was the sole survivor from Hela's last foray at slaughtering the masses, and she hides away on the outskirts of the universe, serving as bounty hunter slash angry brat. Not enough time is spent diving into the workings of what make her tick, and her redemptive arc suffers a bit from that.
Regardless your thoughts on the first two Thor films (I liked both), Ragnarok stands above them. Waititi has crafted a story that feels decidedly Thor instead of a side bar one shot to the greater Marvel picture. We are finally able to see a more defined purpose for the God of Thunder and how he fits into the broader landscape of Marvel's future on screen. And even as Asgard burns and Thor ascends to a loftier height, looked upon as the shepherd of a displaced flock, he is still both powerful and vulnerable, making him one of the best developed characters in this superhero cinematic gumbo.
4 out of 5