‘Thor: Ragnarok’ may be more fun than ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

During a brief trip to Earth — err, Midgard — Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is approached by a female fan hoping for a selfie. “Sorry Jane dumped you,” she consoles him, before he awkwardly stammers out something about how the dumping was mutual.

Bro — if I can call the God of Thunder “bro” — you’re better off without her. So’s your latest movie.

Thor is one of the most enjoyable characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his stand-alone movies are among the worst in the series. Thankfully, “Thor: Ragnarok” doesn’t just sever ties with Natalie Portman’s Jane and her colleagues, who had formed the backbone of the first two films, it throws out everything you thought you knew about the Avenger. It also, occasionally, breaks with any form of recognizable reality.

It’s as though director Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) mapped the fun genome, tossed the DNA strands about willy-nilly, then doused them in Pixy Stix and shot them out of a confetti cannon during a Flight of the Conchords show.

Working from a script by Marvel TV veterans Craig Kyle, Christopher L. Yost and Eric Pearson, Waititi has crafted a movie so gobsmackingly fun, at times it makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” feel like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Whenever you expect “Thor: Ragnarok” to bob, it weaves. When you think it’s going to zig, it hurtles its heroes toward a space portal known as The Devil’s Anus.

Put it this way, you know you’ve struck gold when you cast two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Goddess of Death — who’s Hela-bent on ruling Asgard and conquering far more than just its Nine Realms — and it barely cracks the 10 most interesting things about your sequel.

After the arrival of Hela, Thor is cast out of the Bifrost and onto Sakaar, a “collection point for all lost and unloved things.” Built on chaos and indulgence, it’s basically the Electric Daisy Planet, ruled by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who, if I’m not mistaken, also is the leader of an Empire of the Sun-inspired synth band. (Seriously.) With his pompadour, eyeliner, one-sleeved gold lame robe and matching electric blue soulpatch and fingernails, The Grandmaster is Peak Goldblum. He’s also much the way I imagine the actor to be at home.

Thor’s taken prisoner from atop a trash heap by a scrapper (Tessa Thompson) and sold to a delighted Grandmaster — let’s face it, The Grandmaster is pretty much eternally delighted — to square off against his champion, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), in gladiatorial combat.

And it wouldn’t be a Thor movie — and Sakaar wouldn’t be a collection point for unloved things — without the presence of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who, thanks to his status as a fan favorite, continues his ever-so-slow trudge toward redemption.

Bruce Banner has been stuck in Hulk mode for the past two years, ever since blasting off at the end of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and he’s feeling the aftereffects. That gives him a legitimate excuse to behave strangely. Why Thor is just now letting his inner goofball emerge, though, is never explained. And you’ll be too busy laughing to notice that Ragnarok, the titular prophesied destruction of Asgard, is back-burnered for most of the movie.

Elsewhere, Heimdall (Idris Elba) finally gets to do more than turn the sword-thingy to open the rainbow bridge — and, yeah, despite all the reinvention, the fact that some of the most virile warriors in the universe are forced to rely on something called the rainbow bridge continues to be the silliest thing of all.

“Thor: Ragnarok’s” ambitions even extend to its music, from a Willy Wonka reference to setting a fight to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” If you weren’t already bouncing out of your seat from joy, former Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh’s score will get you there.

It’s the best MCU work yet from Hemsworth and Ruffalo, but the real MVP is Waititi, who also turns up as Korg, a lovable, oddly polite gladiator made of rocks.

After the disappointments of 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” something clearly needed to be done.

All Waititi did was deliver Marvel’s OMG-iest movie yet.


Movie: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Running time: 130 minutes

Rating: PG-13; intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material

Grade: A-

Now playing: At multiple locations

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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