After a fight against the Goddess of Death Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find themselves trapped on the planet Sakaar. Ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), gladiator battles are the main obsession. The imprisoned Thor is pitted against his old pal the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). The God of Thunder must find a way to survive and return to Asgard to save his beloved homeland from Hela.

Some laughs, twists, surprises and good performances freshen up the familiar plot. Marvel is the master of
visual spectacle and this film is no exception. Director Taika Waititi, who gave us the wonderful "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", fills the screen with dazzling effects and plenty of action. The witty, and sometimes silly, script by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost keeps this spaced-out adventure on the lighter side. The banter between Thor and the Hulk is alone worth the price of admission. When the movie gets serious near the end, it's almost jarring. But this is a minor flaw. The magnificent Chris Hemsworth mixes mirth and muscle with ease. Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo are equally impressive. Chief among the newcomers is Cate Blanchett. At her sneering best, she just doesn't get enough screen time. Jeff Goldblum happily interprets his character as a goofy game show host. Also new are Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a hard-drinking warrior who captures Thor and sells him into gladiator slavery, and Karl Urban as Skurge, a janitor who becomes Hela's executioner. Anthony Hopkins, at his Shakespearean best, returns briefly as Odin. Idris Elba is gallant as Asgardian sentry Heimdall. And yes, Stan Lee makes an appearance. Mark Mothersbaugh provides a Thor-worthy music score and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" is put to good use. There are cameos and in-jokes for fans that won't be divulged here. As usual, stay through the closing credits for a couple of treats. The thunderous and entertaining "Thor: Ragnarok" will not be the Armageddon of this series. (4 CAMS)

Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material)
Running Time: 130 minutes

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