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Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal (4.5 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 130 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. Many elements of the Marvel formula are here: lots of battle scenes, including hand-to-hand combat, impaling, stabbings, characters are depicted as slaughtered or mentioned as being dead, and fight-to-the-death gladiator-style combat. The history of Asgard is revealed to be built on world domination and slaughter, and there are undead warriors risen from the dead to fight again. Some cursing, including the s-word; some light flirting between a couple of characters; some nudity, including a shirtless Thor and the Hulk’s butt; characters drink, sometimes to drunkenness; a few rude jokes; and there are some gross-out moments played for laughs, like a character who is melted as punishment.

The ‘Thor’ franchise gets an exhilarating jolt of energy with ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ which is wacky, weird, and wonderful. Director Taika Waititi has made a Marvel movie that is funkily original and memorably unique.

By Roxana Hadadi

ThorRagnarok ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview“Thor: Ragnarok” is a delight. Director Taika Waititi (who spoke to Chesapeake Family in 2010 about his previous film, the personal, lovely “Boy”) is operating within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he cheekily pushes against them in practically every way. The film is awash in color, including fluorescent neons and rich chromes; the script is loaded with sly jokes and self-aware character beats; and new cast additions Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Goldblum are clearly having a ball. From the first scene to the last, it’s infectiously good.

What has Thor (Chris Hemsworth, of “Ghostbusters”) been up to lately in the Marvel movies? Uh, it’s kind of a mixed bag. He was a key part of “The Avengers,” of course, but his second standalone movie, “Thor: The Dark World,” was kind of a snooze, and his subplot in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was mostly tangential to the main storyline involving Sokovia, and he didn’t really matter in “Captain America: Civil War.” So “Ragnarok” is an opportunity for a character reset, and Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost tackle that challenge with zeal.

There’s an ‘80s-inspired aesthetic; a buddy-comedy vibe between Thor and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, of “Now You See Me 2”); satisfying conclusions for some characters and new beginnings for others, including Thor’s trickster brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, of “Kong: Skull Island”). Which is all to say that “Thor: Ragnarok” feels like it is actually moving the storyline forward, a welcome move for a Marvel Cinematic Universe that sometimes feels like it is inching forward only incrementally.

The film opens, of course, with Thor, who has willingly allowed himself to be captured by a gigantic fire demon, Surtur, who in a prophecy destroys Asgard, and then promptly slays it—but when Thor returns to his home with the monster’s skull, things seem off. His father, Odin, isn’t ruling, he’s watching community-theater performances about the greatness of Loki. And when Thor realizes that something isn’t quite right, he sets off a series of events that brings a new villain, Hela (Blanchett, of “Cinderella”), to Asgard, intent on destroying it, and lands himself on Sakaar, a planet that is covered in trash that dumps in from gigantic wormholes.

Sakaar is a bizarre place, ruled by the smirking, comfortably bloodthirsty Grandmaster (Goldblum, of “Independence Day: Resurgence”), who is delighted when a scavenger (Thompson, of “Creed”) brings Thor to him. Thor, whom the Grandmaster nicknames “Sparkles,” is set to fight the ruler’s champion in a fight-to-the-death that could secure Thor’s freedom. But when Thor bumps into familiar faces on Sakaar, his plan to return to Asgard and save it from Hela’s destruction doesn’t go quite as straightforwardly as he envisioned.

There are a lot of surprises in “Ragnarok” that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling, but there is so much that is, simply put, exhilarating: Thompson’s determined look and confident saunter as she faces down an army of undead warriors; Thor and Loki trading inside jokes while both wielding gigantic blasters; the deadpan delivery of Waititi himself as he plays Korg, a being made of rocks who has resigned himself to fighting in the Grandmaster’s exhibitions; a lush, slow-motion memory of the female Valkyrie facing off against Hela, each woman on a Pegasus as she approaches the Goddess of Death, flying through a sky in flames. There is a lightness of tone here that is extremely appreciated, and this movie offers the most self-aware version of Thor while surrounding him with characters that are just as self-possessed, too.

Of course, those Marvel confines still exist, so the final 20 minutes or so are devoted into a lengthy battle sequence, and there’s an energy to the scenes of Sakaar that unfortunately has to end when the action turns back to Asgard. But Waititi has put together the most charming Marvel movie yet with “Thor: Ragnarok,” and his vision—one of brightness and cleverness—is an unforgettable one for this universe.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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