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Movie Review: 'Thor: Ragnarok'

I’m not the biggest fan of superhero movies. For the most part they all run together to me, with battles that go on too long and generally have pretty low stakes, given everyone involved has super powers. And even though most of them try to be at least a little bit funny, it usually feels like the jokes have been focus-grouped to death and are just kind of there to fill time between one battle and the next.

So I wasn’t thrilled about the release of Thor: Ragnarok until I found out it was directed by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi. Waititi wouldn’t seem to be a very likely choice to direct a big action movie from the Marvel Universe, having mostly done small comedy-dramas and the excellent vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows. But I also knew that he’d been involved in the brilliant HBO series “Flight of the Conchords,” which means that one thing Taika Waititi knows is how to tell jokes. And with just a couple notable exceptions, if I’m going to enjoy a superhero movie, it had better have good jokes.

Luckily, I was completely right. Thor: Ragnarok is a total delight. The story doesn’t matter all that much, but I’ll tell you quickly: Hela, the goddess of death, played by Cate Blanchett, has returned from exile and has designs on taking over Asgard, home of the gods. This, apparently, is likely to bring about Ragnarok, basically the Norse equivalent of the Apocalypse. Not surprisingly, Thor and his brother, Loki, don’t want this to happen, so they band together, sort of, to fight Hela.

And that’s good enough for the plot. What really matters is that Waititi has taken Thor and made him his own—this Thor is insecure, has serious family issues, and has a thoroughly effective deadpan humor. Waititi’s comic timing is spot on—there are jokes upon jokes in this movie, but it never feels over-packed or rushed. Waititi knows how to let a joke breathe before moving on to the next one, and he’s surprisingly adept at directing an action sequence, so neither the comedy nor the action get shortchanged. Put simply: Thor: Ragnarok is the most fun I’ve ever had at a superhero movie.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.