Thor: Ragnarok

This may be the most sophisticated Marvel film ever made.

Thor RagnarokEvery now-and-then a sci-fi film brings magic, adventure and drama to the big screen. Thor: Ragnarok joins the Lord of the Rings in that category.

Having previously displayed his satirical charm in Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and What We Do in the Shadows (2015), Director Taika Waititi has brought us a film that deserves to be recognized in several categories at Oscar time. The cinematography is wildly inventive and the musical score keeps your heart pounding from the opening scene to the last battle. Filled with both heartbreak and humor, this Thor film rivals any other movie released this year.

Australian Chris Hemsworth is chiseled in real life like the Greek God he plays, and in addition brings a sarcastic edge that Mr. Waititi exploits in a raucous fashion. This is particularly seen in his relationship with both his brother Loki and his old friend The Hulk. Tom Hiddleston will leave you laughing uproariously in the most serious scenes, and Mark Ruffalo is unforgettable as The Hulk, a haunted soul who is just trying to rediscover how to again be the endearing human known as Bruce Banner.

But what makes this movie so special are the contributions of Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson and Carl Urban. Ms. Blanchett is at her best as Thor’s twisted sister Hela, a gorgeous woman intent on destroying everyone and everything to control the universe. Jeff Goldblum brings to the screen one of the great comic characters to be seen in recent years, here playing the Grandmaster, the leader of a distant planet. Thor finds himself trapped there with The Hulk, and Goldblum has created a replica of the Roman Coliseum where captives have to fight to the death in front of a cheering crowd.

Mr. Urban has a small but meaningful performance as Skurge, a troubled man who is tormented by his indecision on whether to support Thor or Hela. Yet Ms. Thompson comes close to stealing this movie as Valkyrie, a heavy drinking, violent woman trying to forget her tragic past. While she is constantly a bit loaded, this is not a woman that you want to piss off.

This is a film that makes movie-going a joy.