‘Thor: Ragnarok’ delivers a breath of fresh air to Marvel movies

With rapidly approaching finals and current political turmoil causing stress, sometimes a fun movie can provide a healthy mode of escapism; “Thor: Ragnarok” comes at the perfect time to fill the void. This newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — falling at the tail end of their master plan’s Phase 3 — adds an eclectic set of cast members and a playful script to fulfill viewer’s appetite for the following “Infinity War” installments to come.

Turning away from studio and crowd-favorite directors like Joss Whedon, James Gunn or the Russo Brothers, Marvel decided to take a chance on the rising indie director from New Zeeland, Taika Waititi. Coming fresh off two of his recent successes, “What We Do In the Shadows” (2014) and “Hunt for the Wilder People” (2016), Waititi brings a refreshing and saturated color palette of reds, blues and greens to the film. He also utilizes a memorable, synth-heavy score for the universe, including the distinct cries of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” which is cut to fit thematically within the film’s action scenes.

The entertaining dialogue and quick punchlines put Waititi’s witty humor on display and work extremely well with the supporting cast dynamic, including the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Korg (played by Taika Waititi himself) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

With the story picking up after “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” (2015), we find a gladiator Hulk on a lost planet joined by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki after the two run into the film’s villain (Cate Blanchett). Despite the minor setback, we get to see Thor and Loki work together to get off the planet and recruit the help of Valkyrie — a former warrior turned alcoholic, who gets an inspired performance given by Tessa Thompson. The combination of planet hopping, an expansive alien cast and minor use of ‘70s music is highly reminiscent of both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies that audiences have come to love; yet this combination still works in a unique way with Waititi’s vision fueling the production.

The movie offers interesting insight into what it means to belong to a group of people, providing a refreshing take on the alliances and bonds that can be made from immigration; Led Zeppelin’s soundtrack serves not just as a fun rock background to combat, but a thematically relevant anthem. Paired with the comedic relief of characters and well-choreographed action scenes, “Thor: Ragnarok” builds positively on the impressive collection of successful and entertaining Marvel films.

“What would everyone expect from this and let’s do the opposite,” Waititi said in an interview when asked about the tone of the movie. “‘Does this feel like we’ve seen it before? And if so, how do we change it?’ I’ve seen the hero in a movie getting beaten up by a bunch of people, and then a mysterious figure comes in and saves them, and the person takes off their mask and it’s the love interest. How about we make that love interest, the Valkyrie character played by Tessa Thompson, more like Han Solo and she’s a drunk, gambling mercenary who in her introductory scene falls off the ramp of her spaceship.”

If the study fatigue is setting in, “Thor: Ragnarok” can provide an entertaining and lighthearted experience starring some of the best members the Marvel universe has to offer. With Waititi working with the blockbuster budget, he has the opportunity to show off his directorial prowess, proving he can make exceptional pieces of work on both a big and small scale and maybe even spark interest in his other works along the way.