Thor: Ragnarok

More and more, I find myself comparing the experience of watching a Marvel superhero movie to reading a Marvel comic book back when I was a kid: occasionally there's something amazing, like The X-Men's Dark Phoenix saga, which even the 10-year-old me realized was special. A cinematic analogue might be something like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Conversely, there were the throwaway comics that I'd buy when I was so bored that I'd read anything, even Dazzler. Those comics were still dumb fun, and the analogue for them might be Thor: Ragnarok.

This standalone Thor adventure is noteworthy for its plenitude of droll comedy, deftly honed by New Zealand funnyman/director Taika Waititi (with a screenplay by Marvel insiders Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost). Aside from that, the outer space setting of this installment guarantees the usual effects-laden malarkey you'll find in Marvel's cosmic outings.

Though there's lots of plot, it more or less boils down to this: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) discovers an older sister he never knew about: Hela, goddess of death (Cate Blanchett, vamping with ease), who conquers his homeworld of Asgard while the god of thunder is stranded on a garbage planet that's obsessed with gladiator battle. The story takes some time in revealing Thor's rival in the arena, which is awkward, since the film's marketing spells it out. (In the event that you've somehow ignored Thor: Ragnarok's advertising, I won't spill the beans here.) As you'd expect, Thor and his rival eventually join forces to take down Hela, with plenty of mind-numbing action sequences competently handled by Waititi and hundreds of computer animators.

It's colorful, it's funny – how could you hate a superhero movie with a plot device called "The Devil's Anus"? – Jeff Goldblum is perfect as the Goldblumesque Grandmaster who runs the gladiator games, there's liberal use of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", and so it goes. When the movie's over, you will walk out happy but unshaken, quickly forgetting what you just saw. If you're cool with that, then you could do worse than Thor: Ragnarok. I paid five bucks to see it, and I got my money's worth.