After two boring, unspectacular efforts, Thor: Ragnarok is a fun-filled thrill ride that breathes life into the series and provides more depth to the character and story.

The third installment in the god of thunder’s franchise finds him lost on a foreign planet, while the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), wreaks havoc on his home world of Asgard. While stranded, Thor has to fight against his own fellow Avenger, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), in order to return to his home and prevent its destruction.

The film finds opportunities for laughs at every turn with a light, improvisational feel. Chris Hemsworth shows off his funny bone, which is a welcome addition to a character who had felt mostly flat in nearly all of his previous appearances. Ragnarok definitely takes a page or two out of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s playbook, without appearing like a total carbon copy.

Despite the humor — an honorable mention should go to Jeff Goldblum’s delightful performance as the Grandmaster — the film knows all of its strengths, including family drama, intense action, tension of the burden of heroism and special effects. The audience will always find plenty to look at, listen to and appreciate.

Although the film seems self-aware of what makes it so good, the focus often shifts away from its strengths. For example, trailers heavily advertised a gladiatorial fight scene between Hulk and Thor, and while the scene itself is spectacular, it certainly could’ve been longer. The gladiatorial combat was an interesting element and could’ve played more into the plot. This also likely would’ve meant more Goldblum scenes ­— delightful.

Director Taika Waititi definitely puts his mark on the film. He even plays a small role, the voice of Korg, a fellow gladiator inmate on Goldblum’s planet. His character adds even more comic relief to a movie that’s already hilarious, and it’s frankly a shame we don’t get to see more action scenes with him.

But Waititi’s biggest strength is certainly his cast. The film is riddled with recognizable actors, and it seems like the movie was a collaborative effort. When a big film studio hires a director known for smaller movies, some of the director’s creative vision or voice can be lost in the process. But Waititi owns Ragnarok, and he makes it a piece of art to be shared.

Slap on a small Benedict Cumberbatch appearance, cameos from Matt Damon and Sam Neil, a surprising character trait alteration at the film’s climax and a giant zombie wolf, and you’ve got a Marvel movie worth the buzz.

3.5/4 shells