- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Marvel Comics’ God of Thunder once again blockbustered his way into the hearts of movie audiences late last year with his third, live-action movie outing.

He now arrives in the ultra-high definition, home theater realm for fans to savor his wildest adventure in Thor: Ragnarok, Cinematic Universe Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 131 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $29.99).

Director Taika Waititi (known for the vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows”) delivers a comedic, dramatic and action-packed, roller-coaster ride mixing in pinches of Thor and, yes, the Incredible Hulk’s expansive sequential-art storylines along the way.

Specifically, viewers ever wondering what it would be like to watch a 1960s Marvel comic book come to life now get their chance.

The ride begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) defeating the fire demon Surtur in Muspelheim (set to Led Zeppelin’s fist pumping “Immigrant Song”) in an attempt to prevent the fall of his home world of Asgard (thus the “Ragnarok” title), He then meets up with evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) after ominous words from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Are you hooked yet? Not really? Let’s toss in the brothers’ evil older sister Hela (a simmering Cate Blanchett) looking to claim Asgard and Thor getting stranded on the planet Sakaar.

This dumping ground for the universe, filled with misfit gladiators, is under the control of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). After Thor gets subdued by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), he eventually must fight a grumpy and chatty Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

The film throughout celebrates the wit of Marvel, especially when under the command of patriarch Stan Lee, and, more importantly, the illustrative power of comic art legend Jack Kirby.

Production designer Dan Hennah and costumer Mayes C. Rubeo colorfully highlight his work on spaceships, weapons, outrageous garb and otherworld locations.

Comic book fans even get a cornucopia of homages to their favorite medium.

Just some include Hela in a costume looking ripped from her 1968 appearance in “The Mighty Thor” No. 150; chunks of plot points plucked from the 2006 “Planet Hulk” and 1982 “Contest of Champions” series; and the introduction of Korg (voiced by Mr. Waititi). He’s a classic character from “Planet Hulk” and whose rocky species was seen in Thor’s first appearance in comics’ modern age (Journey into Mystery, No. 83) back in 1962.

Hardcore pop-art fans will notice more obscure references such as a sculpture of the horse-faced Thor ally Beta Ray Bill on the Grandmaster’s tower or Thor talking about being turned into a frog by Loki, both plucked from a storyline from writer Walt Simonson in the 1980s.

Now also, pay attention for guest appearances from Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neil and a certain sequential-art-creating maestro tasked with cutting Thor’s hair.

By far, even compared to the pair of rousing “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, “Thor Ragnarok” is the most exhilarating and fun film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So far, with 18 films released, Marvel Studios and its live-action world can do not wrong with this fan.

I have no idea how Disney and Marvel will top this pop culture powerhouse of an epic, but I sure can’t wait for “The Avengers: Infinity War” next month.

4K UHD in action: Despite the potential resolution from a film shot on cameras capable of 4K and 6K output, the ultra-high definition digital transfer upscaled visuals from the reportedly 2K digital intermediate source material.

Still, the upgrade is worthwhile viewing when compared to its Blu-ray counterpart. The high dynamic range enhancements allow that Kirby-esque world of Sakaar to really pop from the screen. The rich interior and exterior locations look like a cluttered theme park of color, while primary colors with an enamel-paint sheen bring the Grandmaster’s costumed minions to life.

Equally eye-catching was an opening scene with a dragon losing its head that explodes into a goo-covered screen of blues and purples, as well as a trippy, hue-saturated Willy Wonka-esque trip by a seated Thor (en route to meet the Grandmaster).

Also not going unnoticed is the detail in the fiery flames surrounding Surtur, the grey-haired temples and veiny musculature of a more mature Hulk, the stitching on Hela’s skin-tight outfit, the crisp blue lightening emanating from Thor during a final battle scene and the chunky metallic remains of Thor’s mighty hammer.

Best extras: Why not embellish one of the most-entertaining movies of last year with an equally fun solo optional commentary track by the clearly insane director.

Mr. Waititi quickly reveals he was the motion-capture stand-in for Chris Hemsworth, can see into the past, and will be including a dragon in his upcoming sequel to “Manchester by the Sea.”

He may occasionally get serious when talking about the late Jack Kirby’s influences or reaping praise on his creative team but just as quickly butchers Mr. Cumberbatch’s name, suggests Mr. Hopkins was urinating off of a cliff, and reveals that he wakes up in cold sweats and has the powers of convincibility.

I’m still laughing.

Keep the humor rolling with a 6-minute mockumentray starring office worker Darryl Jacobson and his new roommate, the Grandmaster. Mr. Goldblum’s humor is at its driest here.

A gag reel as well as extended scenes with Thor meeting the Grandmaster and the Hulk hanging with the God of Thunder are equally amusing.

Viewers can also learn about the production through five featurettes, roughly 30 minutes in total, as cast and crew discuss Thor’s cinematic evolution, the female characters, Mr. Waititi’s motion-capture work as Korg, the world of Sakaar and the film’s comic book influences.

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