Thank Odin we got a movie that allowed Waititi to do what he does best. There have been so many blockbusters in the past few years helmed by indie directors who got swallowed up in the corporation. There's little to see of the verve of Trevorrow in Jurassic World, but Ragnarok is a Waititi picture through and through, just peopled by comic book characters and Norse gods.
To say that it's the best Thor movie yet isn't saying much, but it's a relief that the oft-black sheep of the Avengers team has finally found his footing. Thor never really fit in with the rest of the team; he was a god rather than a human given an extraordinary set of abilities through science or via radioactive spider bite. He's a buff man amongst buff men, with some goldilocks and the most compelling characteristic about him might be his dynamic with his brother Loki.
Ragnarok finally allowed actor Chris Hemsworth to flex a different kind of muscle, and it's entirely satisfying to see him do it with an ease and joy we've gotten a glimpse of in his earlier movies. The movie hardly lets up without a riff, and even if it's meant to be some sort of lead-up to the big Avengers: Infinity Wars, it thankfully feels good as a standalone movie. Even what seems like an obligatory Doctor Strange tie-in gets big laughs. Waititi uses an improvisatory spirit and wrangles in sight gags as well as physical humor. Music cues from Zeppelin to Willy Wonka usher the humor and we see Jeff Goldblum, who apparently arrived on set and assumed that what Waititi wanted was for him to play himself (he does, to great aplomb).
Ragnarok's chief strength is perhaps that it lets the magic happen on its own. It allows Waititi to direct without being encumbered by CG, same as it gives room for Cate Blanchett to eat her heart out while playing the Goddess of Death. Tessa Thompson similarly reigns as a sort of Han Solo character (despite initial speculation, do we really care if she's a love interest or not?). Furthermore, Ragnarok cuts away at the sort of things that grounded Thor in negative ways, from a distracting earthbound love interest (that always distracted the story by trying to tie in an Earth/science explanation) and his aforementioned gold locks.
As the first time really letting loose (for example, take a look at how cheesy, unfocused, and overserious the trailer for the first movie looks here), Ragnarok's weakness might be the same as its strength. We never get a great sense of the danger or peril of the story, although the stakes are larger than ever. Although Blanchett is hands down fantastic as Hela (like a Galadriel that accepted the ring's power), we don't get to spend as much time with her as we should the main antagonist. Thor's side quest takes up the bulk of the movie and irreverence is the name of the game, even in what perhaps should have been a poignant and moving climactic scene.
However, if the criticism is that the laughs are taken too far, then it's a fair exchange for an initial attempt. Waititi has done what we only hoped was possible -- made it enjoyable to go to a superhero movie again. Thor's transformation is a reverse Samson, showing that he doesn't need his initial tools or his locks to come into his own.