Why Thor: Ragnarok will be better than you think

Thor: Ragnarok promises to bring big changes to the franchise aside from just Thor's new haircut. Director Taika Waititi has said that Ragnarok will feel much like the first Thor, with a new, funnier tone, and a fresh take on the characters reinventing the series. For Thor fans, this might seem a bit nerve-wracking, but there are actually a lot of reasons why this new direction could make Ragnarok Thor's best movie yet. Here is why Thor: Ragnarok will be better than you think:

It will bring out Thor's funny side

Chris Hemsworth spent his time in between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok proving that he is a comedy powerhouse, by starring in movies like Vacation and Ghostbusters. He's also shown that he can bring the funny to his own superhero franchise, with the Taika Waititi-directed Team Thor clips. Waititi has said that Ragnarok will take full advantage of these newly found skills, using them to lighten up what can be an overly serious set of films in a way that might be reminiscent of Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark.

Waititi says that he aims to have the audience leaving the theater with "a sense of joy" — according to Tom Hiddleston, Ragnarok will achieve this by showing off the funniest side of Thor yet. While this has made many fans nervous about the movie veering too far into laughs, Waititi promises it's "not really a comedy," but that it just occasionally works with a comedic tone. "I think sometimes people mistake a tonal shift as 'We're just going to make some ridiculous broad comedy where no one gives a s*** what happens and everyone gets stoned and sits around talking about saving the universe,'" Waititi told Entertainment Weekly. "We want people to care what happens and care that the hero succeeds. I think tonally it's like a slight shift. I don't feel nervous— I feel good about it."

Ragnarok is sure to include all the angst and drama that you'd expect of a superhero film but, with the up-and-coming director at the helm, the movie may be able to move away from the drabness of the other Thor movies, and get closer to that perfect balance that made the Iron Man movies some of the most popular in the MCU.

Thor will fight the Hulk

Ragnarok will feature one of the most anticipated Avengers team-ups: Thor and Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk). In Ragnarok, Thor will be sent to the desolate planet Sakaar by Cate Blanchett's Hela (more on her later). Once he gets there, he'll be forced to enter gladiatorial battles, at least one of which will be against the planet's most popular fighter — the Incredible Hulk. The battle is sure to be one for the ages, pitting two of the most extreme fighters in the MCU against each other, and that alone should make Ragnarok worth a trip to the theater.

He'll be battling Hulk without his hammer

Thor will be facing one of his most intense opponents without his greatest weapon: his hammer. When Thor is made into a gladiator, his hammer is taken away and replaced with a few swords and a can-do attitude. On top of all of that, his signature long hairdo gets cut off, giving him the hip new look revealed in the first images from the film. (Something which, by the way, Hemsworth has said revitalized him as both an actor and as Thor, which is always a good thing.)

The Hulk/Thor battle already seems like one of the best on-screen fights to come out of the MCU, and adding the extra wrinkle of being without his trusty weapon should make it even greater. Thor without his hammer is like a PB&J without peanut butter, and it should be very interesting to see how he handles some pretty intense fights without his favorite weapon by his side.

Thor and Hulk will go on a road trip

After Thor and Hulk battle it out, the two will team up to find Thor's missing father, Odin. According to Waititi, the search will basically be a superhero road trip, giving a chance for both Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo to show off their comedic abilities while drawing inspiration from some pretty famous movies, including 48 Hrs., Withnail and I, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

However, Waititi says that the movie that matches it the closest (and the film he used when he pitched his idea for Ragnarok) is Kurt Russell's Big Trouble in Little China. "Big Trouble in Little China was one of those films where Jack Burton is a buffoon but he's lovable and you're with him the entire way," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I thought Thor has got to be the one you want to be with in every scene." It won't just be Thor showing off on the road trip though — the plot will also give a chance for Bruce Banner to shine more than he has previously in the MCU, with Ruffalo saying he will be "much more of a character than the green rage machine you've seen in the Avengers movies … He's got a swagger," he added. "He's like a god."

A superhero road trip may sound like a ridiculous concept, but it actually played out pretty well in one recent, wildly popular blockbuster: Logan. Director James Mangold said he pitched the movie as Little Miss Sunshine with Wolverine, and, although his movie was (literally) a lot more grounded, the idea clearly has legs. Even though Ragnarok's road trip is likely to be a lot more celestial, it can still hopefully draw on many of the same familiar-yet-superhero-ified tropes that ended up making Logan so great.

Doctor Strange is also in it

Doctor Strange's post-credits scene showed the sorcerer meeting Thor for the first time (at least, we think), and it has been confirmed that the two will speak again in Ragnarok. Marvel CEO Kevin Feige says that the meeting is one of the few things that will happen on Earth in the film — although it hasn't been confirmed if Doctor Strange will join Thor on his journey, or if they just meet in NYC, if the Asgardian hero is willing to travel that far to meet the surgeon, then clearly its important that the two chat.

Benedict Cumberbatch was great in his first outing as the character, and it will be fun to see him on-screen again, and to see Doctor Strange become a little more integrated into the rest of the MCU. His inclusion should also hopefully help answer some of the questions about how the more magical pieces of the MCU fit in with the rest of the franchise, and may even give a bit of a glimpse at Marvel's future.

Hela sounds terrifying

Cate Blanchett's Hela is the first female villain for the Thor franchise, and, from what we know about her so far, it seems like she might be the scariest villain Thor has faced yet. Hela, the goddess of death, escapes from an Asgardian dungeon after Loki took over the throne by impersonating his father in The Dark World, letting chaos rain on Asgard. The goddess will be responsible for Thor's exile to Sakaar, but she won't stop there, with Blanchett teasing, "Everyone is too perfect [in Asgard]. Why not mess it all up?" According to the synopsis, Hela's messing up of things could go so far as triggering Ragnarok — the titular end of Asgardian civilization — which means some pretty high stakes for Thor and his team.

Blanchett says that Hela will go through "a journey," and that you'll hopefully come to understand why she's a villain, something which should help to set her apart from the many, many bad guys who we've seen in the MCU over the years. With a two-time Oscar winner playing her and with a pretty fierce (and terrifying) look, Hela definitely seems like a villain whom viewers will want to watch.

Jeff Goldblum will be great

Jeff Goldblum is always great, so this really isn't saying that much, but just the fact that Marvel was finally able to land him in one of their movies proves Ragnarok is going to offer something different. Goldblum will play the Grandmaster, who rules over Sakaar and decrees Thor must be hairless and hammerless. (He also has the power to make Thor agree to those tough conditions, which says something in and of itself.)

Goldblum has described the Grandmaster as a "hedonist" and a "pleasure-seeker" — with the intense fashion he rocks in the film's first images, it seems like the character will be the space version of a Roman emperor. In Thor's universe, that will definitely be something to watch.

Valkyrie is a badass

Thor's previous bae, Jane Foster, won't be showing up in Ragnarok because true love isn't actually real and the two broke up. Instead, Westworld's Tessa Thompson will take over the female lead as a badass warrior named Valkyrie, whom Hemsworth says Thor is actually a bit of a "fanboy" for (which we can totally get behind). Thompson isn't screwing around when it comes to preparing for the part, saying she went through some pretty hardcore training to be able to properly show off Valkyrie's fighting skills, using Terminator 2's Sarah Connor as inspiration.

Valkyrie seems like she may have a bit of villainous streak to her, as she's the one who brings Thor to the Grandmaster and gets him involved in the gladiatorial contests in the first place. While we don't yet know how much of a role Valkyrie will play in Hulk's journey outside of Sakaar, we do know that on the planet, she'll be a hard-drinking, hard-fighting warrior who will definitely be compelling to watch.

Loki is back

Tom Hiddleston's Loki is always great, and it's exciting to see him back in the MCU after the four-year break following The Dark World. Loki seems to be getting into quite a lot of trouble in Ragnarok, after impersonating his father Odin so he can take over the throne. His loose governance is what leads to Hela's release, something which can't make the Asgardians (and specifically, Thor) too happy with the trickster.

However, according to Hiddleston, Hela's villainy will force the two to team up, relying on their brotherhood, "fractured though it is," to stop the goddess' destruction. The Thor-Loki pairing is one of the best in the MCU and, from Hiddleston's comments, it seems like it will be tested in the most extreme way yet during Ragnarok.

It will set up Avengers: Infinity War

Not much is known about the next two Avengers movies, aside from how they're are currently filming back-to-back, and that they're due out in May of 2018 and 2019. The films will likely mark an end to Marvel's Phase 3, and could result in the end of many famous MCU characters (Thor included).

Ragnarok is one of the last films before the the first of the two Avengers films, Infinity War, is released, and it will likely do quite a lot of set up the upcoming team-up. The pairings of Thor, the Hulk, and Doctor Strange all hint at more meet-ups ahead, and the movie's celestial plot will probably mean we'll get at least a passing mention of the MCU's big bad, Thanos.

The film will also likely have mid-credits and post-credits scenes that do even more towards setting up the future. Even if you're not a Thor fan, Ragnarok will likely be worth a trip to the theater, because of all the groundwork it will lay for Infinity War.