Disney is working overtime, trying to convince audiences that the third installment of Marvel’s “Thor” is better than the previous. With five appearances as the God of Thunder, Chris Hemsworth (“Ghostbusters”) gets a new look, inventive director Taika Waititi injects life to the franchise and the cast is more impressive than ever. However, only so much can be tinkered on within these films. They must always fit in a preassigned model that doesn’t allow for very many chances or risks, because at the end of the day, it’s not just a movie, but a franchise trying to sell memorabilia. I might have laughed once and didn’t find the humor any different from previous Marvel films. It’s the same jokes aimed at 13-year-old boys, their core audience. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (“Carol”) once again comes into a franchise as the first female villain, but the script doesn’t afford her much to do.

Upon his return to homeland Asgard, Thor (Hemsworth) finds his thought-to-be-deceased brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) impersonating his father King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the entire planet falling into chaos. Though, nothing could prepare the dueling brothers for the arrival of a sister they have never met. Odin’s true first born, Hela (Blanchett), nicknamed the Goddess of Death, has returned from exile and dispels the lies of the planet’s creation and Odin’s storybook legacy. She takes over as ruler, expelling the younger siblings to Sakaar, a junkyard planet run by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor is forced to fight gladiator style against his old Avenger buddy The Hulk, who has nearly forgotten his Bruce Banner persona. Any hope at defeating Hela will depend on the reconciliation of forces old and new.

“Thor: Ragnarok” wants the audience to have fun, and for the most part, that’s exactly what you get. A pinball machine of flashing colors, fight scenes and middle school humor depletes the 130-minute running time at a swift pace. Hiddleston’s Loki has long been one of the highlights of the series, more recently phased out to a supporting character, returns here in full turncoat glory. The biggest disappointment is Blanchett’s lack of interaction with the main characters and the big fight scene advertised in the trailer between Hela & Thor, isn’t shown on-screen. The overqualified actress spends most of her time talking to her “Lord of the Rings” co-star Karl Urban. All the characters talk about how evil and cruel she is, but we don’t see much of that on-screen either.

All the boxes are checked for ensuring everyone’s favorite Avenger gets a mention and while “Thor: Ragnarok” pretends to be its own stand-alone film, the connective threads to the Marvel universe are still evident. Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) gets more screen time than both Goldblum, Blanchett and Hopkins, likely advancing her onto the next superhero war film next year. New Zealand director Taika Waititi brings along actors from previous films in cameo roles, but lost is the acute comedic subtleties we saw in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” last year. “Thor: Ragnarok” is mildly satisfying junk food but never groundbreaking, even changing some of the ingredients still leaves us with pretty much the same dish.

Final thought — “Thor: Ragnarok” pretends to be cooler than it actually is, despite the impressive cast.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

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