Thor's battle with the goddess of death in "Thor: Ragnarok" looks poised to breathe new life into a franchise that has garnered lukewarm reviews and underwhelming ticket sales.
The threequel marks the thunder god's first standalone film since 2013's moody "The Dark World" failed to excite critics and moviegoers. Disney and its Marvel Studios appear to have learned their lesson: Instead of another bleak epic, they've opted for a rollicking intergalactic buddy comedy.
While the movie revolves around the goddess Hela's invasion of Asgard, Marvel has been marketing the comedic chops of leading man Chris Hemsworth as a downtrodden Thor in exile.
The strategy appears like it will pay off. Heading into its opening weekend, "Thor: Ragnarok" is the best-reviewed movie in Marvel's series of 17 interconnected films. It is generating more conversation on social media than the Warner Bros. superhero team-up "Justice League," according to comScore.
More importantly, it's tracking for a $100 million-plus U.S. debut at the box office. It took in an estimated $12 million to $14 million in Thursday night early shows, beating or matching breakout superhero hits such as "Deadpool" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," Deadline reported.
"It's somewhat unprecedented for an early November movie release to have a shot at a $100 million opening," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
If the trend holds, that would represent a big improvement over "Thor: The Dark World," the most poorly reviewed Marvel Studios movie on ratings aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It also posted the second-lowest global box office haul out of the 11 movies that make up the second and third waves of Marvel films.
To be fair, "Thor: The Dark World" went on to earn $677.5 million worldwide. But it only managed to out-earn "Thor" by about $200 million. The first Captain America sequel beat the original by $343 million. "Iron Man 3" bested "Iron Man 2" by nearly $600 million.