Thor: Ragnarok–If It’s Not Doing Well, Make It a Comedy

Photo courtesy of Sharp Magazine

Ever since I saw the first trailer, Thor Ragnarok caused an emotional stir within me. The varieties in color and the serious change in tone made me question whether Marvel was trying something new with one of their less-successful heroes, or simply  trying to replicate the success of the Guardians of The Galaxy movies. After I looked into the director attached to the film, Taika Waititi, I got a better sense of the superficial direction the latest Thor movie was heading towards as half of what Waititi was saying consisted of the words “awesome” and “cool.”

Truth be told, Thor is one of Marvel’s weaker superheroes. Thor: The Dark World has one of the lowest critic scores out of more than a dozen Marvel movies. Thor, ever since the first movie, was seen as this superhero who had little personality, yelled throughout most of his movies, and only beat up his enemies. Therefore, he definitely needed a stronger  personality and more character development if he wanted to compete with the commercial success of other superheroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Spiderman, who stole the show with his recently released movie Spiderman: Homecoming, portraying a talkative, funny, quippy teenager. Both Marvel and Waititi found the solution by introducing humor into  Thor’s character. The film also features an innocent three-year-old, mostly someone for Thor to bounce his jokes off of.

Despite Thor’s status as one of Marvel’s less successful superheroes, the movie is definitely a good time. Throughout the movie, we follow Thor, who is at first imprisoned by a demon who wants to destroy Asgard, Thor’s homeworld. Thor imprisons the demon and takes him back to Asgard, where he also discovers that Loki has been disguising himself as Odin, their dad. They go on a journey to find their father, come across Hel, their banished sister and the goddess of death. After losing a battle against her, they are both stranded on a planet ruled by Jeff Goldblum, who is conducting arena fights, with his main fighter being the Hulk. Their goal throughout the rest of the film is to get back to Asgard and defeat Hel. The plot is simple, predictable and goes along with the movie formula created by Marvel. However Thor: Ragnarok is not interested in providing the viewer with a complex, thoughtful story that will leave the viewer questioning the deeper ideas behind the movie. Thor: Ragnarok mostly serves to entertain the viewers.

The color is eye-catching, and in this reviewer’s opinion, preferable to Marvel’s other movies with narrower and desaturaed color pallets. Sakkar, the planet where Thor is thrown, feels vibrant and lively. The bounty hunters and citizens of Sakkar are actually given interesting dialogue that sometimes caused me to chuckle. The expressive setting and background characters are all used to amplify a vibrant main cast typically absent in Marvel movies.

In my opinion, Thor: Ragnarok is not a regular superhero movie, nor was it likely intended to be. Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy, and definitely a good one.Thor and Loki constantly throw jokes around, laugh, and make fun of the people they are fighting against, as seen in the trailer, where Thor happily yells “YES” when he sees Hulk, even though he has to fight Hulk to the death. This is not abnormal within the movie, however, because the entire cast frequently acts absurd and childish. Even the most serious character in the movie, Hel, is given some funny lines. When Thor is thrown into prison with other gladiators to fight against the Hulk, Korg, a gladiator made of rocks and voiced by Waititi himself, starts talking about the revolution he attempted and he will attempt it again, asking Thor if he is interested. Although the film primarily feels like a comedy, there are striking and emotive “superhero moments” that make the viewer feel empowered.

Even though the humor works well in the film, there are times when comedic aspects detract from anything else the film is trying to do, as the script puts humor above all else. There are no serious moments within the film that last more than half a minute, due to constant interruptions by a quirky move by an actor or a joke thrown in. There is no weight to the characters being killed or the war that Hel is waging, just as there are no serious lines of dialogue that create tension and suspense. This comedic override is also caused by the inconsistent pace. The movie tries to go back and forth between Hel taking over Asgard and Thor trying to get out of Sakkar, but it does not provide Hel’s storyline with enough time to build her as an interesting villain, as the movie wants to go back to Hulk and Thor bantering and making fun of each other in Sakkar. The ending of the movie, which I will not spoil, is the best example of this, as it completely devalues the movie’s prior events.

From a technical aspect, Thor: Ragnarok does supply the viewer with interesting shots and editing that is fun to witness, but these are so few in between regular shot compositions that they do not affect the film entirely. The CGI within the film is spotty at times too. In some scenes, it is very apparent that it was shot on a green screen, and one of the effects applied onto Thor towards the end of the film is not fun to look at.

Is Thor: Ragnarok a good time? Most certainly. I enjoyed my viewing session a lot, and left the viewing room smiling. In my opinion, this was one of the best ways to make another Thor movie, and it did so while also providing a refreshing platform for the Hulk’s character to develop. However, the comedy aspect of the film detracts from the movie’s dramatic aspects, which are in a way pretty crucial to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the film sacrifices genuine sad moments for a quick joke and a chuckle. Thor: Ragnarok is a prime example of how the overuse of bathos may affect a movie and its viewer, and it is not all good. Taika Waititi brings a lot of new stuff to the table, while getting rid of some of the old to make a movie he thinks is best.