“I know what you’re thinking: how did this happen?”
Thor: Ragnarok is the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film to get a shedload of critical acclaim. I’ve seen it advertised on Twitter as the “best reviewed Marvel film yet.” Of course, whenever something receives high critical acclaim, my Spider-sense tingles. It’s true, Thor: Ragnarok is enjoyable. You’ll laugh yourself silly. But I felt a little nonplussed when the credits started to roll. The third Thor film has little in common with its predecessors. The tonal shift is jarring, the characters involved are used mainly for laughs, and the story seems to have been written on the fly…
Thor: Ragnarok feels, looks and sounds like a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy rather than a sequel to Thor: The Dark World. We see planets with all the colour and sci-fi technology that a GOTG sequel would include. The soundtrack, including Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song,’ may as well have been stripped out of GOTG. Thor himself has changed from a serious God (which is where most of his humour originated) to someone who takes nothing seriously…like Starlord (or Tony Stark…). His self-depreciating humour feels very strange considering his character in the past. Why this radical change of heart? Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, Thor’s Avenger companion for this romp, also suffers from the same personality change. I found it hard to believe I was watching a Thor film at times, instead thinking I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit.
“I have dire plans for destiny”
I’d tell you the basic plot of Thor: Ragnarok, but it’s not important to the director or the writers. It shouldn’t be important to you, either. Thor’s sister, Hela, returns to take over Asgard and rule the Seven Kingdoms/universe. That’s about as spoiler-light as I can be. Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, is a revelation as an MCU supervillain. She has just enough screen time and exudes malice and evil. She immediately plunges herself into the upper realms of MCU villians. So, there’s ample threat on the horizon in the form of Hela, but unfortunately the film cares little about threat and menace. Yes, there are the obligatory action scenes (some of which are framed suspiciously like a Zack Snyder action scene…). But, as is typical of an MCU film, these action scenes are merely background to jokes. GOTG vol. 2 forced humour into every minute of screen time, but Thor: Ragnarok throws a joke at you every second (or so it seems).
Everything in Thor: Ragnarok plays second fiddle to the comedy. The first Thor film was a Shakespearian tragedy in comic book form. Let’s not talk about the second Thor film. But giving a Shakespearian edge to Thor felt natural. Forcing him into the comedy zone feels out of place. Plenty of substantial events occur in Thor: Ragnarok, but they are all deflated by a joke before you’ve even processed what’s happened. Why do something that has ramifications across the MCU if you are playing it for laughs? Let’s take time to digest it, even time to get a little emotional about it. Don’t hurl a joke in my face straight after it happens!
“I’ve been falling…for thirty minutes!”
Fortunately, if you take Thor: Ragnarok at face value i.e. a series of skits that use the characters we know (and love?) any way the joke needs, then Thor: Ragnarok will make your sides split with laughter. As a comedy, it works wonders. GOTG vol.2, for example, put comedy above all else, but more often than not the comedy felt forced. The Guardians acted as if their arcs from the original had never happened. Most of it just wasn’t funny. Thor: Ragnarok, however, had me shaking with laughter frequently. Even when the laughs were forced, I still appreciated the effort behind it. Undoubtedly, it’s the funniest MCU film yet.
But that does not make it the best MCU film yet. I’m a big fan of the original Thor film, with its Shakespearian overtones. Thor: Ragnarok tries its best to ignore all that went before. It presents a series of well-shot, beautiful looking skits that have a storyline tagged along. A great villain in the form of Hela is lost among the laughs, as is everything else. It’s incredibly hard to judge Thor: Ragnarok. As a comedy, it’s second to none. It’s the most I’ve laughed in a cinema this year. But this wasn’t the Thor I knew and loved. This was an imposter Thor, a clumsy and self-depreciating Thor who’s only used for laughs. However, I enjoyed it more than the other two MCU films released this year…so go figure!
VERDICT: 6/10. Thor: Ragnarok wants you to forget the Thor that the first two Thor films presented. It wants you to forget everything except how to laugh. Because you will laugh a lot during this film. But that’s about all you’ll do.
What did you think of Thor: Ragnoark (2017)? Leave your thoughts below!
Click here for my review of Thor (2011)
Click here for my list of MCU film reviews!