No Hammer…Some Problems
Thor: Ragnarok is a perfect example of what can make a superhero movie great and ultimately be it’s downfall. On the one hand, this film reinvents its character and takes a few risks. On the other, it overindulges itself and has a bit too much fun with its zany premise. It’s a tough dichotomy to balance, but for the most part Thor: Ragnarok succeeds in being another solid addition to the Marvel Universe with its great characters and action pieces despite its divided plot and necessity to go for humor over substance.
When his hammer is destroyed by Hela the Goddess of Death, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself imprisoned on a mysterious planet far from home. There he comes along his fellow friend/Avenger Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who has become a gladiatorial champion on the planet. Fearing the impending Ragnarok back on his home world, Thor must recruit a team to help him escape the foreign planet and return home to Asgard to stop Hela (Cate Blanchett) from bringing death and destruction.
From the start of the movie, it is clear that Marvel is trying to reinvent Thor and that is perfectly encapsulated by Chris Hemsworth’s performance. Instead of the serious and and sullen king of Asgard, Thor is now more lighthearted, humorous, and all around more fun type of guy. He embraces being the God of Thunder and it is a marvelous sight to see when he unleashes his true powers. Hemsworth brings a real charm to the role that we haven’t seen in previous movies. He is more likable and down to earth and Hemsworth works each line of dialogue as if he is just being himself. You can tell he is really having fun, relishing in the freedom he has and it is a treat to see on screen.
The other characters also do a great job in their roles. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is just as conniving and entertaining to watch on screen. He is as manipulative and charismatic as always, except this time his antics have become a bit predictable that the movie starts to make a joke of it. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is extremely entertaining this time round spending more time as our favorite green monster than as Bruce Banner. Banner has been the Hulk for a while now, leading to Hulk being presented as young child which is interesting to watch. Newcomer Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie brings a hardened no nonsense character ready to do whatever she wants without anyone bothering her which is entertaining to watch with the other characters on screen.
I can not go without mentioning Jeff Goldblum’s performance as the Grandmaster. Goldblum is essentially just being himself and having a lot of fun being an eccentric flashy ruler of the planet. He is hilarious to see on screen and adds a different element to the Marvel universe that we have not seen yet in a character.
The thing with Thor: Ragnarok is that it acts more like a comedy than a Shakespearean drama which is one of the film’s strengths. The character’s are more lighthearted and are not too overtly concerned with imminent danger. Instead they will joke around before jumping into the action. There is a sense of self-awareness as if they know how ridiculous some elements of the story are. Jokes are thrown left and right making this a non-stop laugh fest. The chemistry of the characters adds to this humor as they play off of each other so well. Also props to the writers for making some great humor and not be drawn in drama for the whole plot.
However, humor is also the film’s biggest weakness; there is too much of it. There are moments when there is a nice somber moment and it is immediately ruined by a joke. Granted the jokes are funny, but the movie isn’t taking itself seriously enough. Whenever a good moment of drama or a character moment is presented, the movie goes for the gag and makes fun of it. This may please most audiences who just want some high entertaining fun when they go for the movies, but I wanted a little bit more depth and insight than I was given.
This is extremely evident with certain characters. There are big things that happen to these characters, but they are never explored or given the time to explore them. Not that the movie is being rushed along, it is just choosing to ignore the dramatic moments in favor of jokes. One character in particular goes through a significant identity crisis that should be a point of contention in their mind. However, it is not conveyed any further leaving me a bit underwhelmed.
The plot is also somewhat divided in where it wants to dedicate its time to. The overarching conflict is that Hela is taking over Asgard and Thor needs to come back to stop her. However, the movie spends most of its time on the planet Sakaar where the Hulk and the rest of the characters are. There will be a lot of fun and development on Sakaar and then we will abruptly shift to Asgard to remind the audience that Hela is where the true plot lies. It seems the writers were more interested in making a more flashy and flippant version of Thor but had to stick in the Ragnarok storyline simply because that is what they promised three years ago when they made the announcement. The majority of the story and entertainment is on Sakaar and it becomes annoying when we have to be reminded that there is a bigger plot at hand.
This could be excused if the conflict on Asgard was worth investing in, but Cate Blanchett’s Hela does not bring enough to keep me captivated. Granted, Blanchett’s performance is stellar as she truly relishes in her villainy and chews every scene she is in, but there is not much to her character that makes you empathize with her or connect. She is simply a ticking clock for Thor to get back to Asgard to prevent destruction. Even in the opening moments when she destroys Thor’s hammer, you feel she is a force to be reckoned with and seeing her fight down soldiers is exhilarating to watch. She just ends up being an inciting event, providing expositional story pieces to the audience and distracting them from the true heart of the movie which is on Sakaar.
That just adds to the problem that Thor: Ragnarok embraces itself as a comedy first than anything. There isn’t anything else to the story or characters that is explored enough to make it more meaningful. Comparing it with the other Marvel movies released this year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ragnarok is the least developed of the three. They were both extremely funny movies but at the end of the day Guardians was about a family dynamic, and Spider-Man was about the challenges of becoming a superhero. Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t have any of that depth which makes it frustrating and makes me blind to all the hype surrounding this movie.
If Marvel’s goal was to reinvent Thor in a slapstick comedy movie, then it succeeded. The movie is damn entertaining and fun to watch keeping you captivated for the entire runtime. However, Marvel is starting to show its hand a little bit by choosing to go for the joke instead of letting some drama simmer which can hurt the movie. At the end of it all, Ragnarok chooses to be a comedy and through excellent writing and solid characters it makes a great addition to the ever growing cinematic universe. I’m not sure how memorable this movie will be in a few years given its lack of depth, but for now I can settle for an amusing experience.