Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★½

Thor: Ragnarok is one of the highest rated Marvel Cinematic Universe films and I honestly have no idea why. Taika Waititi offers nothing substantial to this film in the slightest and robs it from all narrative tension and weight. While it’s overplayed to use this term, Thor: Ragnarok is purely a case of style-over-substance. I don’t want to give this movie any more thought than I already have (clearly Waititi didn’t either), so I’ll break my points down into digestible summaries:

Point 1: I’ll start with the positives; this movie is visually appealing. It doesn’t look as good as Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (which seems to be the style that Waititi tried to replicate, but only succeeded with in terms of the set and costume design and completely omitted from his colour grading), but I’m a sucker for vibrant colours, so I’ll give it a pass.

Point 2: The over reliance of comedy is the root cause of all the problems in the movie. When it was released, many articles were published to discuss the mass amounts of improv dialogue that the movie was filled with. While it certainly works at times, it is easy to see which actors have the ability to thrive in this field and those who are in need of a more refined and traditional script (I’m looking at you Ruffalo). The decision to make Thor: Ragnarok, a story quite literally about genocide and the eradication of Asgard and its people, a comedy, but still choosing to keep the dark undertones prevalent in the movie is baffling. This decision makes for tonal inconsistencies throughout the movie and rids it of any lasting stakes or tension.

Point 3: It is because of these tonal inconsistencies that I found it difficult to buy into any emotional peril that the characters were written into. Every emotional story beat, from Thor and Loki’s discussion in the elevator on Sakaar turning into the “get help” gag, Hela killing the Warriors Three instantly (which felt like a Rian Johnson “Let the past die” moment by comedically removing old characters that Waititi wasn’t fond of in order to make room for his own new additions), to Bruce Banner coming to terms with the fact that if he turns into the Hulk again he may never change back into Bruce Banner, ultimately choosing to make that sacrifice, only to faceplant on the Bifröst (rainbow bridge), that Thor: Ragnarok creates, manages to be undermined within seconds of its introduction. On top of this, these decisions in turn function to completely destroy the characters of the film, opting to use most of them, mainly Thor, as a punching bag and vessel for comedy (how the god of thunder was able to be electrocuted still baffles me nearly 5 years later). Really, the only emotional moment that isn’t undercut by some form of comedy is during Odin’s death. It is there that we see Loki come to the realization that it was his actions that inadvertently paved the way towards his adoptive father’s demise and the reawakening of Hela. However, this moment has very little time to sink in because it is bookended by a quick skirmish with Hela and then all but forgotten for the rest of the movie…at least narrative stakes were the cause of undercutting an emotional moment rather than a joke.

Final Thoughts: I wouldn’t have these problems with Thor: Ragnarok if Waititi committed to the ideas and themes which he himself set up in his own movie. The end result of this is reflective of a director who is afraid to commit to making a scene that was either too emotionally heavy or not ‘funny.’ This really was to the movie’s detriment. I’m all for a light and breezy comedy, but when your movie promises to tell a story that demands a careful attention to the deeper themes, you better deliver on those expectations. And now I think it’s safe to say that I’ve given Thor: Ragnarok far too much thought.

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