January 7, 2018
Thor Ragnarok is one of Marvel’s best movies. It seems Marvel has figured out what has worked in the past and what has held them back and applied the knowledge to this movie. Through the characters, the story, and the tone and style, Thor Ragnarok highlights almost everything Marvel is doing right.
The tone and style of the movie may be it’s strongest quality. Most Marvel movies try to ground themselves in reality in some way, either with a human main character or an earthly setting. But this movie chooses to leave earth behind completely and fully embrace the silly fantastical world of the Marvel universe. The only time they even go to earth, they visit a sorcerer. This was why Guardians of the Galaxy was so successful, and Thor Ragnarok takes it one step further. It delivers a fun, exciting movie in a setting completely foreign to the viewer outside of other marvel movies. Best of all, it’s wrapped up in the style of an 80’s comic book or video game, with it’s synthesizer and rock and roll score, and the frequent comic book frame style stills. All of which makes the movie more reminiscent of an actual comic book than just an action movie. Accomplishing such a tone and style takes away the restriction on the writers of holding the audience’s suspension of disbelief. This allows for some of the most epic moments in this movie such as the one in which a guy jumps out of a spaceship dual wielding machine guns and mows down magical death soldiers on a rainbow bridge. No longer having the restriction of grounding the movie in reality frees up a lot of time usually taken up by establishing new concepts in a way that makes them believable. This movie expects you to use previous knowledge from other Marvel movies to make sense of things, leaving more time to tell the actual story, and ultimately making for a much less formulaic story.
The movie’s story works. It ties all the events together in a way that makes sense while building up the characters and their motivations. Even the villain, Hella, is built up well. Marvel villains, in the past, have too often fallen flat. This story allows its three dimensional characters to travel. They never stay in one place for too long. This keeps the movie fresh and interesting and makes the world feel much richer. Where the story really shines though, is where it supplements the absurdity of the movie. The title, Thor Ragnarok would lead the viewer to believe that the movie is about Ragnarok, especially comic book fans who knew what it was beforehand. Instead,Surther (the giant demon behind Ragnarok) is defeated in the first scene of the movie, only to be brought back by the heroes at the end of the movie to destroy Asgard. This kind of subversion of audience expectations and formula keeps the story interesting and unpredictable. [Transition]
Even when a story doesn’t try to ground itself in reality, it has to connect with the viewer to be effective. Most do this through characters. Guardians of the Galaxy has it’s endearing characters and themes of family and friendship. The Avengers has it’s themes of teamwork and Tony Stark’s growth. Thor Ragnarok’s characters are fun and fit with the absurd tone, but don’t do a whole lot to aid the emotional reach of the movie. Characters like Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and Korg (Taika Waititi) are delightful and hilarious in an innocuous sort of way. Loki is the same amusing friend/foe ally/enemy fans have come to expect, and Thor is capable and fun, not the overserious kinda dense Thor from the other movies (especially the Avengers ones). In the end, Thor and Loki save Asgard by destroying it. Thor becomes the new King of Asgard and even Loki, who’s always obsessed with being a king, steps back and lets Thor lead. The characters finally seem to accept responsibility and take their rightful places. Unfortunately, the themes seem to come out of nowhere near the end and it’s easy to forget about the characters’ development through large parts of the movie. The emotions and themes aren’t as overtly engaging as those in the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy but Thor Ragnarok surpasses both of those movies in places like tone, aesthetic, story, etc.
It’s clear that Thor Ragnarok wasn’t going for emotional resonance but instead a rock and roll, fun, absurd, comic book movie. And that it accomplished with (quite literally) flying colors.