Thor Comes Back Swinging In Ragnarok
by Sophie Lee
Historically, Thor has not been the leading man of Marvel. His first two installments were said to have a “Shakespearean” tone to them and also suffered from being somewhat detached from the rest of the Marvel Universe. In an attempt to liven up the second Thor movie, the filmmakers decided to focus more heavily on Thor’s more captivating brother, Loki. Still, despite their best efforts, the Thor franchise largely remained films that fans watched solely to keep up with the overarching timeline.
Still, in early November, Thor’s third installment came into theaters promising a new and improved Thor. Trailers showed the hammer-wielding god with a fresh haircut and a less elaborate outfit. Even more noticeably, the movie appeared to be relying on one of Marvel’s favorite new tricks: incorporating their other characters into every movie. In “Thor:Ragnarok,” Doctor Strange pops onto the screen for a cameo and is quickly followed by the Hulk, who manages to stick around until the end of the movie. In recent years, Marvel has become so fond of this practice that it’s become hard to call any of their movies truly stand-alone films. In “Spider-man: Homecoming,” Peter Parker shares a considerable amount of screen time with Iron Man and “Captain America: Civil War” practically functioned served as a third Avengers film, with nearly every character making an appearance. This tactic has been extremely successful for Marvel, as they are often praised for creating a dynamic overarching storyline with their characters. While this certainly serves their fans well, as it allows for enticing movies and lots of fun character interactions, it also serves to ensure that fans will go out to see every Marvel movie that hits the big screen if they hope to keep up. With two soft releases under Thor’s belt, the filmmakers may have been hoping that the return of the Hulk would help stir up fan’s interest.
Whatever the strategy, it appears to have worked, as Thor raked in over $122 million in its opening weekend. It was heavily praised for leaning into Marvel’s signature comedic streak. Perhaps the most successful aspect of “Thor:Ragnarok,” is that Thor finally dropped his somber tone and fully embraced the humour of being a flying alien that uses a spinning hammer. The jokes in the film are witty and self-aware, reminding fans why Marvel is able to keep churning out hits. They certainly delivered on their promise to reboot the series, as we watch Thor’s hammer be destroyed within the first few scenes of the film; a bold move that not-so-subtly signals a rebirth for the character. In his first two films, Thor resisted the responsibility of King that was being thrust upon him. In this movie, he is required to step up and confront his hesitations as he reclaims his status as the lead of his own films.
Although the film competently displays character growth, it doesn’t quite reach a point that would allow Thor to surpass his position as the runt of the Avengers. From the outset, “Thor Ragnarok” is slightly too fast-paced, introducing and discarding characters at lightning speed, as if the director was attempting to wipe the series’ slate clean as quickly as humanly possible. The main problem with the brutal speed of the movie is that it doesn’t allow for Marvel to do what they do best: create characters with emotional depth and plots that are impactful. In the film, the audience sees big events happen on screen but doesn’t have any time to process them. Thor is given the time to grow, but it comes at the cost of other characters becoming quasi-caricatures of themselves. Loki, who was once the character providing most of the heavy hitting plot points, becomes all too predictable here. Most annoyingly, Thor repeatedly tosses out a line stating that he is going to do the right thing because “that’s what a hero would do.” It’s a sentiment that seems like it belongs in one of DC’s more contrived films, rather than anywhere in the Marvel universe.
This isn’t to say that Thor is a complete waste, or even that it isn’t worth seeing. Ragnarok fully delivers on what it promises: two hours of superhero fun that will sufficiently prepare you for Marvel’s next big release, “The Avengers: Infinity War.” Given that this is, in fact, a Marvel film, it is sure to be one of the best superhero movies of the year and will keep audiences entertained. However, Thor still lacks the depth that other Marvel movies handle with great precision, the trait that makes them well suited for an older audience. At the end of the day, Ragnarok is loads of fun, but not compelling.