Watching superhero movies nowadays just feels like homework. While I can easily envision many Marvel and DC fanboys excited that their favourite comic books are coming to life on the big screen, I have very little personal interest in these characters. Yet whenever I get the chance to meet up with my friends while on break from uni, they always insist that we watch the next Marvel movie. When I went to see Captain America: Civil War with them (that was the 2016 one, I think), they told me I had to have seen the other Captain America films in order to understand what it was about. The only superhero movies that I think I’ve enjoyed the most this year were Logan, Spiderman: Homecoming and Captain Underpants (yes, Captain Underpants is a superhero, so that qualifies, does it not?). When I saw the first Avengers in 2012 I thought it was really impressive how all the superhero movies before that culminated into one, but it’s high time that the cinematic universe trend that Marvel started (and are the only ones doing it right) ought to die down. That way we can have more studios going “How do we make a really good movie?” as opposed to “How do we make a huge collection of films that tie together somehow?”.
Thor: Ragnarök is definitely the last superhero film that I’m paying actual hard-earned money to see. All I’d heard prior was that it was the funniest Marvel film to date, and that only left me thinking “What about the story? Or the characters?”. I gave it a chance nevertheless.
The film opens with Thor having been imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur. Thor tells us through narration that he has been unsuccessfully searching for the Infinity Stones (whatever those are. I guess I’ll have to watch the first two Thor films to understand that). Surtur reveals that Thor's father Odin no longer on Asgard, and that the realm will soon be destroyed in the prophesied Ragnarök (apocalypse) once Surtur unites his crown with the Eternal Flame that burns in Odin's vault. The terminology of the Thor universe sounds interesting, and terminology can help in building a convincing world for your movie to take place in, but I felt way too bombarded here. It would’ve been better for all these things to be shown to us at the same time Surtur was telling us about them, and while they are all shown later, it would’ve been a lot more visually stimulating the way I’ve suggested. Thor eventually defeats Surtur and claims his crown in a well-choreographed and well-shot dynamic action sequence, believing that he has prevented Ragnarök.
Thor returns to Asgard to find Loki posing as Odin. He forces him to help him find their father, and they locate Odin in Norway. Odin tells them that he is dying, and that his passing will result in his firstborn child, Hela, to escape from a prison she was sealed in long ago. Hela had been the leader of Asgard's armies, and had conquered the Nine Realms alongside Odin, but had been imprisoned and written out of history after Odin feared that she had become too ambitious. This scene feels as if it was directed and edited in a way to make us feel like Thor and Loki have a strong connection to Odin, and that his passing will be an incredibly tragic loss to them. The music swells up, and the three characters share a silent moment together, yet I couldn’t feel the emotion within any of them. Please don’t tell me I have to watch the other movies to see a connection.
Odin subsequently dies, and Hela, released from her imprisonment, appears, destroying Thor's hammer Mjolnir. When Thor and Loki attempt to flee she pursues them and forces them out into space to die. Hela makes her way to Asgard, destroys it’s army and resurrects the ancient dead who once fought with her. She plans to expand Asgard's empire, but Heimdall covertly steals the sword that will give her the ability to do so, hiding away with the rest of Asgard's citizens. I liked Heimdall’s scenes, as his battle sequences felt incredibly well-shot. Thor crash-lands on Sakaar, a garbage planet surrounded by wormholes, where he is captured by a bounty hunter and taken to serve as a gladiator for the planet's ruler, the Grandmaster, with whom Loki has already become ingratiated. It was at this point in the film where I suddenly thought to myself “Why is everything so Star Wars-esque?”. You have all the different planets, stylistic spaceships, the garbage scavengers on Sakaar are just Jawas/Tusken Raiders, and said planet bears a striking similarity to Coruscant from the prequels. I get it Disney: You purchased the most over-saturated, most capitalised-upon franchise in popular culture for 4 billion dollars.
Despite all the bloated exposition and terminology, Thor: Ragnarök has a very good plot. Thor must prevent his home world from being destroyed, but is captured and held on a different planet. It’s tense, involves a lot of satisfying action and is kind of straightforward. I say ‘kind of’ because it certainly takes a while to establish this central plot, and up until I had a firm grasp of it, the movie felt like it was about Thor just doing things. And if I haven’t made it clear enough, I loved much of the action/battle scenes of this film, especially when Thor himself is at the centre of them. I felt the epicness from within Taika Waititi’s direction, sensing the weight of the characters as they plunged into battle through their stunningly edited scenes. Oh, it was oh so gratifying.
Remember when I said that everyone was calling Ragnarök the funniest Marvel film to date? Well they aren’t wrong there: The humour is way too excessive, and it’s clear that it was only implemented to hide the fact that Thor isn’t a particularly layered character. For instance, when all the Asgardians have fled into space, Korg remarks that even though Asgard is in ruins, they still have the foundations to it…but then it blows up. This is supposed to be a tragic moment in the film where all the characters realise that they have lost their home, and has been executed in a way that merely manipulates the audience into laughing out loud. Seriously, I was the only person in the theatre who didn’t laugh at this scene. As for what I was saying about Thor (the character himself), every good guy character’s only trait is either they’re cocky or humorous, while the main villain is just some evil dude with horns on their head. Cause we totally haven’t seen that before in every superhero movie. Finally, I have to add that I hated the set design for this film. Every location felt very bright and cartoon-like, especially Sakaar, to the point where it looked fake, textureless, and a bit too Star Wars-esque for a character such as Thor.
So those are my thoughts on Thor: Ragnarök. It’s definitely fun like everyone is saying, but that’s all it is. Just fun. Eh...