Thor: Ragnarok

Rating: 3.25 of 5 ★★★¼☆ 


Ragnarok is a good Marvel movie. But it isn’t a good Thor movie.

The standalone movies each have (rather) had distinctive styles. An Iron Man film is contemporary and flashy with trusty sidekicks Pepper and Happy and Rhoddy and quippy one-liners. Captain America lost both his sidekicks (the Roaring Commandos) and his wonderful love interest (the incredible Peggy Carter) when he jumped forward in time. Since then his movies haven’t really been his – they’ve served as vehicles for the MCU with Cap as the centerpiece.

And Thor… well a Thor movie has a bit of epic grandiosity and beauty. There’s the sidekick warrior friends to mix things up (with the fabulous Lady Sif). Darcy’s comic relief offsets the epicness without jarring the tone. Jane provides our dose of romance. And Thor kicks ass while Loki makes mischief. It’s a little bit fairy tale and a little bit fantasy set in a sci-fi world. Basically everything I love all wrapped up in one movie.

So you can understand why I didn’t enjoy the jarring shift in tone for Ragnarok. It’s one of the perils of the MCU – the different movies lose what makes them distinctive. A homogenization that all blends into Infinity War. And this one I find particularly distasteful because it took away almost everything I love about Thor movies.

In fact, Ragnarok is more Guardians of the Galaxy with a different cast.
There’s the tough, goofy hero.
The badass chic who doesn’t really want to play along but does anyway.
The bulky, mildly brainless but still fun oaf.
And… well there is no equivalent for Loki. I do really like that Loki plays such an integral role and he’s not the villain this time around.

(Also there’s a whole side note about nobility and humanism but it’s like two lines in the film and I don’t feel like diving into that tonight.)

I get why all the changes happened, but I don’t appreciate ho they chose to correct course.

They had the same problem with Thor that they do with Captain America. The first movie turned him from cocky boy to honorable man. From then on, whatever he was in the comics, in the films he was stalwart and heroic and kinda too powerful.

Which makes for a less than interesting character to a lot of people (I like my heroes stalwart but I know I’m in the minority). The biggest problem with the second film is that he is a rather one dimensional hero without an arc. And everybody loved Loki because he’s the funny one. So they had to do something with Thor in this movie to give him dimension and bring the audience back around to him.

I don’t mind them breaking him down; chipping away at his strength bit by bit until he discovers the true source of his power. It’s a timeless story arc and it works well with this character especially because he’s a figurative god, who mostly can’t die, can barely be hurt and can destroy an awful lot of bad guys. Breaking him down makes him more interesting, not just in his own stories but in looking forward to how he fits in with the larger cast of characters (invincible isn’t always play well with others).

But then they still had the problem of making the character more likable. So they wanted to make him funny. And in order to do that, they made him a buffoon. Which I really didn’t like.

I (emphatically) didn’t like the crude humor. And I didn’t like him being unintentionally goofy for a quick laugh. I didn’t like the dramatic shift from amusingly blunt grandeur to really base humor.

Which is not to say I think the movie shouldn’t have been funny. When you already have sort sort of absurd world with Hela and her giant headdress, and the horned flaming alien who is going to destroy the world… you either embrace it and have fun with the whole thing or you try to make the audience take it seriously. I’m glad they had fun with it.

Because otherwise Ragnarok would start to feel like a DC movie and no one wants that.

It’s my running thread with Ragnarok – I like what they did but I really don’t like how they did it. Thor isn’t silly. Or, he didn’t used to be. He wasn’t goofy or ridiculous. And still he was funny in moments. And moments were enough because his films were fun but they weren’t comedies. The humor in this doesn’t fit him as well as it fits Peter Quill.

Or it didn’t used to. It’s been a gradual move. They began to introduce vaguely self-deprecating humor to him in Avengers (of course, because Joss Whedon wrote it). The Dark World gave him moments of levity that completely fit with his character. But then Age of Ultron introduced a moment or two of this ridiculous humor. It didn’t quite feel consonant but it was only a line or two. Ragnarok is a lot of the movie with him saying these ridiculous things and doing these gags that they’ll keep doing because now they’ve re-centered his character around that humor.

I’m not saying it’s not funny. But it feels like the character has jumped the rails.

And I think they could have made him a more dimensional character in other ways that felt more true. Especially, if they hadn’t jettisoned the entire supporting cast from the earlier films.

I know, I should be the first to celebrate Jane’s absence. I’ve always said that Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth have no chemistry. And that the romance of the first film is unsupported and hollow. But you know, I still like Jane as a character. And I really liked Darcy. Loved Lady Sif, especially as a rival to Jane. But they’re all gone. And we’re supposed to be placated because there’s other strong girls to fill those gaps. But they don’t. We have zero emotional connection or history with any of these new characters and while Valkyrie is cool and all, she isn’t enough. She lacks the history and nobility of Lady Sif and the adorable humor of Darcy and the brilliance and tenacity of Jane. It would have been so much better to add her fierceness and loyalty as a compliment to the rest of them rather than a replacement.

But most of all, I wanted to watch a Thor movie. And I didn’t get to. I can’t complain too much because it is a good movie in a lot of ways. It’s a bright, colorful, funny, action-packed Marvel movie.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I’m done being disappointed (except the crude humor, I won’t every enjoy that). And I suppose I can always watch The Dark World if I want to see a Thor movie.

Writing:★★¾☆☆ 
Characters:★★½☆☆ 
Performances:★★★¾☆ 
Directing:★★★☆☆ 
Production:★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★¼☆ 

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