Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor is no longer boring. Is it good?


Is it great?


Is it worth seeing?


More than once?


Thor: Ragnarok is the threequel to the Thor series within the MCU, the billion-dollar blah blah blah you already know everything there is to know about this franchise. If you love it, if you hate it, if you’re old, if you’re young, if you’re alive, if you’re dead, the MCU is utterly unavoidable. Every movie in this franchise makes hundreds of millions of dollars, gets critical admiration, people in the theaters, and massive amounts of attention. And why shouldn’t they? The MCU is a highly improbable risk that worked anyway, and worked well. Never before has a movie franchise had this many inter-connected films that all directly relate to each other like this. No matter how many people try to imitate it, I don’t think we’ll get another franchise this impactful or successful. Is that a good thing? Some people think so, but I’m not here to discuss the overall influence this franchise has on the film industry. I’m here to talk about Thor 3.

What’s good about this movie? Some things, for sure. Something I find consistently compelling in Marvel films are the characters. They’re always fun to watch, whether they’re cracking a joke, squabbling, or developing. Side characters can sometimes be as compelling, but usually they’re relegated to joke machines if they’re not compelling. We had a couple side characters that were like this, and that’s fine. The problem arose when I noticed the main characters were also joke machines. This is a problem because if it’s all jokes, there’s no one to take anything happening seriously, so, by extension, you don’t take it seriously. This isn’t always bad, the scene with Thor and Doctor Strange close to the beginning of the film was hilarious. The whole film is like this, though. Nothing is taken seriously.

Because nothing was taken seriously, the stakes were astonishingly low. The villain, Hela, was not very intimidating. She kept cracking jokes, taking all of the threat out of her character. A villain that makes a joke can be threatening (look at Loki), but not if that’s all they do. Every single scene she’s in, she cracks a joke. I mean, the jokes were usually funny, but that doesn’t mean I want them coming from the big bad guy who’s so powerful she can destroy Thor’s hammer. What’s even more frustrating is that Cate Blanchette is an incredible actress. She can pull off intimidating, and it would probably be terrifying if she was written that way. But she wasn’t. She was just as jokey-jokey as the rest of the cast, which lead to an even bigger problem.

Thor: Ragnarok is shallow. It’s incredibly face-value. The characters are all settled in, the actors all know what they’re doing, the writers know how to appeal to the crowd, this is all just people going through the motions. Joke, punch, repeat. The film doesn’t feel the need to go any deeper than this, which sucks. I know Marvel movies aren’t supposed to be Moonlight-level drama or have social commentary to rival a Kendrick Lamar album, but geez. Is it too much to want anything? I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this movie is probably the shallowest Marvel film to date. It’s balance of drama and comedy is so off-kilter that when it tries to tackle potentially heavy themes like inadequacy or reliance on things that don’t define you, it stumbles. This movie feels like a bunch of famous people just messing around to mess around. I didn’t feel any passion coming from the filmmaking, everything just seemed so low-effort and routine that it was kind of disengaging. While I was watching this, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just watching actors play a game of pretend. This didn’t happen with all of them (it didn’t with Hiddleston, Ruffalo, or Cumberbatch,) but the majority just felt like they weren’t taking it seriously. Maybe this was due to the lack of emotional weight, maybe it was due to them not really trying. I’m thinking it was the former.

Another sub-par thing I noticed was the CG. What happened? There were a lot of utterly terrible greenscreens, almost none of the computer modeling looked real, this was one heck of a step down from Doctor Strange, to say the least. It wasn’t Wonder Woman levels of poorly-done, but it still was a shocking dip in terms of Marvel films. Expanding on the theme of visuals, this film’s camerawork was incredibly bland, save for maybe five or six shots. It’s like they had a quota of creative shots they could have in their film and they just didn’t bother to go beyond that. All of the dialogue was just standard shot-reverse shot, the only things that weren’t filmed boringly were a couple battle sequences and maybe some visual gags. I was excited to get a director like Taika Waititi on a Marvel film; I liked What We Do In The Shadows a good deal. It wasn’t just humor without substance, it had some legitimately affecting moments, and I was hoping to see that same kind of tone carried over to Thor. It wasn’t. I’m not faulting Waititi for Thor’s emotional vacancy, I think this is Marvel’s doing.

Everyone paying attention remembers Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, and everyone who saw the movie knows it wasn’t exactly the best Marvel had to offer. Wright said he left because he wanted to make a Marvel movie, but Marvel didn’t want to make an Edgar Wright movie. I get it, stylistic consistency is important throughout a series, but to what degree? If all of your movies feel the same, how do you differentiate from each one? On the other side, though, having so many directors and so many artistic styles in the same series can lead to wildly inconsistent qualities, so to what degree should a studio have creative control? Should they just make careful decisions on who directs their films, or should they pick anyone and exhibit an amount of control over them? Personally, I think that Marvel should loosen the reins on their directors a little. I think that having a lot of varied Marvel films, while it might be a little risky, would be good for the superhero genre and movies in general. I’m not saying we should have James Bond levels of creative freedom, but I’d like to see a little more. I just feel like these directors can’t put their own spin on the movie. It feels like Marvel is directing these films, and they hire the directors as a formality.

I guess I just needed to vent. Superhero movies are dangerously close to reaching over-saturation. Marvel’s now making three movies a year, DC’s making movies outside of the DCEU, we might even have a reboot of the DCEU, I fear that audiences might get sick of it. I know some people already are, but it’s not enough to shake Marvel or DC right now. Eventually, I’ll get sick of it, and I’ve been the number one Marvel apologist for a while. I just hope Marvel changes what they’re doing soon, because most of the problems I’ve stated in this review have been long-boiling. The flat camerawork, the low stakes, the increasing focus on comedy rather than drama, these are all problems that have been prevalent for a while. And while they’ve managed to stay hidden for a while, they’re starting to become noticeable.


Up next: Justice League. Hoo boy.

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