For those of you who saw “Thor: Love and Thunder,” you may have noticed that the film was somewhat undeserving of its title. Fans failed to love it and the thunder-power of its cinema was severely lacking, even by the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) standards.
Now, why is that? Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has undertaken some high highs and low lows in his MCU filmography. In light of its five-year anniversary, this article will highlight the strengths of Thor’s most widely revered film, “Thor: Ragnarok.”
“Ragnarok” was released on Nov. 3, 2017. The Thor story predecessors of “Ragnarok” include “Thor,” “The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” While I personally find the two previous Thor-centered movies enjoyable, plenty of Marvel fans disagree. This negative reception produced a buzz when “Ragnarok” surpassed not only “Thor” and “Dark World,” but also took the fan base’s favor over a decent majority of MCU films.
Marvel fans are not a monolith. However, “Ragnarok” received a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, a heavy contrast with the 63% rating of “Thor: Love and Thunder” and the 66% rating of “Thor: The Dark World.” Now enough with the statistical assessments, let’s delve into what makes “Ragnarok” such a masterpiece, worthy of Mjolnir, and worthy of this 93%.
Let’s start with its biggest success: the comedy. “Ragnarok” achieves a beautiful balance of the epic strife of comic book superheroes integrated with tongue-in-cheek humor dispersed throughout. The film opens with an Emperor’s New Groove-style classic main character narration, beginning amidst a low point. Thor’s monologue, initially directed toward the camera, is revealed to be in conversation with a skeleton in a cage with him. After dropping out of the cage and lying suspended, tied up in chains, Thor converses with the demon-like monster that has trapped him. The monster, named Surtur (Clancy Brown), speaks with cinematic language on the prophecy of Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard but is quickly interrupted by a shot of Thor’s chained body slowly, creakily pivoting around so that he is no longer facing Surtur. A multitude of superhero movies attempt to use this comedic response and shatter the illusion of an epic villain moment. However, many result in cringe-worthy clichés. “Ragnarok” somehow dodges such predictability or tastelessness.
The real humor heavy-lifter of “Ragnarok” is the rock alien Korg (Taika Waititi). This Big Friendly Giant with a lighthearted New Zealand accent greets Thor when Thor is sent to await his turn in the Contest of Champions. “I’m made of rocks, as you can see. But don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid unless you’re made of scissors,” Korg chuckles. “Just a little rock-paper-scissor joke for you.” Korg wound up in the prison with Thor because he intended to start a revolution, but did not print enough pamphlets, “so hardly anyone showed up, except for my mum and her boyfriend who I hate.”
Korg is the perfect example of the nonsensical liberties the writers of “Ragnarok” were able to take and play with. Beyond that, there are hella iconic women in this film. Literally named Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor and Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) sister breaks free from her prison in lieu of their father’s death. Her Maleficent-esque aesthetics and energies produce a genuine threat and a somber balance to an otherwise farce-like film. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) displays a converse style of badassery, meeting Thor for the first time in a pile of garbage, in contrast with Hela’s introductory cliffside battle encounter.
More campy moments from the film include Thor stopping to take a selfie and hold up a peace sign with fans in New York, and the Epcot-like ride Thor goes through prior to meeting the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Not to mention the iconic elevator scene in which Loki pleads, “We are not doing ‘Get Help,’” swiftly followed by them using this skit strategy to attain passage, Loki leaning on Thor as Thor yells, “Get help! Please, my brother, he’s dying!”
Walking that line of humor and sobriety appears to be the perfect storm Marvel should strive towards. A massive critique people hold for Marvel is its overuse of green screens and CGI (computer-generated imagery). The beauty of “Ragnarok” is its lack of attempts at hiding this strategy. “Ragnarok” leans into its cheesy environments paired with highly theatrical acting performances. Chris Hemsworth’s characterization of Thor is often more befitting of Broadway stages than the big screen, which seems an appropriate character choice for a Herculean himbo. Raise your glass to the hope that future Marvel films yield the reverence that “Ragnarok” has. Now shatter your glass on the ground. “Another!”
“Thor: Ragnarok” is available to stream on Disney Plus.
By Risa Bolash