Thor: Ragnarok Offers Fresh Comedy and Dark Themes, But Still Predictable

Thor: Ragnarok Offers Fresh Comedy and Dark Themes, But Still Predictable

By Jeremy Resurreccion '19, STAFF WRITER

The superhero craze continues to dominate the film industry and set box office records; the highly acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe exemplifies the rewarding efforts of its creativity, determination, and a positive fanbase. A bold and exciting conclusion to Marvel’s 2017 movie lineup, Thor: Ragnarok again proves the effectiveness and energy that Marvel Studios brings in producing traditional, action-packed superhero films that entertain fans new and old. Directed by Taika Waititi, a newcomer to Marvel continuity who is known for his light-hearted comedies Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), the film’s humor-filled scenes and underlying themes manifest in a driving plot that is sure to engage audiences.

Drawing inspiration from the storyline of the Marvel Ragnarok comic series, the film references traditional comic lore while still tying up loose ends from the first two Thor movies. Just two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor, the Norse deity of thunder and heir to the throne of Odin (who rules over the Nine Cosmic Realms of the Marvel movie-verse), is tasked with protecting his homeworld of Asgard in the midst of the prophesied “end of all worlds.” Once again the task involves dangerous villains that Thor must overcome as not only the weight of the heavens and his familial ties is balanced on his shoulders, but his mind is questioned on the meaning of life and his purpose in the wake of incoming destruction and death.

The titular event is inspired from traditional Norse mythology: Ragnarök is a cataclysmic doomsday, which ancient Vikings believed was the final end of their universe; the day would mark a great battle between the forces of the gods and malevolent monsters that would result in the end of world but the creation of another. In essence, Ragnarok symbolizes the cycle of death and rebirth—where the world shall die and be made once again—and thus ensures the continued functioning of the universe and its inhabitants.

The film reflects that cycle: the end of this film cycle’s era is made clear through many character deaths and changes in the plot, but the introduction of new storylines and interactions marks a bold new beginning for the Thor trilogy and the third phase of Marvel movies. Familiar faces are brought back as Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Sir Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), and Idris Elba (Heimdall) reprise their respective roles. Along with these actors new faces pop up: Cate Blanchett portrays Hela, the goddess of death and harbinger of doomsday; Tessa Thompson is introduced as Valkyrie, a fallen Asgardian warden; and Jeff Goldblum makes his Marvel debut as Grandmaster, a mysterious and lewd cosmic entity. The film’s outstanding character performances are due in part to this lively, talented, and diverse cast who all work to give the audience an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Compared to other Marvel films, the movie features dark and adult tones as the battles between good and evil and chaos and order drive the plot. This sudden shift in atmosphere works to add a sense of despair to the franchise overall. It will be interesting to see how future films will be affected by this tonal shift. There are reflections of this vibe in the characters, such as the rare depiction of a lost and hopeless Thor and the apathy and viciousness of Hela. Just like how the CGI-effects in these movies continue to evolve in new ways, the direction of this film is very important to both the Marvel franchise and superhero movies as a whole.

Despite a strong cast performance with superb effects and a cohesive plot, the film is rather traditional in its approach with the story following the traditional structure. Thor is again positioned as the hero at the end of the day, and characters with huge amounts of comic presence (such as Hela) wind up feeling like short-term, one-dimensional plot devices despite early character development. While the movie industry is different from the comic industry in the sense that the use of actors and equipment both add a lot of complications and expenses, the repeated use of these happy “Hollywood endings” makes the story predictable and unoriginal–here and in other films in this genre. The concept of good’s triumph over evil is a very old and powerful theme, but in order for the Marvel universe to continue to thrive they need more diverse approaches to this content.

Thor: Ragnarok is by all means a terrific movie, filled with jokes and action that will captivate your experience. Not only do many consider it to be the best of the Thor trilogy, but it is certainly one of the “must watch” films of 2017.