At this point, Marvel studios is like the fast food of the movie industry. They can quickly make a crowd-pleasing product that easily turns in a profit. However, just like a fast food establishment, Marvel follows strict formulas for their products. After a few samples, all of it starts to seem the same with little to no variation between products. Luckily for Marvel, they do experience moments of experimentation that revitalizes an audience who is increasingly experiencing “superhero fatigue.”
The previous Thor movies have always been regarded as some of the weakest in Marvel’s universe, and, coincidentally, they are also the most formulaic. So it comes as no surprise that Thor: Ragnarok feels like the best of the trilogy, given it abandons the tone and formula, not only of the previous Thor films, but also of Marvel movies as a whole.
Thor: Ragnarok finds the titular character between a rock and a hard place. His powerful hammer has been smashed to pieces, and he’s stranded on a barbaric planet where people are forced to do gladiator-style battles. He must fight his way out of imprisonment in order to stop a powerful villain from taking over his home, Asgard.
Right away, the plot feels different from other Thor movies. The previous movies felt the need to ground this character in human reality; to have his battles take place on earth, while ignoring all the possible potential fun that the “nine realms” presented. Ragnarok, instead, takes full advantage of its other-worldly setting and doesn’t bore us with human love interests or plots to destroy earth.
Ragnarok refreshingly takes itself less seriously than other Marvel films. The movie not only pokes fun at melodramatic ideas of the first movies, but also makes fun of the more ridiculous aspects of Thor’s world. As a result, this is the most comedic Marvel film since Guardians of the Galaxy. Ragnarok even fits the structure of a traditional comedy better than Guardians, making it the closest thing to a true Marvel-produced comedy movie.
The characters benefit from these changes to the story and tone. Thor, whose arrogance and deus-ex-machina weapon has been shattered, must find himself in the midst of a crisis. As a result, we get to see Thor’s power displayed like never before, backed by the most natural-feeling performance Chris Hemsworth has given as the character.
His co-star in this movie, the Hulk, has more presence in this movie than perhaps any other Marvel team-up film. The beast has totally taken over Bruce Banner’s psyche since he’s been stuck on this planet of warriors, leading to many scenes of banter between a child-like Hulk and an often confused Thor. It’s all a ton of fun, especially when accompanied by a Led Zeppelin song, or the movie’s 80s-influenced soundtrack.
In a movie that’s so much fun, the moments that weigh the gleeful experience down will bother you most. The movie’s villain, Hela, tends to generate the duller moments. Many of her scenes mark the end of the colorful, fun mood of the movie, and keep the movie from feeling like a true comedy. Her scenes of monologue would be more fitting for one of the previous Thor movies, with yawn-inducing exposition, and delusions of grandeur worthy of eye-rolls. They may be necessary to the plot, but they place a rain cloud over a vibrant and lively party. Thankfully, when the two main plots converge at the end, things balance out nicely.
If recent Marvel outings such as Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 left you feeling a little dull, Thor: Ragnarok may be the reminder you need about how fun superhero movies can be. I had a blast with it, and even if you’re not fond of the superhero genre, you’ll probably find yourself having fun too.