Third and last installment of the “Thor” trilogy provides a typical Marvel spectacle
At this point, it’s just too easy for Marvel to keep churning out solid action films that are neither ground-breaking nor boring. They’ve mastered the formula like no one else. The not-so-secret recipe involves your superhero of choice, an angry, angsty, uber-powerful villain with a secret backstory, said villain beating said hero initially, and said hero returning after some reflection to beat said villain in a final, explosive showdown. Oh, that and lots of witty banter. Put it all together and you have your typical B to B+ grade Marvel movie. With two exceptions (2012’s The Avengers is in its own class, led by Loki, the only great villain Marvel has produced, and 2017’s Spider-Man Homecoming had Marvel’s only other compelling villain, Vulture), this mold fits Thor Ragnarok perfectly.
This film completes the old phase of Marvel series; it is the last of the trio of trios between the original gang of Iron Man (2008, 2010, and 2013), Captain America (2011, 2014, and 2016) and everyone’s favorite God of Thunder, Thor (2011, 2013, and 2017). Ragnarok finalizes the storyline of Asgard and adds to the dangerous brotherly duo of Thor and Loki. But in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy era, where superhero movies now must be funny and flashy, Ragnarok feels more like a Guardians-style comedy than the serious action drama that was Thor: The Dark World. Director Taika Waititi must have watched James Gunn about once a day during production to plagiarize the neon color scheme, spaceship fights, and the rock soundtrack.
Ragnarok is predictable, but fun. Chris Hemsworth reprises his iconic role as Thor, who must face his deadliest foe yet – Hela, the goddess of death (played by a typically icy Cate Blanchett) who has mysteriously appeared to enact a fateful apocalypse upon the kingdom of Asgard. In a pivotal opening scene, she breaks Thor’s hammer, leaving him to grapple with his own identity and power for the rest of the movie. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plays his ever-treacherous game of allegiance, stabbing his brother in the back one second and saving his life the next. But the gravity and depth of Loki’s character is lacking; he is nowhere near as scary good as he was in Avengers or The Dark World. The 2017 Thor and Loki are a bantering, boisterous duo who don’t even take their own betrayals seriously.
Battle scenes abound with the middle hour or so of the film revolves around a massive space betting ring of alien fights, something of a cross between Gladiator and Star Wars. Here, an exiled Thor is shoved into a pit against none other than the long-lost Hulk, who hasn’t been seen since the QuinJet scene from Avengers, and is now living as a crazed monster on the edge of the galaxy. Sparks fly in this epic clash between former friends. Tessa Thompson debuts as a rogue Valkyrie warrioress, who must reconcile with her past to join Thor in taking down Hela. Add in Hela’s wolf sidekick–a mammal much, much bigger than that bear from The Revenant, and you get the gigantic spectacle that is Thor Ragnarok.
The film lacks any serious character development or artistic flair, typical of Marvel. Hela is nothing special, nor is Valkyrie. They do the job, though, which is all Marvel can ask of them. People will pay to see Cate Blanchett as a stereotypical evil goddess, so she’s under no pressure to break new ground; she’s not going for any Oscars here. It would have been nice to see the filmmakers do a little more with Thor and Loki, given how much the franchise and the studio have invested in these recurring characters. Both are alive by the movie’s end, so it’s quite obvious they’ll appear again, likely in Avengers: Infinity War. In terms of message, Ragnarok has about as much creativity or depth as a Nicholas Sparks novel. The central directive could be summed up as “believe in yourself”, or alternatively, “be nice if you have a psychotic, murderous older sister.”
Thor Ragnarok will go down as your standard rank-and-file superhero movie. It’s worth watching but only if you’re in a fun mood. Entertaining it is with a particularly heavy dose of witty dialogue. But, once you’ve seen it, it’s not worth dwelling on – those energies are best directed towards gearing up for Marvel’s Black Panther which is to come out in 2018.
Jack Ferguson is a sophomore majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and double-minoring in Italian and Constitutional Studies. He greatly enjoys feeding the squirrels and O’Shag.