Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, is the third film in the Thor franchise and the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After losing his hammer and getting stranded on the planet Sakaar, Thor must escape his imprisonment in order to stop Hela, the goddess of death, from destroying Asgard and causing Ragnarӧk.
When the title for this film was announced a couple years ago, I was beyond excited for the possibilities of this film. There would finally be a deep-dive into the comics and Norse mythology, as well as a story that would have real, impending stakes to it. Then they announced that the “Planet Hulk” storyline was going to be woven in as well, which is very exciting because that is one of the best storylines that Marvel has published in the past twenty years.
Then the trailers came and my excitement was drained. It seemed like a lot of the darker elements that permeate the stories that this film is based on were gone and replaced by jokes. After seeing this film, my exact worry from the trailers was realized. This film is fun, yet very tonally dissonant.
Let’s start off with the positives. All of the performances are great. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston kill it as Thor and Loki, respectively. They have these roles down pat at this point. Tessa Thompson is a great addition to the cast as Valkyrie. She just brings something special that none of the others in the cast could’ve done. And Cate Blanchett is fantastic as Hela. She’s extremely menacing and one of the most engaging villains in the entirety of the MCU in my opinion.
The action scenes are great. They are engaging and simply show a different style that hasn’t been seen in the MCU, or really any superhero film, up to this point. In fact, I would put the Thor/Hulk fight up there as one of the best fights in the MCU. The problem with most of the action scenes in this film though was that it felt like there were little to no stakes for characters, which gets me into my negatives.
My biggest issues with this film are the tonal discrepancies and characterization shifts, mainly in Thor. To start with the characterization issues, there are many times where Thor feels like the Thor that has been set up in his four previous appearances, but when the jokes start flying he just feels like a completely different character.
As for the tonal discrepancies, it just feels like they didn’t know which tone to pick. It consistently bounces back and forth between dark and light tones and never really sticks to one. There will be scenes, character and plot-driven scenes at that, which feel like they will have a great character or story payoff, but then will suddenly be played for a joke. This happens throughout the entirety of the film.
There are constant hints that in the original script, because Waititi apparently improvised a good portion of the film, that are very faithful to the tone and thematic elements of the source material, but are constantly undermined by the apparent need to throw a joke into the mix.
Overall, I had fun with Thor: Ragnarok, but it is not a great film. It has great performances and fun action scenes and many funny jokes, but, at a certain point, the tonal discrepancies simply are unforgivable.