I know I’m late to the party, but I don’t think Thor: Ragnarok is very good.

Alright before you get to shooting me, I realize that it’s pretty much Internet heresy at this point to suggest that Thor: Ragnarok is not one of the greatest superhero films of all time, and by far the greatest Marvel film. It’s taken critics and audiences by storm for taking the set up for the Thor movies, which so far had been mostly kind of ‘meh,’ and turning it into a hilarious galactic/mythological adventure. Everyone adored it.

Except me, apparently.

Alright, I’ll admit that at least part of my reaction was that I saw the film after everyone and their mother had, and with all the ranting and raving I’d heard, the movie had big shoes to fill. There was a lot of hype on Thor: Ragnarok and all my friends told me it was fantastic, so going in my expectations might have been too high.

But there were also things that I just didn’t like about the film. Honestly they made me somewhat angry about the movie and its reception. Thor: Ragnarok is not a great film; I don’t even know if I’d call it a good film. And I stand by that assessment. I’m not writing this to tell you that you should hate this movie, or that you are dumb for liking it. I just hope to point out that this isn’t exactly the glorious cinematic masterpiece that everyone says it is.

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

The thing that stuck out to me the most about the film was how it just wasn’t very good at maintaining any serious tone. There were serious moments, to be sure, but they were almost all undercut by comedic moments and lines. The jokes were funny, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t change that they should not have been in some of those moments. It wasn’t even really dark humor, it was just humor that showed that the makers of the film refused to take the story seriously at any point. Thor, the Asgardian prince, the hero and the defender of his people, is being kidnapped and tortured, all the while he’s desperately trying to get back home so he can protect his people and his friends…and we’re all laughing at how hilarious it is that he’s being slapped around by slavers.

“The hero’s been enslaved and tortured and can’t help the home he loves from being taken over by a homicidal maniac! Tee-hee!”

When Hulk finally turns back into Bruce Banner, we find out that he’s been that way since Age of Ultron, and that he’s afraid that if he transforms into Hulk again, he’ll never be able to turn back. He utterly despises becoming the Hulk, the fact that he might have hurt people, but Thor only talks nicely to him because he needs his help, makes it clear he prefers Hulk to Banner, and the film makes light of the fact that Hulk has killed dozens in the arena, something that would horrify Bruce Banner When he sees that the people of Asgard are in trouble and he’s the only one that can help, he bravely leaps into Fenrir’s path to stop…and flops on the Bitfrost, unconscious, as he hasn’t transformed yet. He then transforms into the Hulk and the fight begins in earnest. He actually goes so far as to try to fight the giant Surtur, and is hilariously slapped away and Thor has to call him off.

“This guy might spend the rest of his life as a murderous alternate personality he despises, and the only familiar face he has around him doesn’t care! Tee-hee!”

The end of the film sees Asgard itself destroyed, but we’re all just chuckling because as the people of Asgard are watching the only home they’ve only known be destroyed, Korg has some funny lines. He tells them that they can still be rebuilt as long as the foundations are there. Right after he says that, on cue, Asgard is completely obliterated and nothing is left, prompting him to correct himself.

“These people are watching their home world be destroyed! Tee-hee!”

It isn’t just that there are jokes to lighten what should be a dark movie. If we were just talking about comic relief, I’d let it slide, but this goes beyond that. Thor: Ragnarok absolutely refuses to take these moments seriously, and that’s a problem. If the film doesn’t take these issues seriously, then why should we? I’ve seen tons of people deride 2017’s Justice League for having problems with consistent tone, but Thor: Ragnarok was by far much worse. The Asgardians are watching their home being obliterated, and we’re invited to laugh at it because Korg said something stupid.

It seems as if the film has trouble taking anything seriously, with seemingly every other line being a joke. Turns out the portal that they need to use to escape Sakaar? Is called ‘the Devil’s Anus.’ That’s…not even particularly clever or really something that makes much sense in-context of the setting. But hey, we needed a butt joke, I guess.

Moving aside from the humor, there are Plot Holes you could drive a truck through. Mind you, plenty of superhero movies have this to a degree, but Thor: Ragnarok has them by the bucketload. The new villain, Hela, is Odin’s eldest daughter, whom absolutely no one has ever mentioned before this point? In the hundreds of years Thor and Loki spent in Asgard, no one ever mentioned or thought about the fact that they had an older sister? Given Asgardian lifespans, it’s downright impossible that there would be no one else who knew about Hela, especially when we find out that she’s the one who wiped out the Valkyries (which both Loki and Thor have heard of). The surviving Valkyrie is definitely nowhere near as old as Odin, so there are Asgardians within living memory who should be familiar with Hela.

We’re explicitly told that time is different on Sakaar, I guess, but that doesn’t actually mean anything other than “We don’t want to explain why Loki’s here earlier than Thor.” As far as anyone can tell Hela’s takeover of Asgard is happening alongside Thor’s adventures in a parallel fashion; no time shenanigans here. It seems more like a handwave to say that the film’s not interested in making a coherent backstory or timeline rather than anything else.

And there’s also no reason that Hela didn’t kill Valkyrie (a character who the film doesn’t bother to even give an actual name)? We see that a blonde valkyrie takes a shot for her, but there isn’t any reason Hela would miss that there was another valkyrie right behind her? It’s unclear as to why she’s not dead.

I think most of all though, this film does not care about character. Valkyrie’s reaction to be the last surviving member of her order is essentially to become an alcoholic slaver who sends her innocents to be killed in the arena, yet we’re meant to overlook this because she’s an Asgardian upset at Hela. The Warriors Three, who by all earlier accounts are among Thor’s best friends and valiant fighters, are killed off with little fanfare by Hela, and Thor doesn’t hear this news, much less mourn their deaths. Sif is not in the film, due to Jaimie Alexander having commitments with her show Blindspot, but she also isn’t even mentioned making her role as one of the supporting characters of the franchise kind of moot.

Character arcs are kind of ignored for the most part, really. The Grandmaster, for instance, is just some guy. He’s a villain, I guess, but Thor doesn’t have any particular enmity for him, nor does he care about Thor much at all except as a gladiator. There’s a rebellion against him by the people of Sakaar, but Thor, Loki and Valkyrie have nothing to do with that and don’t care about it other than a means to suit their own ends. His downfall is relegated to an after-credits gag, because that’s all the Grandmaster is: a gag. He doesn’t contribute much to the Plot, he doesn’t have any thematic meaning, he doesn’t mean anything to the characters, he’s just there because Jeff Goldblum is funny.

Hela is also a rather boring villain, for all the fans’ assertions that she’s not. Yes, she reveals the problematic nature of Odin’s empire and all, but as a character, Hela’s one trait is that she’s a homicidal maniac. I’ve seen some try to point out that she’s evidence of Odin’s terrible parenting, but honestly it just seems that Hela’s always been a homicidal maniac. She never shows herself capable of anything else. There’s no indication that she was once not willing to murder people, that Odin turned her into a weapon, or that she has any soft side at all. The only other argument I’ve heard for why she’s a great character is that she’s a female villain, as if that in and of itself makes her interesting. She’s not complex, she’s just…another murder-happy villain.

I’m not against any of these things: important characters can be killed to great effect, dickish characters can be redeemed, absent characters can be written out, and villains can be simple. But the movie doesn’t bother writing these things in any coherent fashion. Valkyrie’s redemption arc is just plain skipped, Sif isn’t mentioned, and the Warriors Three are just cannon fodder for the villain. The villains are just there to be threats or to be jokes, with no connection to the heroes at all (in the Grandmaster’s case) or to be a onenote monster to be put down (as Hela’s case). I understand that when making a movie series, one does not have the time and liberties that something like a television series has when it comes to giving time to characterization, because important cinematic moments have to be the main draw of the film. But this movie didn’t even try to write in these issues.

There are continuity issues to contend with as well. The film seems to establish that the Asgardians, or at least the ones of the royal family, are actually gods. Odin calls them gods, and a major plot point is that Thor’s power isn’t in his hammer, but within himself. This is in direct contradiction to the previous Thor films in which their powers are implied and at times outright explained as advanced technology. Odin even says at the beginning of the second Thor film that they aren’t gods. It’s a retcon I don’t mind so much because I like this take on the characters much better, and the ‘sufficiently advanced aliens’ thing only went so far in making any sense. But it’s a glaring retcon, and pokes holes all through continuity when it comes to these characters and their universe.

“But Juracan! This movie fixes the Plot Hole with the Infinity Gauntlet being in Odin’s treasure room! That’s good continuity!”

Yeah, but did it need to? The Infinity Gauntlet appearing in the first Thor film was an Easter Egg. That fans were frothing at the mouth about the continuity of this one artifact appearing in one shot of a movie continues to boggle my mind. It’s an Easter Egg, not a Plot Hole. That doesn’t stop big sites like IGN calling the Infinity Gauntlet’s appearance “Marvel’s Biggest Plot Hole.”

And even if it was, does that change that Thor: Ragnarok is a mess of a movie? It doesn’t care about the seriousness of the events handled, it doesn’t care about its characters, it doesn’t care about continuity, but before Black Panther it was lauded by many critics and fans as the best Marvel film, because…it’s funny, I guess? I am baffled guys. It’s an enjoyable and competently-made film, at best, but it’s not great, and it’s not the best Marvel’s ever done by a longshot. I’m honestly confused why critics loved this movie as much as they did when it’s so amateur in executing its narrative.

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Comment

  1. TMary on 30 March 2018, 05:07 said:

    I can’t say for sure how great of a review this was or whether I’d agree with it, since I’ve never seen Thor: Ragnarok (or any of the Thor movies…or…very nearly anything from this decade. As far as movies go, I’m old). However, I found it well-written and informative, which is what people want from a review anyway, so thanks for that! :)

    There were a couple of things I wanted to discuss further. The first one I can get out of the way really quick: The idea that a villain (or any character) being a woman automatically makes her interesting and good, and if you criticize her, you’re sexist. It’s like, I get that women are often underrepresented in movies and books and whatnot, but let’s not sit here and pretend that just because we see a woman in an important role, that automatically makes her a good and interesting character. Being willing to settle for NOT good and interesting characters because hey, she’s a woman, just makes the problem worse. We’re out of the fifties now, y’all, it’s time to bring our standards up – and the fifties had some good and interesting female characters, by heck!

    The second one was actually something I was just thinking about, and that’s the problem of tone in a movie. Like you said, there’s nothing wrong with having a few comedic moments in an otherwise serious movie, and nothing wrong with a few serious moments in an otherwise comedic movie, but you have to decide what tone you’re going for, otherwise your audience is going to be confused. And I feel like it’s harder the latter way than it is the former. In Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, there are definitely some comedic moments, but the overall feel is pretty serious, so the result is that the comedy just kind of gives you a chance to relax, which makes you feel better and appreciate the serious moments more. In The Princess Bride (which I just recently watched, so reeeally late to the party on that one), there were definitely some serious moments, like, say Inigo’s backstory and his fight against Count Rugen, but the whole feel was kind of silly, which leads to a somewhat awkward feeling when you get to the serious moments. You’re still in laughing mode, so to speak, and so when the movie broadsides you with “My father was killed by a six-fingered man and I have sworn vengeance”, you go, “Ha! That was ludicro-no, wait, that was actually sad, gee, sorry, Inigo.” There’s a certain tension and confusion when the serious moments come up, so it feels a bit jarring.

    DISCLAIMER: I liked The Princess Bride, please don’t lynch me, Internet. I actually liked the book quite a bit better, though; the tone felt a little more balanced, there was room for more story, and I felt more interested in Westley and Buttercup’s characters. But I liked the movie just fine – it was fun, it was entertaining, and it distracted me from a migraine I’d been having for the last three days.

    And even with The Princess Bride, I understood what they wanted from me. Mostly, I was supposed to laugh, and occasionally I was supposed to actually feel something, and I could do that. But it sounds like Ragnarok here couldn’t decide what tone it wanted. Is it supposed to be silly? If so, it doesn’t feel like a silly situation. Is it supposed to be serious? If so, you’re not treating it as if it is, so why should I? You yourself have to know what you want from your audience, or else it just results in them being confused and jarred by every turn of events.

    Or maybe not, since, like you said, you seem to be the only one who didn’t like it. shrug At any rate, I enjoyed this review, so you seem to have accomplished something. :)

  2. Princesselwen on 30 March 2018, 21:38 said:

    You actually articulated a lot of the problems I had with this movie, and why I didn’t like it very much. So no, you aren’t the only one to dislike it.

    Other Marvel movies balance their drama/comedy ratios much better, such as The Avengers, the Iron Man films, the first two Captain America movies, the original Thor, and more recently, Black Panther. The last one is interesting because it deals with some of the same plot elements as Thor: Ragnarok, but keeps them dramatic instead of playing them for comedy, and the story is much better for it.

    I think the tone in Thor: Ragnarok was trying to be too similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, and it didn’t work. (And the 2nd GOTG had a problem with turning everything up to 11, as well as presenting stuff-that-shouldn’t-be funny as funny. But it was still better than Thor 3.)

    And I agree with the 1st commenter’s statements about female characters. I’m tired of people telling me ‘like this character! She’s female!’

  3. Dragonstorm on 30 March 2018, 23:45 said:

    The tone of Ragnarok really bothered me too, although I did still enjoy the movie. I enjoyed your analysis!

  4. lastcerebrate on 31 March 2018, 16:10 said:

    Hello
    I found the review interesting Juracan and thought of a note on The Last Jedi that it had too much “Marvel style” humor.
    I would have to agree that the film doesn’t sound like a superhero action film, it sounds like a comedy. I haven’t watched the Marvel films past Iron Man 3, and am kind of hesitant to jump back in because I’ve heard they reference everyone else. Do you think it’s worthwhile to watch the other films?
    Have a good day.

  5. Juracan on 1 April 2018, 10:53 said:

    The idea that a villain (or any character) being a woman automatically makes her interesting and good, and if you criticize her, you’re sexist. It’s like, I get that women are often underrepresented in movies and books and whatnot, but let’s not sit here and pretend that just because we see a woman in an important role, that automatically makes her a good and interesting character. Being willing to settle for NOT good and interesting characters because hey, she’s a woman, just makes the problem worse. We’re out of the fifties now, y’all, it’s time to bring our standards up – and the fifties had some good and interesting female characters, by heck!

    To be fair, I haven’t seen a lot of people pull the “If you don’t like her you’re sexist!” card with Hela, but there’s been a lot of crooning about how great she is as a villain, and how Marvel finally got a female antagonist, when I don’t think she’s particularly deep. She’s memorable, but she’s not very deep. I didn’t have much issue with her character, I just didn’t understand why people heaped praise when Hela’s not all that complex.

    The second one was actually something I was just thinking about, and that’s the problem of tone in a movie. Like you said, there’s nothing wrong with having a few comedic moments in an otherwise serious movie, and nothing wrong with a few serious moments in an otherwise comedic movie, but you have to decide what tone you’re going for, otherwise your audience is going to be confused. And I feel like it’s harder the latter way than it is the former. In Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, there are definitely some comedic moments, but the overall feel is pretty serious, so the result is that the comedy just kind of gives you a chance to relax, which makes you feel better and appreciate the serious moments more.

    See the issue I take more with Hunchback is that a lot of the comedic moments in that are from the gargoyles, who really don’t add anything much to the story at all. That’s a different issue from what’s going on in Thor: Ragnarok though, and as you said it’s separate from the serious moments, so it still holds together well enough. There aren’t a lot of jokes when Frollo’s on the scene, for instance, which shows you exactly how we’re supposed to take that character. Compare this to Ragnarok which is loaded to the brim with jokes whenever the villains are on screen.

    I liked The Princess Bride, please don’t lynch me, Internet. I actually liked the book quite a bit better, though; the tone felt a little more balanced, there was room for more story, and I felt more interested in Westley and Buttercup’s characters. But I liked the movie just fine – it was fun, it was entertaining, and it distracted me from a migraine I’d been having for the last three days.

    I agree that the book’s better—I actually didn’t like the movie that much? But in any case, the very nature of that story was one that allowed it to be comedic. It’s an old-timey fairy-tale type story that a man is reading to his grandson (in the film) or that is being abridged for the audience (the novel). To an extent it realizes how ridiculous it is at times.

    I think Thor: Ragnarok does too, but instead of keeping itself balanced it with serious moments, like say, Inigo’s whole plotline, or the torture of Wesley, it just refuses to make anything actually serious.

    But it sounds like Ragnarok here couldn’t decide what tone it wanted. Is it supposed to be silly? If so, it doesn’t feel like a silly situation. Is it supposed to be serious? If so, you’re not treating it as if it is, so why should I? You yourself have to know what you want from your audience, or else it just results in them being confused and jarred by every turn of events.

    The thing is, I think Ragnarok knew exactly what it wanted to be. It’s a straight-forward action comedy. Supposedly the original cut of the movie was serious, but test audiences found it boring so it was re-edited so that all the humor was back in the movie to make it a comedy. And while it’s not a boring movie anymore, to be sure, I felt as if it just didn’t care at all about making anything matter. It was just a massive gag, but one that was yanking around important elements that it shouldn’t have.

    At any rate, I enjoyed this review, so you seem to have accomplished something. :)

    Thank you! Glad I could provide an interesting article.

    Other Marvel movies balance their drama/comedy ratios much better, such as The Avengers, the Iron Man films, the first two Captain America movies, the original Thor, and more recently, Black Panther. The last one is interesting because it deals with some of the same plot elements as Thor: Ragnarok, but keeps them dramatic instead of playing them for comedy, and the story is much better for it.

    That’s…something I hadn’t thought about, and I think maybe I should have, especially because I loved Black Panther much more as a film. I think another key difference is that all of BP actually ties together much more neatly. Like I said in the review, Thor: Ragnarok has the main character spend most of his time on another planet that has very little to do, thematically or developmentally, with the conflict with Hela. He’s just there to keep him out of the way for a while. Black Panther on the other hand has all of its screen time dedicated to developing the characters and world in a way that all connects.

    I think the tone in Thor: Ragnarok was trying to be too similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, and it didn’t work. (And the 2nd GOTG had a problem with turning everything up to 11, as well as presenting stuff-that-shouldn’t-be funny as funny. But it was still better than Thor 3.)

    I’d have to re-watch Guardians 2 again. I didn’t think it had this issue too much, but if it did it certainly wasn’t to the extent as Ragnarok as you pointed out. There were, by the end of the movie, things that I didn’t think I was supposed to laugh at, and when the villain was revealed the entire thing was played mostly seriously.

    I’ve actually heard a lot of people say they liked Ragnarok because it was like the Guardians movies, when…I don’t think, aside from trying to be funny and a nostalgic song in the soundtrack (which is played twice in the movie, for…reasons). It didn’t have any of the things that made Guardians worth watching though; it was just…humor for it’s own sake, with little regard to things like character development and growth.

    The first Guardians film introduces and develops five different characters in the main group. Ragnarok sort of develops Thor and Loki a bit and then makes a bunch of stupid jokes with everyone else without giving them development.

    The tone of Ragnarok really bothered me too, although I did still enjoy the movie. I enjoyed your analysis!

    Thanks! Like I said, I didn’t necessarily want to shame anyone for liking it, but I did want to point out that I wasn’t a fan and explain why.

    I would have to agree that the film doesn’t sound like a superhero action film, it sounds like a comedy. I haven’t watched the Marvel films past Iron Man 3, and am kind of hesitant to jump back in because I’ve heard they reference everyone else. Do you think it’s worthwhile to watch the other films?

    I think it’s worthwhile, yes, because some of the Marvel films are genuinely good movies. So yeah, while I didn’t enjoy this film and I thought it was the example of everything Marvel does wrong, I don’t think it’s a good indicator of the quality. Black Panther, which came out recently, was spectacularly good, for instance, and I’d highly recommend seeing it.

    So yeah, Marvel movies are worth checking out for sure.

  6. Princesselwen on 1 April 2018, 21:17 said:

    Post-Iron Man 3, I’d recommend Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World, Ant-Man, and Black Panther as really good movies; and Dr. Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 as not quite as good, but still enjoyable. (Dr. Strange has AMAZING effects. I personally didn’t care for Avengers: Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War, though.) Of the ones I mentioned, Winter Soldier, Dr. Strange, Thor 2 and Black Panther are more dramatic, while Ant-Man is a comedy, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are a mixture of both.

  7. TMary on 6 April 2018, 22:01 said:

    To be fair, I haven’t seen a lot of people pull the “If you don’t like her you’re sexist!” card with Hela, but there’s been a lot of crooning about how great she is as a villain, and how Marvel finally got a female antagonist, when I don’t think she’s particularly deep. She’s memorable, but she’s not very deep. I didn’t have much issue with her character, I just didn’t understand why people heaped praise when Hela’s not all that complex.

    That’s fair, though I do feel like it ties into the same argument – she is deep and worthy of praise-heaping because she is a female character, when…that’s just not how it works.

    See the issue I take more with Hunchback is that a lot of the comedic moments in that are from the gargoyles, who really don’t add anything much to the story at all. That’s a different issue from what’s going on in Thor: Ragnarok though, and as you said it’s separate from the serious moments, so it still holds together well enough. There aren’t a lot of jokes when Frollo’s on the scene, for instance, which shows you exactly how we’re supposed to take that character.

    That is also true; I kind of just picked Hunchback because I’d just rewatched it and it was the first mainly serious movie I could come up with off the top of my head. XD I know a lot of people criticize the gargoyles for that (not adding much to the story except humor), and just for existing in general, though I never really had a problem with them. The movie does know when to usher them off the stage when things are getting serious, though, as you noted, and even the gargoyles are capable of some serious moments.

    Compare this to Ragnarok which is loaded to the brim with jokes whenever the villains are on screen.

    The trouble with that is that it can work to have jokes while the villain is onscreen and still have the villain be taken seriously, though it takes both serious guts and talent to pull this off. I feel like the webcomic Order of the Stick does this pretty well; it’s mainly a comedy and an affectionate parody of D&D and general storytelling tropes, so there’s jokes galore no matter which villains are onscreen (heck, sometimes the jokes come from the villains), but it’s still interspersed with enough seriousness and taking serious things seriously that it works. (It’s also gotten much better in this regard in later strips; when it started out it was much sillier.)

    I agree that the book’s better—I actually didn’t like the movie that much?

    Ah, so it wasn’t just me, lol. I liked it okay, I just wasn’t blown away or anything. Although it does make for some excellent GIFs.

    The thing is, I think Ragnarok knew exactly what it wanted to be. It’s a straight-forward action comedy. Supposedly the original cut of the movie was serious, but test audiences found it boring so it was re-edited so that all the humor was back in the movie to make it a comedy. And while it’s not a boring movie anymore, to be sure, I felt as if it just didn’t care at all about making anything matter. It was just a massive gag, but one that was yanking around important elements that it shouldn’t have.

    Ah, well, then, my analysis was off; it was just trying and failing to be what it was supposed to be, and not understanding what makes that thing work. I understand wanting humor in a movie to liven things up, I really do, but even Marx Brothers movies have moments that are meant to be taken seriously! Too much humor gets just as wearing as too little of it. It’s like your dumb friend who starts cracking jokes about a family member’s death; sometimes you need to stop, y’know?

    Thank you! Glad I could provide an interesting article.

    You’re welcome, thank you!

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