The last time we saw Thor, if you discount the post-credit sequence in Doctor Strange, he set off to investigate his vision of the ‘Infinity Stones’ following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, one might assume, as I did, that Ragnarok would see this final McGuffin or perhaps simply allude to its location. However, we learn that Thor’s two-year long mission has been fairly uneventful, and the final stone remains a mystery, at least for the moment. Instead, the God of Thunder is tasked with finding his father and protecting Asgard from ruin.
“[Ragnarok] mirrors the visual style of Henry Braham’s work with Guardians of the Galaxy, with brighter and more vibrant colours and a subtle nostalgic quality.”
While Marvel films have never taken themselves too seriously, director Taiki Waititi made a conscious decision to make light of the otherwise classical hero. Comic relief in Thor’s preceding outings could be found in characters like Darcy played by Kat Dennings, and in the awkwardness and juxtaposition of various Asgardians on Midgard. This time around, however, it would be easier to list characters that don’t provide comic relief. After all, this is the first Thor film to follow the successes of both Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel. Therefore, it would be easy to assess that this formula is lifted directly from James Gunn’s work with the franchise.
Aesthetically, Javier Aguirresarobe’s work as the cinematographer is by no means akin to Thor’s last stand-alone adventure, and instead mirrors the visual style of Henry Braham’s work with Guardians, with brighter and more vibrant colours and a subtle nostalgic quality. Thor’s introductory narration, which references the type of fourth-wall-break that can be found in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; a staple of Hollywood comedy in the 1980s, sets the tone as a light-hearted nostalgia film. Waititi even goes as far as to include a track by Led Zeppelin twice during the film’s run, which fits perfectly with the action and sentimental visual style.
As Thor’s character evolves, we finally see his abilities and status as a ‘God’ are being explored, beyond the model of masculinity we’ve seen twirling a hammer so many times before. The Hulk returns, and plays incredibly well alongside the God of Thunder. His character arc is relatively poignant, and we are forced to separate Banner from the Hulk, as Bruce’s anxiety about his hostile green counterpart increases. Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, is introduced as an engaging and rather comical take on the otherwise fairly serious character and Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, makes a classically brilliant villain with a creative alteration to her comic-book origins. While Doctor Strange makes a somewhat shoehorned appearance, it is a somewhat hamfisted attempt to connect him to the shared universe.
For the most part, Thor: Ragnarok is a light-hearted film, which from the start shifted the protagonist from the somber and unyielding character we’ve seen before to humorous and modest. But in the absence of dignity, it became difficult to find gravity in the films more solemn moments, character deaths were quickly dismissed with little emotion. It’s difficult to form a serious or emotional response to the film when the narrative becomes formulaic and there’s little time to take a breath between jokes. While I liked the film, and found the cinematography and characterization engaging, it was difficult for me to take it seriously, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s shifted the course of the franchise’s grand storyline. I would definitely recommend watching this film, but in the knowledge that Marvel can do better.