Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.
There is no denying that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a triumphant success in defining what modern intertextuality between films was. However, the MCU is starting to show signs of losing their unique qualities. While each film has enough entertainment value to be enjoyed during their first viewing, they often lack compelling drama. This is mostly due to the hindering MCU cliche where any thematic weight is sacrificed for an unnecessary joke that takes the viewer out of the narrative.
“Thor: Ragnarok” is perhaps the worst offender of this trope, as the film constantly tries to emulate the Saturday morning cartoon vibe that “Guardians of the Galaxy” popularized. Any remnants of the Shakespearean story elements from the first “Thor” film are thrown out in favor of an odd meta take on the Thor mythos. They joke about how silly Norse mythology sounds and poke fun at how the MCU has been building up the importance of the Infinity Stones that will play a huge part in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Ragnarok” spends so much time pandering to a crowd who complains when these characters are taken too seriously that the film seemingly punishes viewers who want some authentic emotions aside from laughing at ad-libs.
The film’s director, Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) is a fantastic visionary and storyteller when he’s allowed to produce an original production, but his skills are not fit for “Ragnarok.” His choice of allowing 80% of the film to be improvised creates a vapid narrative that becomes very obvious to the viewer.
Waititi even throws in some references to the previous “Thor” films that feel as though they only exist to mock them. While this trilogy’s predecessors have been looked upon as being the weaker entries in the MCU catalog, it comes across as immature.
As for the plot, it’s about what fans have come to expect. The hero must face a villain — who’s played by an actor/actress who deserves better material — and teases what’s to come for the next “Avengers” film.
It’s a shame that these films are starting to become stale, because some of the future releases show great promise in allowing unique and creative filmmakers to make films that get them more attention, such as Ryan Coogler with “Black Panther.”
In the end, the MCU needs to return to the roots of what made them popular in the first place and move away from downplaying any sense of legitimate plot development. Films in their first phase, like “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” had a perfect blend of action, comedy and drama that never conflicted with the narrative, but rather they complemented them. Say what you will about films like “Man of Steel” or “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but at the very least they stuck to an established tone and didn’t distract themselves with forced humor reminiscent of middle school.