This piece features NO spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok is funny. Really, really funny. It’s no stretch to call it the comedic highlight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Taika Waititi brought a sense of irreverence and absurdity that had only been hinted at in Marvel films like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Ant-Man.
But, this sense of humor comes with a cost. And it’s one that threatens to undermine the entirety of Thor: Ragnarok.
The plot of Thor: Ragnarok involves the goddess of death, Hela, returning to Asgard in order to subjugate and even destroy the entire planet’s population. Now, it’s not a spoiler to say that a few notable characters don’t make it out alive. And the stakes have never been more personal for the God of Thunder.
But, all of that feels completely weightless because of how farcical the tone of the film is. The entire endeavor lacks any real punch because the movie is already moving on to the next bit of silliness. When you’re in the middle of it all, it doesn’t really register due to the truly enjoyable spirit of the film. But, once you’ve left the theater and removed all the jokes and goofiness from the experience, you realize how little of the film felt like it mattered.
It doesn’t help that Thor: Ragnarok really comes across as two separate movies.
Sakaar vs. Asgard
The film starts off with a breezy pace and cheery disposition. It perfectly sets the mood and gets you on the movie’s ludicrous wavelength. Then, Hela shows up and the movie presents the gravity of its threat. During this moment, Thor is knocked into space and ends up on the planet Sakaar.
From here on until the climax, the story is split into two parts. There is Hela’s conquest of Asgard and Thor’s adventure on Sakaar. While there are certainly moments of playfulness during Hela’s scenes, the approach is clearly meant to be more serious and sinister.
On the other hand, Thor’s quest to escape Sakaar is nothing but an utter joy. The giddy nature of this part of the movie — which is really the bulk of the film — keeps the audience distanced from the truly harrowing events going on back on Asgard. Yes, we flash over there from time to time courtesy of Heimdall, but it almost feels like a calculated measure in order to make sure we don’t forget that we’re supposed to be deeply invested.
But, we’re not. We’re having a ball with the movie while it’s on Sakaar, but the driving force of the story feels so boilerplate. And it should be the biggest threat in Thor’s entire personal history.
Don’t Take This the Wrong Way
All of this isn’t to say that Thor: Ragnarok is a bad movie. Not at all. It’s the best Thor film by a mile and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. But, as Marvel continues to etch out its particular brand of tone, the balance of serious threat and light humor is beginning to tip in favor of laughs.
This leads to lots of the flaws in Marvel movies to be glossed over because the films are such fun experiences. Thor: Ragnarok is the biggest culprit of this. If this trend continues, will we even feel the major stakes of something like Avengers: Infinity War when every other line or scene is an attempt at a joke?
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now. Let me know if you find that the comedy outweighs the drama.
P.S. – In case you were wondering, I did love Hulk in this movie.