Why ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Better Than Most Marvel Movies

Out of all of the Thor movies, the latest installation 'Ragnarok' was by far the best out of the series, and it's not for the reason you would expect.
November 21, 2017
10 mins read

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“Thor: Ragnarok” has been rocking box offices since its release and climbing the ranks as one of the best Marvel movies to date. With its 93 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes and 8.2 stars on IMDb, it’s no wonder “Ragnarok” is currently considered the most outrageously fun film Marvel has yet to produce.

The movie stands out and above many of its fellow Marvel counterparts, both in quality and content. It’s a new style for the franchise, a sort of humor-based action-adventure that is likely to have spawned from the recent successes with the two “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. The same 80s retro aesthetic infused with classic oldies rock songs is used in the film, and there is the danger of overuse of the theme, but as of now it works for the two half-god space adventurers and their heroic tales.

I personally really enjoyed the film, which is good because I would’ve been extra disappointed if I had walked three miles across campus in the cold and rain just to see a bad superhero movie, but it’s definitely one of the few movies I would actually call as being good. It’s pleasing to see that (whether “Guardians” actually had an effect on the decision I do not know) Marvel Studios and “Ragnarok’s” director, Taika Waititi, decided to follow the humorous adventure trend. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, something I think majorly constitutes the downfall of other Marvel movies including the two previous installments of “Thor,” and because of that, makes it a lot more refreshing and entertaining to watch.

I think the use of humor does also allows the movie to explore characters in a new way. Humor, like all forms of social communication, can reveal quite a bit about a person. Some research has found a connection among a good sense of humor, better psychological well-being and stronger social self-esteem. Of course, it depends on the type of humor that is used. Aggressive humor, which puts people down definitely, doesn’t allow for better traits, but affiliative humor that  brings people up and creates an uplifting environment does.

What I noticed while watching “Ragnarok” is that Thor, previously characterized as a dumb, blond, muscle-y demigod, was increasingly humorous and comfortable as a character. Of course, the God of Thunder isn’t going to have necessarily human traits because he’s not a human, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t experience character development as a fictional character is ought to do. For me, Thor achieved a lot of character development in this movie and I find his growth, along with the support from some pretty great minor characters, to be the less noticeable strength of the movie.

Some quick disclaimers, I’m going to be look through all of the Thor standalones, including the newest one (obviously), and Avengers movies, so there will be spoilers ahead, and discussion of characters is going to be relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe only.

Thor began his standalone trilogy as a stereotypical spoiled prince. He was a temperamental, petulant, (mostly) selfish character due to his idyllic childhood and his sheer overconfidence in his strength and abilities. Add this to being stranded on Earth as a mortal, the premise of the first installment of Thor, which causes him to appear incompetent and dense, his character is reduced to an archetype: big and strong, yet dumb.

Of course, Thor is still a compelling character to watch. The Shakespearian vibes of the first standalone made the movie interesting and, like every superhero, it was his origin story. Within the first movie, Thor sees some growth. He had to grow or he’d never have gotten Mjolnir back, because, you know, “if he be worthy” and all that. Still, there doesn’t seem to be much to Thor’s character outside of being some powerful pretty boy.

Neither of the Avengers movies help his case either. In ensemble-cast movies like these, only certain characters get to sit in the spotlight, and for the Avengers, that’s Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. As well, with a large ensemble of characters, the plot has to focus on the development of the group rather than the individuals. So, Thor continues to play his strong and dumb archetype throughout the first “Avengers” and the movie even touches on the Shakespearean aspect of his character (or what makes him seem outdated or incompetent) with Tony’s iconic joke: “Dost mother know you weareth her drapes?” “Age of Ultron” doesn’t do much better either, except now Thor’s otherworldly knowledge about the infinity stones, which the team comes in contact with for the first time, shows itself to be useful, but outside of a few one-liners and random information dump, Thor’s character is rather stagnant.

There is also “Thor: The Dark World,” which is the MCU movie with poorest review so far (and for good reasons), it’s rather dull. And the Forbes’ review of “The Dark World” said, “More than any other prior installment, Thor: The Dark World exposes Marvel’s grand film universe as a glorified television series” because, it’s not much more than a filler that doesn’t serve much purpose to the overall story. The characters do bring some charm to the movie, and they’re probably it’s only redeemable quality. I think the movie can be seen as sort of the beginning for Thor and his humor, but in such a mediocre movie, that’s not saying much.

All of this, though, led up to the glorious character that the audience gets to see in “Ragnarok.” Thor is funny, charming, kind and, most of all, likable, which is what the hollow shell of an archetype really prevented him from being. His sense of humor is cheeky and sarcastic, especially in the opening scene of his interaction with the demon Surtur in which Thor is tied and dangling in chains and keeps spinning around and interrupting the demon’s villainous rant shows this.

There comes the return of Loki in one of the funniest scenes in which Thor returns to Asgard after his two-year solo space adventure and Loki, impersonating Odin, takes one look at Thor and says “Oh, shit.” The movie is full of brotherly banter, which is another way that Thor’s character develops. Yes, Loki killed a lot of people in the first movie and is the God of Mischief, but before all of that, they were brothers, and their relationship definitely gets a lot of much needed light shed on it. Thor also loses Mjolnir to his sister and super villainess, Hela, the Goddess of Death, and this loss allows him to find strength in himself and leads to his badass glowing eyes and ability to control lightning via his hands.

“Thor: Ragnarok” will most likely reign as one of the best Marvel movies until the MCU comes to an end (if that ever happens). The movie was colorful, fun and cheerful with many star-studded actors and actresses. It told a fast-paced story with developed characters that are compelling and interesting and likable. I definitely recommend it for a good, enjoyable movie to help take your mind off the much less enjoyable reality we live in right now.

Cheryl Sutton, Purdue University

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Cheryl Sutton

Purdue University
Creative Writing and Sociology

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