It is clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has taken a humorous turn with its latest films. The comedic dominance of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and Spiderman: Homecoming starkly contrasts the dramatic atmosphere of Captain America: Civil War. With Thor: Ragnarok, the third MCU film to release in 2017, the comedy continues, and works spectacularly. In fact, Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest MCU entry to date and still stays within the bigger story in the MCU.
That is probably Ragnarok’s greatest achievement: it’s terrific balance. From the beginning, director Taika Waititi proved that he has the ability to give equal weight to Ragnarok’s comedy and the greater drama of the MCU. Waititi successfully conveys the outer conflict of the superheroes while entertaining the audience with the slapstick humor we have seen with the other MCU films this year.
In Ragnarok, we see the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) go through many trials and tribulations as he attempts to save his home Asgard from an apocalyptic demise. Spearheading this apocalypse is Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Asgardian goddess of death. While trying to stop Hela, Thor becomes imprisoned and must battle the Hulk, his former ally, in a gladiator-style battle. This match provides a lighter and far more humorous type of a Marvel civil war compared to the 2016 battle between the Avengers.
The thing that particularly stands out about Ragnarok’s comedy is that it legitimately executed well throughout the film. There are very few instances where the jokes fall flat or simply do not work. The successful execution can be attributed to the near-flawless delivery from the actors. Chris Hemsworth really captures all of the comedic dialogue he has and performs it very well on screen. It is obvious that Hemsworth enjoys this change of pace from the other two darker and more serious Thor films. Other great performances come from Tom Hiddleston’s sarcastic Loki and Tessa Thompson as the no-nonsense, alcohol guzzling Valkyrie. All of their performances, along with supporting characters played by Jeff Goldblum and Karl Urban, contribute to the comedic gold.
The biggest negatives in Ragnarok seem to also come from the comedic prominence. The comedy is so big that it at times undercuts the established drama building on Asgard. From the plot description, it is clear that there are two parallel conflicts: Thor getting out of the gladiator-type prison and Hela destroying the entire Asgardian community. The latter conflict is of course the more dramatic and prevalent threat to the characters. Also, the destruction of Asgard has the possibility of affecting the entire MCU. This importance is not conveyed entirely well in Ragnarok, making the overall stakes smaller than it actually should be. The dramatic tension acts simply as a transition from one comedic sequence to the next.
Fortunately, the lack of legitimate drama does not hinder Ragnarok’s constant humor and great pacing. Although the MCU is in a comedic mood right now, the universe is building up to a climactic battle with Thanos (the most powerful Marvel villain) in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War. That film, releasing on April 25, is guaranteed to be a return to Marvel’s darker tone. For now, however, audiences can be entertained and continue the buildup with Thor: Ragnarok.
★★★ out of four