The 17th addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Thor: Ragnarok, which is also the third of its series, was released a few weeks ago but is still showing in theaters. As moviegoers of all ages have flooded the cinemas to celebrate the latest attachment to the franchise, it is obvious that the popularity of Marvel heroes has yet to recede in Korea. However, the Norwegian god has never been the favorite of heroes, nor have his previous movies attracted much attention. Thus, I was wary of viewing Ragnarok in theaters and decided to watch other, more anticipated films. But consistent positive feedback from friends as well as promising reviews from critics caught my attention and had me seated in front of the big screen. There, I was shocked once again by how full the room was. Even though a month had passed since its release, the typically spacious Daejeon Dunsan Lotte Cinema was quite full.
Set two years after the incident at Sokovia, Thor: Ragnarok has Thor locked up in a strange planet where he is forced to battle against none other than the Incredible Hulk. This time, however, he does not even have his beloved hammer. Meanwhile, Hela, the goddess of death, has already begun her evil scheme to take over his home planet, Asgard, and its people.
Despite the short introduction, Ragnarok requires knowledge of previous Marvel movies to fully appreciate it. In particular, the previous Thor movies, as well as the Avengers movies and possibly Doctor Strange, have been suggested as prerequisites (I had not seen Thor: The Dark World, but a friend quickly filled me in with the details).
The most notable feature of Thor: Ragnarok is its humor. Marvel Studios has been known for its characteristic humor for quite a while now, gradually increasing the number of jokes with each movie. However, the source of humor was usually its witty heroes, such as Iron Man and Star-Lord, or light-hearted side characters, such as Groot and Happy. Thor, on the contrary, would be on the other end of the spectrum of humor, possibly along with Captain America. From the opening scene, however, all expectations are broken — Thor consistently makes the audience laugh, while setting the tone for the rest of the movie. This change in character is not unwarranted. After interacting with the rest of the Avengers and other humans, it is plausible that he learned to be less serious at times. This is not to say that he is a completely different character. The writers have succeeded in showing a new side to the Asgardian while maintaining his core traits. He is still hot-headed, proud, and regularly clashes with his younger brother.
Other characters also contribute to the comedy. Grandmaster and Korg are two unique characters that bring some smiles, but the Hulk is perhaps the most unexpectedly funny one. While his chemistry with Thor was amazing, Hulk saw less explicable changes. The uncontrollable green monster suddenly became a tame creature with wit. It was disappointing to see the double-edged, uncontainable power of the Hulk, well-portrayed in The Avengers, turn into a simple weapon that can be used to smash any threat. A final note on the humor would be that the tone oscillated frequently between comical and serious. While I greatly appreciated the laughs, some have complained that they wanted a more stable tone.
A common problem in the MCU is its weak villains. Indeed, Ragnarok does not completely avoid this issue but does manage to improve upon it. Without spoilers, Hela’s character is deeply intertwined with Asgard’s past and has a more lasting impact than other villains. With a more interesting villain follow the inevitable exposition scenes in which her origin story is vocalized to the audience. Although this was a minor concern, I appreciated an evil force with more at stake.
A superhero movie would be incomplete without fascinating action sequences and Ragnarok does not fail to deliver them. Old-fashioned close-combat sword fighting, modern flashy gunfire, and Hela’s supernatural astral projections combined to form mesmerizing scenes. I was curious what Thor would be able to do without his hammer, as that had been his main weapon in every appearance. Without it, he seemed relatively powerless. However, Thor unleashes his full strength to prove that he is not the god of hammers, but rather the true god of thunder.
Thor: Ragnarok brings major changes not only to the character of Thor, but also to the future of Asgard and the MCU. The latest installment succeeds in vivifying the popularity of Thor and placing it as one of the most memorable and fun experiences in Marvel history.