Ah, Marvel. I know it isn’t quite time yet to be looking back on all of your films, but I can’t help but glance back right now.
At least when it comes to how your stories are written. I’ll wait until Avengers 4 to really look back, but that’s not for another 2 years. One thing I can analyze, while just looking back at Spiderman from a couple months ago, is how your writer's approach character development. In Spiderman, it’s very clearly established that Peter Parker is new to the superhero game, and he wants to prove himself to Tony Stark. There is a change that happens in the character throughout the film, where he grows and learns more about himself and the world around him, a “character arc” if you will.
That doesn’t happen in Thor: Ragnarok. It kind of happens for a couple of the side characters, but only in the most cookie cutter way. The only arc Thor has ever had in the movies is from his first film, where he learns to stop being an arrogant child and becomes more of a leader. Thor: The Dark World was the least interesting film that Marvel Studios ever made and deserves nothing more than this sentence to end. And the Avengers films use him more comedically, a fun colorful piece who learns to work with others, just like all the rest of them.
The most that Thor learns in Ragnarok is that the power of thunder was within him the whole time, something that they could have definitely played more of off, but instead decide to fill the film with a metric ass ton of jokes and characters instead of focusing on the main character. The only character that has an actual arc is Skurge (Karl Urban), who goes from a selfish individual to a selfless one, and he honestly didn’t contribute to the actual story in any meaningful way. He could have been taken out and nothing would have changed.
I know it seems like I’ve been shitting on this movie, and you’d be right, but I still liked it. It’s jokes are mostly good, and the action is pretty damn awesome, and I even liked the main story beats, like the stuff set up with Odin and the idea of Ragnarok, i.e. that it's the apocalypse for Asgard. I’m just recognising its flaws as wells as its strengths. I think a lot of the stuff I like comes from director Taika Waititi, who made one my favorite comedies What We Do In The Shadows. He’s a New Zealand filmmaker with a sharp wit, and he even plays a character in the film, Korg, a rock man in the gladiator arena.
A lot of the jokes are juxtapositions rather than traditional set up jokes. Not saying that one is better than the other, I’m just trying to give context. Seeing these outlandish looking characters on alien planets talk like we do here is most of the joke, like Guardians but turned up to 11. And I laughed a lot, especially at the more dry and surprise humor, but there is also a lot of slapstick that was a little simple for my taste. They are making these films for literally everyone to enjoy so I can’t fault them for having it.
This film, more so than I think any other in the Marvel Universe, felt the most like a theme park ride, maybe because it draws so heavily from Guardians, and I recently went on the Guardians ride at California Adventure. It’s bombastic, fun, loud, and very colorful. Watching it in IMAX 3D is even better (#notsponsored). There were some 3D conversion issues, where you would be looking past the focus of the shot, but then your eyes would get all messed up because the shot hadn’t refocused yet on what you were looking at, but that only happened a couple times.
Oh, one last thing. I am glad that they’ve put the important teaser at the end of the main title sequence rather than at the end of all the credits. With the amount of visual effects artists that worked on this movie, sitting through the full credits is a slog, and only should be done if you want a fun bit rather than a necessary part of the story. Overall, I had a lot of fun watching Thor and friends beat the shit out of everything, and I definitely recommend it, but there’s very little in terms of character development.