Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise — and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Piotrek: This from Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie got 93% freshness rating from critics and 90% from the audience. Points are slightly lower, with 7,5/10 from critics and 4,3/5 from regular movie-goers. On imdb it’s 8,2/10. From sites and reviewers I follow, not a single one disappointed voice. See Angry Joe and his crew, their enthusiasm is contagious. Just as everybody, they describe T:R as non stop fun, great comedy, a new direction for both Thor and Hulk. Also as two hours of fan-service. And I agree, but I’m not as sure it’s good fan-service as they are. Or, to be more clear, it might be very good fan-service, but for me it’s not enough for a 10/10 rating. I’ve enjoyed the movie, I’ve laughed a lot, several scenes are superb – arena duel, some of the fight sequences (one using this!), Dr Strange’s cameo, Gatling-shooting Valkyrie… and more.

I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie though, and it’s Ola’s fault. I’m not talking about the scathing review I’ve heard before I had the chance to go to the cinema, but several collected comic book she made me read, with storylines that supposedly inspired T:R.

Ola: Thank you! To keep things simple, cinematic adaptations of their source material generally can be judged based on faithfulness/originality, which gives us three basic categories: 1) faithful to the original, keeping its spirit (if not the whole content) intact despite the difference in medium – Watchers are a good example of this case, 2) better than original, expanding the material in ways unique to the new medium and/or times it had been adapted in –  I know my choice will be controversial, but Guardians seem a nice enough example here, or 3) worse – for whatever reason cannibalizing/trivializing/creating serious misconceptions about the original. Thor: Ragnarok falls firmly into this last category.

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Piotrek: In one short sentence: there was no Ragnarok (neither Norse Mythology nor the comic book version) and Space Hulk should have been so much better. There is a pattern of me scoring Marvel’s movies higher than my esteemed co-author, and it will probably continue with this one, but it won’t be a top score. Ok, there are many funny moments here, but why does everyone says it’s the funniest Marvel so far? Really? Even, if we don’t count Deadpool, we had two superb Guardians movies!

Ola: Exactly. My question, though, is a bit different: WHY the hell should Ragnarok be funny at all?! It’s like making St. John’s Apocalypse funny… Like making Saturn eating his own children funny… Like making Tiamat’s fight with Marduk funny… Or Arthur’s death from Mordred’s hand a funny joke.

Yeah, Thor: Ragnarok is funny. In fact, it is nothing but funny, with no emotional impact whatsoever, with events shattering the graphic novels’ continuity and the internal logic of Thor-themed movies presented like inconsequential, rather primitive gags. It’s the end of the world by Benny Hill.

Piotrek: Benny Hill? That might be too much. There were quite a few genuinely funny moments:

and both Hemsworth and Ruffalo (and Goldblum!) are quite funny. You might find it inappropriate, but for me it was enjoyable, most of the time.

Ola: As Piotrek revealed above, my main woe here is the movie’s total disregard for Norse mythology. In my – admittedly very strong – opinion it is a real disservice for all who had been socialized within the boundaries of broadly defined Western culture, with the identity rooted in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, born in the coexistence and fights between Christianity, Islam, as well as the European pagan religions and cultures. Who will we become if we forget where we came from?

I realize it’s a hefty argument in a discussion of a comic-based movie. I admit freely to my very high, maybe even unrealistic expectations when it comes to MCU – because I see modern comics as a great medium in the ongoing cultural discourse of who we are as a society, what we believe in and who would we want to be. And many of the comic books confirm that notion! Popular culture doesn’t have to be something unoriginal, primitive and – as Horkheimer and Adorno feared – something making us as the audience slaves of the mediocrity. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a great example of an entertaining but important movie, covering controversial and timely themes in a easily digestible way. Many of the comic books which purportedly inspired T:R were exactly like this: spinning fascinating tales of searching for meaning, of redemption and vengeance, of tolerance and understanding the Other. So what the hell happened that the most recent MCU effort is such an empty husk?

Piotrek: And with this I have to agree. Waititi and the writing crew delivered something funny, but weightless. Never mind mythology, it’s a waste of two great comic-book storylines. Planet Hulk is a masterpiece, a big story about Hulk’s development into someone more than Dr Brenner’s Monster, here reduced to a few good moments, when it should be a movie of its own, maybe with a guest appearance of Thor. The presence of characters named Korg and Miek is, for me, just an insult to the original material. They had a story to tell, a meaningful one, but you won’t hear it here. And Ragnarok you find in the comics is way more ambitious, powerful, and significant than what they created here.

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Ola: I don’t want to spoil the movie, talking about details, so I’ll try to keep this section as vague as possible. I felt that the whole rewriting of Asgard’s history was an insult not only to Odin, someone called All-Father for a reason, but also to the whole Asgardian-related comic book lore. In case you’ve been wondering, Stan Lee had been very faithful to Norse origins of his superhero Thor, going as far as translating many of the most popular Norse myths into the comic book medium. Just check out Tales of Asgard, a beautiful proof of Lee’s and Kirby’s fascination with the source material. However, nothing of this reverence or admiration can be seen in the movie. Hela becomes Odin’s firstborn, in violation of every possible understanding of Norse worldview. Fenrir, called Fenris as if a misspelled name would hide who he really should be, is just an overgrown mute mutt. Even Surtur becomes just a hapless fire-demon, stupid and vengeful for no reason at all.

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The same happens to Hulk. One of the truly best Hulk stories which should become a separate movie, in Thor: Ragnarok has been mutilated beyond recognition, serving only as a colorful background. Hulk’s journey to self-awareness, to responsibility and – at least to some extent – acceptance of both parts of his self is in Thor: Ragnarok completely eliminated. Which is a real disservice to all fans who won’t have another chance of seeing this story translated to the big screen.

Piotrek: I’m not that delicate – I’ll spoil a bit, so beware. Back to the topic on hand – just compare the way Odin looses his eye, a crucial part of his journey towards enlightenment and power, to the casual way Thor gets his removed by Hela. I could understand changing a dull story, but Norse myths are way cooler than what we got here. Quite funny, also. Really, there was no need to show us the true story in the simplistic…

Ola: Primitive! Dumb! Totally wrong!

Piotrek: …unoriginal tale of the early Asgard Hela tells when revealing her status as the firstborn of Odin. Meh…

Compared to this, Life of Brian was a better adaptation of the New Testament, and even funnier.

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Ola: And lastly, I realize a movie is not a comic book, and that faithfulness to the source material has become something less and less relevant (as indicated by Hobbit, for example). This particular aspect of a movie is probably more important to me personally than to the most of other movie-goers. Thor: Ragnarok, however, lacks even internal logic. For example, the question of the source of Thor’s power is asked twice: once in the gladiatorial arena – and there the answer is given without any thought, just to keep things interesting, and the second time during the battle for Asgard – and there we have a long, completely emotionally bland scene where the answer (already given half a movie earlier) is explained in great and unnecessary detail. We know it already! It worked last time!

Piotrek: I’m not going to be that harsh, because this:

really is cool. Only, Ragnarok would be waay cooler.

Score:

Ola 3/10 4/10 (post JJ2)
Piotrek 7-/10 on its own merits, with a “-” to show my distaste at their lack of respect…

8 thoughts on “Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

  1. First:
    “Even, if we don’t count Deadpool, we had two superb Guardians movies!”
    Deadpool was a Fox movie I believe, not an MCU movie, so you can’t compare it.

    Second:
    All the lamenting about Norse Mythology mis-representation, etc makes me laugh so hard. This is a big budget comic movie based on a comic by Stan Lee in 1962. That would be like me lamenting about how mis-represented Christianity would be in a remake of Life of Brian in 20 years.

    Finally:
    Great indepth back and forth. That was awesome. Now, when are we going to get lots of book reviews like this? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I am really lamenting about is a lost chance to create something meaningful. I don’t think that big budgets are necessary a guarantee of creating something entertaining but mindless, like the Transformers franchise. I guess that it’s at least partly our, the audience’s, fault, that we so easily agree to it.
      Besides, Stan Lee was actually pretty faithful to the original in his rendition of Norse myths – just check out the comics :).
      As for book reviews – there are a few Two-shots – Abercrombie, Sapkowski, McClellan – and some quite heated discussions under reviews of Clarke, Weber, and Andrews 😉 We’ll do our best to make more of these 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • And Czajkowski, the biggest fight of the blog 🙂

        While I’ve scored the movie over twice as high as Ola, we fundamentally agree that it was a missed opportunity for two great movies, and what we got was not faithful not only to the Eddas, but also comics.

        When the original story is already one of the coolest stories ever told, adaptation could follow it a bit more closely…

        And sure, Deadpool was not a product of the same studio, but it’s also a superhero movie. I could even compare Ragnarok to Batman vs Superman (and in this case my verdict would be in favour of the latest Thor 😉 )

        Liked by 1 person

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  4. I thought I was the only one who wasn’t blown away by this movie! I didn’t get why it was funny *at all* given the subject matter- it just felt so weird to me and totally jarring. Plus, I wanted it to have some emotionally hard hitting moments- and there were none. And I couldn’t agree more that this was funny, but weightless. I mean, I did laugh, but I still think there could’ve been more to this movie. Awesome joint review!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks! 🙂 I’m resigned to the fact that it’s a minority view, but still I feel much better to have someone sharing it 🙂

    Like

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