Thor: Ragnarok brings a refreshing and comedic film into the Marvel Universe


Graphic by Amanda Huang

Grace Downing, Forum Editor

From ever-prevailing comedy to Hela’s many epically ruthless fight scenes to the surprising relatability of Thor himself, it’s no wonder Thor: Ragnarok has taken up the mantle as the best reviewed Marvel movie on Rotten Tomatoes. There are more than a few key aspects of this movie that made it as refreshing and enjoyable as it was, and many of them serve as a window into the reimagining and rebuilding of both heroes and villains (and how their stories are told) that will continue to be carried out as the Marvel Cinematic Universe further expands.




This film begins when the demon Surtur (Clancy Brown) tells a captured Thor (Chris Hemsworth) of a terrible prophecy known as Ragnarok that promises to reduce Thor’s home of Asgard to ashes. Thor vanquishes Surtur and goes on a journey to stop this prophecy from unfolding, meeting the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) along the way, along with the true villain of the film, Thor’s estranged sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett).

One of the most striking parts of this movie is the unexpected depth of relatability and sense of humanity that Thor evokes. The God of Thunder has always been my least favorite Avenger, for the simple reason that this immortal, all-powerful being believed himself to be above everyone else. This is especially disappointing when you consider that the entire plot of the first Thor movie was basically about him learning how not to be arrogant. But I felt that lesson was lost on him after the conclusion of the film, and Thor just went back to enjoying the many perks that being the God of Thunder has to offer while, every so often, returning to Earth in order to help save the puny, defenseless humans from whatever perilous situation they found themselves in.

It isn’t until Ragnarok that, for the first time, Thor seems like a complex person with real flaws and moments where he–both metaphorically and literally–falls flat on his face. Despite his heritage and abilities, Thor struggles in this movie just as much as any hero before him, and even endures a few more comedic failures than most: whether it be when the Hulk repeatedly throws him around like a ragdoll, or when Stan Lee makes his predicted cameo (this time as a barber) and cuts off a helplessly screaming Thor’s luxurious locks.

Which brings about the next aspect that made this movie: its comedy. Most Marvel films in the past have included comedic moments, but those moments were almost always in shadow of the larger goals of the movie, serving more as fleeting breaks from the gravity of the rest of the film.

In Ragnarok, the humor is actually an integral part of the movie, and many times aids in further developing the character traits of more than just Thor. And as with Thor, the prevalent humor reminds me that these people–whether they’re heroes or villains–in the end, are exactly that: people. This movie helps ingrain the idea that heroes are not always righteous and unwaveringly moral. In reality, these people lie somewhere in the vast middle: as flawed beings still trying to do right, despite their shortcomings; which only adds to their relatability.

And just as heroes are not always entirely good, Ragnarok helps further shine light on the idea that villains are not always evil for evil’s sake. Recently, Marvel has been working to make its antagonists more complex characters, with more rational reasoning behind their villainy than the simple “world domination just for kicks” scenario. Spider-Man: Homecoming did this surprisingly well with the Vulture, when it tied in his shady weapons manufacturing with the need to provide for his family after his own government let him down. Which is not a far-fetched concept in our capitalistic economy.

While the character of Hela and her motives are not as identifiable as those of the Vulture, the way she came to be the person she is in Ragnarok is a more intriguing backstory than many villains I’ve encountered.

In this film, you learn that Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), has a dark past as a ruler, massacring countless civilizations in order to expand the Asgardian Empire. And his daughter, Hela, served alongside him, as none other than his executioner.

It wasn’t until Thor was to be born, that Odin made a drastic shift and decided to become a benevolent ruler–a choice his daughter did not agree with. Because of that, Hela was imprisoned for thousands of years, until Odin’s death set her free. Needless to say, when Hela was finally freed, that liberty came with a sizable vendetta.

Despite the fact that she’s the Goddess of Death, in many ways, Odin made Hela into the merciless, power-hungry person she is, cementing her callous disposition and her future of destruction. When Odin decided to become a benevolent leader, he turned his back on what he created, wishing to cover up his mistakes instead of taking responsibility for them. Suggesting that although Hela is deeply in the wrong, her father is to blame for much of the destruction that ensues.

But the most gratifying aspect of Hela is in the simple fact that she is a woman. And not only that, a woman who consistently fights with resolute strength and skill throughout the course of the movie. Marvel’s long list of male cinematic villains has been getting a little old, and the introduction of Hela is a refreshing take on what it means to be a villain.

Both Hela and the last remaining member of the Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)–an all-female Asgardian warrior caste–show some diversity in Ragnarok, and serve as a preview for Marvel’s plans for future films. In February of next year, the much anticipated Black Panther will be released. This movie will feature Marvel Cinema’s first ever black lead, with a cast that is said to be 90 percent African or African-American, according to president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige. And in 2019, the studio’s first female lead will appear in Captain Marvel.

Although Marvel still has a long way to go before it can really call itself diverse, Thor: Ragnarok proved that that the studio hasn’t grown complacent, and continues to bring forth fresh characters and ideas, reimagining what it means to be a part of the Marvel Universe.