Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok, obviously.
Thor, seen here feeling elated at the prospect of battling The Hulk
Before we are set upon by the merciless hounds that aim for the jugular, we would like to stress that in no way are we in opposition to the usage of comedy in superhero films. Quite the contrary, we thoroughly welcome the moments of levity that can tickle our funny bones and provide a brief respite from the more intense scenes that a film has to offer. However, we believe an excess of comedy can too be a bad thing for a movie. Hence, in anticipation of the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in 2022, we would like to explore how a disproportionate amount of comedy can otherwise diminish the quality of a film, specifically in that of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
Promotional image for Thor: Ragnarok
Do not get us wrong; there is plenty to enjoy in Ragnarok, such as the introduction of a new planet, the dynamic between Thor and Loki, seeing The Hulk on screen again, and so on. Setting those examples aside, the one feature that seems to be in abundant supply in the film is comedy, and while some jokes peppered throughout the movie’s 130-minute runtime are genuinely funny, much of the humor in Ragnarok seems out of place and can be rather exhausting to get through. The reason for this stems from the film’s unconventional portrayal of Thor and the way the film handles the storytelling of the concept of Ragnarok.
Thor in the comics
Thor Vol. 3 #3 (2007)
As far as adaptations go, there is no obligatory rule for any incarnations of characters from a given source material to be portrayed exactly as how they were initially intended to be. That being said, there exists an unwritten rule that any future iterations of the character in other mediums should still bear some resemblance to its original characterization.
Ask any fan who has ever picked up a Thor comic book, and they would certainly tell you that Thor is not a “funny” guy. Granted, the character is not serious all the time, but seeing that he is personified as the God of Thunder in a comic mythology that plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy, one would be hard-pressed to find any inkling of goofiness in Thor’s portrayal. This stands in stark contrast to how the character is portrayed in the Ragnarok film, however, which, as unpleasant as it is to say, feels almost like a complete bastardization of the character we have come to respect from the comics. It is as if the character seeks to parody himself, but to what end? For the sake of a few cheap laughs? Or to simply conceal the truth that the film itself possessed a paper-thin plot? In short, the Thor from the film does an absolute disservice to the character from the comics.
Ragnarok should not have been a comedic event
Depiction of Ragnarok in Norse Mythology
In ancient Norse Mythology, Ragnarok is defined as a sequence of events that lead to the end of the world. It symbolizes the climactic moment whereby men, gods, and other various creatures engage in battle until every last living being is dead before the world is reborn anew.
Therefore, it was pretty astounding to witness how the events of Ragnarok unfolded in the film, for it completely lacked any sort of intensity due to how nonchalant the characters were towards the coming apocalypse. Instead of utilizing the event as a means to showcase heroism and courage in a moment of despair, the film chooses to poke fun at the concept right from the beginning. This then only causes the end of the world to lose its meaning and subsequently destroy any efforts for the film to present a compelling narrative, which is truly a shame.
Like many other things, comedy works when it is either administered in small doses or when it is ascribed to source material that is meant to be funny. While there are superhero stories that benefit greatly from being highly comedic, such as The Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, the same brush cannot be used to paint semi-serious characters such as Thor, and especially not a world-ending scenario as that of Ragnarok, for it would only serve to cheapen the quality of the storytelling as a whole.
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