Other Marvel movies have done a great job of incorporating humor into otherwise serious films. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are excellent examples, and I love all the excellent one-liners in the original Avengers movie. But Thor: Ragnarok is the first Marvel superhero movie that sets out to be first and foremost an action-comedy.
If you haven’t watched this latest installment in the Thor franchise, you might want to stop reading now to avoid any spoilers.
I love well-crafted humor. I include a lot of it in my Petralist YA fantasy books, so my professional interest is stirred in addition to simply loving the fun of this movie. I consider Thor: Ragnarok to be a masterpiece for the rest of us who utilize humor in our works to study and learn from.
There are those who claim that the humor actually undercuts the movie’s effectiveness by diminishing the stakes. It’s a tricky balance sometimes, and some decisions boil down to how the work is being positioned. Thor: Ragnarok was always positioned as an action-comedy, and as such it works brilliantly.
If they had chosen to make it a brooding, dark, serious film, the world-ending topic of Ragnarok could have tipped it into a real downer. Instead they dealt with that difficult topic brilliantly, turning the moving into a fun and very entertaining ride.
People have responded well to it. It has received the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Marvel movie (https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/thor_ragnarok_2017/), and has been a huge commercial success. Even though it still ranks near the bottom of the other Marvel movies for total worldwide commercial sales, it’s rising fast through the ranks. It’ll be interesting to see how it tops out in the coming months.
One of the cool things I learned while researching the film is that New Zealand director – Taika Waititi – was actually the voice of the super-funny blue rock monster, Korg. I also learned that a lot of their scenes were ad-libbed, including the funny dialogue between Korg and Thor when he’s trying to pick a weapon for his upcoming duel with the then-unknown Champion.
And for those who want to know more about that, here’s a great article by Jesse David Fox, interviewing Taika Waititi. Well worth a few minutes to listen. http://www.vulture.com/2017/11/thor-ragnarok-funniest-scene-taika-waititi.html
The humorous focus of the movie is set immediately with Thor talking to a skeleton while trapped in a cage, then having to interrupt the babbling of the scary fire demon, Surtur, while the chains holding him suspended from the ground slowly turn him in circles. The conversation both shares important information and includes ongoing funny beats.
Then we jump into a fun fight scene between Thor and the demon, Surtur.
Then immediately back to humor when Skurge (Karl Urban) fails to summon him back via the bifrost because he’s distracted by some beautiful women.
Take a look at the movie, study the different beats, from humor, to action, back to humor again, with some seriously dark scenes mixed in, usually thanks to Hela (Cate Blanchett) as she wreaks havoc on Asgard.
Some critics have claimed that the heart of the movie was missing since the humor can serve to diminish the stakes, but I disagree. Their homeland is destroyed, but Thor focuses on the need for change and the fact that it’s more important to preserve the people than the location, and that Asgard will live on through them. I found that message of hope, despite desperate situations worthwhile.
Works for me.
I’ll close with a few favorite quotes and images from the movie:
“It sounds like you had a pretty special and intimate relationship with this hammer. . .”
“The devil’s anus.”
Need I say more?
When Thor gets smashed back and forth by the Hulk and Loki leaps to his feet and shouts, “That’s how it feels!”
“Another day, another Doug”
About the Author: Frank Morin
Frank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org