Despite the good reviews and general watchable quality to them, the Thor films were always the weak link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mind you, there were some cool ideas in them for sure, and they managed to pull off some minor coups in regards to some of the major castings. The films themselves though lacked weight and never managed to compensate for that with high levels of frivolity and laughter.
Between selecting Taika Waititi to direct the film and the decision to make the Hulk a central character, it became clear that Marvel was beginning to learn from their successes. The films that were the most satisfying have generally been quite lighthearted at their cores and/or had a handful of major vibrant characters that all got things to actually do in the film.
If The Avengers was arguably the most important film in this experiment of an extended universe, The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy are still probably the best flicks of the bunch. Them coming out in the same year (2014) crystallized what Marvel should have learned already (especially after the very creatively limp 2013 output of Iron Man III and Thor: Dark World): these comic films are so much better and more fun when they are ensemble pieces.
Ragnarok fully embraced the idea of leaning on an ensemble and then combined that with a more Guardians tone…put them together and you just have a genuinely fun film.
The film embraced those two factors so strongly in fact that this really felt like a soft Thor reboot. Jaime Alexander, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard were completely missing. The Warriors Three were dispatched of in a largely unceremonious manner. Anthony Hopkins’ exit from from the world felt perfunctory at best.
Instead, the film introduced Tessa Thompson (who is NOT playing BSG’s Starbuck in this one – don’t listen to the haterz and trollz) as a female warrior from
Ass Guard Asgard who has been on the wrong path for far too long. Cate Blanchett plays Thor’s long-lost sister, and she gets to look fabulous while trying to destroy a world. Jeff Goldblum got to play Jeff Goldblum. So many improvements across the board.
With all that being said, this film still felt incredibly familiar for Marvel. Now that the studio has mostly mastered this format (quip-quip-quip-meaningless giant battle-quip-stinger), it’s time to push them to keep moving forward.
Marvel has essentially gotten to the point where they know how to make their films to fit within the general format of having a hero and a ragtag group of friends save a world from a villain with the slightest of motivation and his/her CGI army. The Thor franchise finally got to have its good version of that.
Now, it’s time for Marvel to produce some genuinely new kinds of films.