It’s already hard enough as is to call any piece of art good or bad, regardless of medium. It becomes quite another thing to judge pieces of art that are meant for such wide appeal both in terms of the moment of consumption and in regards to a larger societal context as a whole. Am I thinking too much about a movie that is ultimately just supposed to be fun schlock? Is it a faulty, embarrassing blunder on my part to get so serious when reviewing something as light as “Thor: Ragnarok”?
I think not. I think it’s more important now more than ever to take movies like these seriously. I think this is because human society in general is going through a phase where we are redefining what a piece of art is when it is labeled as ‘good’.” I am not in a position to declare something good or bad. I can only say how I feel about something; I can only express my opinion.
And my opinion is that “Thor: Ragnarok” is a very serviceable movie, and that it is plagued by an overwhelming sense of blandness that is indicative more of the process by which this movie was created, rather than anything pertaining to the movie itself.
For instance, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is used in this film twice. I found the scenes in which this song was used to be some of the most trite, cringey and ridiculous in this movie. They were action scenes, so they shouldn’t really stick out that much, but they just made me feel so disinterested and repelled.
I am bothered by this because through linking these action scenes to this Led Zeppelin song, the movie is keying us in as to how we should feel during these scenes and is very obvious in how it uses music as a tool to create an effect. I hate this. I hate this so much that I think it is an affront to the arts.
It is an enviable skill to be concise. When Walter White declares in the beginning of season two of Breaking Bad that Tuco Salamanca is an “insane, degenerate piece of filth that deserves to die,” we feel that this derision is earned, and it is supremely satisfying to hear Walt say something we’ve been thinking for a while now. The piece of art is telling us how to feel and we agree with it: we have been coerced by what has come before to agree with the statement being made.
“Thor: Ragnarok” tries to be concise but fails utterly. It is nothing other than masturbatory to indulge in scenes set to “Immigrant Song” not just once, but twice. The only basis to include this song in these scenes is because of the lyric “we come from the land of the ice and snow” and because Marvel’s Thor is inspired by Norse mythology. That’s it.
On the note of Norse culture, can I mention how gross it feels for Marvel to just blandify an entire mythos? The respect is given towards the culture that gave us the characters of Thor and Odin is minimal at best. The same thing happened in “Dr. Strange” in how it amalgamated Buddhist and Hindu traditions that exist only to be used by the white characters in the movie.
In a perfect world, we’d call this stuff out for being the lazy and harmful whitewashing that it is. But because it’s Disney, and because they have enough money to advertise otherwise, we’re just supposed to accept that it’s a lighthearted movie. And that the appropriation blatantly on display is only “lighthearted” appropriation.
It just feels so lazy and disingenuous to have a good song serve as perfume to cover up the festering scent of a terrible action scene. And it is terrible: the actors flail, jump, punch and fling as if they were weightless. It’s just a glorified version of the fighting done in old “Power Rangers” episodes, only Thor has Uncle Walt to help reinforce its scenes.
Instead of doing anything new or taking any risks, the movie presents itself with the same set of actions and plots that we’ve seen so many times before at this point. The problem is that this is so par-for-the-course for movies nowadays that it’s honestly depressing.
The only parts of this movie that I felt were exceptionally well done were the scenes including the character of Korg the revolutionary rock man. I loved Korg’s entirely universal, entirely chill societal revolution. There is something so charming about Korg the rock man walking up to the disenfranchised and going “Hey man. We got a space-ship, we got a revolution, wanna join?” in his high-pitched voice. I wish Korg was the entire movie, but he isn’t.
And what are the other parts of this movie? A gladiator plot-line. A brother and sister warring over their homeland. A forced romance where the protagonist creepily hits on a newly introduced female character. And a narrative about finding yourself in the wake of a death in the family. It’s not just that this is unoriginal—nothing is entirely original—it’s just that I can feel the unoriginality so blatantly that I’m bothered by it. This movie desperately lacks any sort of personality.
And what is the one thing that Marvel’s comic book movies cannot be? Idiosyncratic. We aren’t supposed to feel that these movies are unique. We’re supposed to feel that they fit into a universe of related pieces of art. But when this universe is filled to the brim with bland and lifeless things repeating the same formulaic plots, is it really such a bad thing to ask for these movies to feel more individual than “this one is about hammer man” and “this one is about web boy.” The more movies that Marvel releases, the more I find myself asking why I went to see these movies in the first place.
I’m giving this movie an average rating not because I think it is an average movie, but because movies like these are what we, as moviegoers, are starting to accept as “the bar” for movies. That is, “Thor: Ragnarok” is “the average” movie nowadays. And as an average movie, we can all have our own opinions about it (as is tradition with art). And in this reviewer’s opinion, I want my money back.