Some fans like their superhero films to be straight-laced and serious. Others prefer them campy and hilarious. Lucky enough for fans of the genre, Thor: Ragnarok is a bit of each, giving cinephiles the best of both worlds. That, in essence, is why the film is the best superhero movie to ever hit theaters.
Betting the house on indie director Taika Waititi and taking more risks than the studio has ever taken before, there’s no denying it all paid off for Marvel Studios and then some. What Waititi brought to the table in Ragnarok continues to ripple throughout the larger universe it belongs to, and the filmmaker’s comedic tone is exactly what the franchise needed to thrive.
From the second it was announced, Thor: Ragnarok had an uphill battle. Out of the solo Avengers properties, the Thor franchise had two of the least well-reviewed movies out of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. While a franchise like Captain America grew tenfold between the first two films, Thor found himself gasping for air after his sequel flopped more than the debut film. Regardless, Marvel Studios flexed its muscle and took a chance on Ragnarok and ended up making one of the highest-rated films they’ve ever done. Outside of the Oscar-winning Black Panther and the MCU tentpole Iron Man, the film is the most critically acclaimed film the production studio has ever made.
When the movie was first announced, one would have thought that something named after the Asgardian apocalypse would be nothing but dark and gloomy visuals, with a dreary script to boot. But Ragnarok shook things up with a revolutionary script and incredible cinematography. Even in the face of complete annihilation, the movie managed to insert comedic timing at just the right times, without ever becoming overbearing or unnecessary. There’s something to be said about using comedy to overcome tragedy, and that’s something this film executes perfectly.
From the film’s incredible visual effects, to the jaw-dropping set pieces, there’s not a single superhero film that’s been more faithful to the comic source material it draws inspiration from. In the hundreds of live-action superhero properties that have ever been released, few — if any — have looked closer to their counterparts. Take most set pieces on Sakaar, for example, like the Hulk’s room, the Sakaarian buildings that line the streets, or the guards that stand by the Grandmaster. Each and every one of those aspects are pulled directly from Jack Kirby’s intricately drawn panels, from the vivid color combinations to the contrasting shading and shapes.
While there had been some brief character development on the God of Thunder beforehand, this movie can be attributed for doing more for the development of one single character than any other movie under the Marvel Studios umbrella. Though he’s far from perfect, Ragnarok took Thor from a self-absorbed know-it-all to someone who’s certainly much more humbled in the wake of losing nearly everyone close to him. Sure, he still has that bravado, but wouldn’t you if you were a god?
Outside of the plot and the visuals, the film’s score may be the best part of the whole production. While the genre has hosted legends like the Oscar-winning Hans Zimmer or Oscar-nominated Alan Silvestri, superhero scores start blending together at some point or another. When Mark Mothersbaugh entered the fray on Ragnarok, the norm was flipped on its head when he introduced a synth-heavy score that stands out just as much, if not more, than the visuals it’s attached with. Not just that, but Mothersbaugh got Jeff Goldblum to sing Taika Waititi repeatedly and edited it into “Grandmaster Jam Session,” and it’s exactly what the universe needed.
When you take a step back and look at the turnaround the franchise has undergone, coupled with the fact the Marvel has shown it pays off to take major risks every now and then, it’s hard to deny that Thor: Ragnarok completely changed the superhero genre as we know it. When the dust settles and everything clears, Thor: Ragnarok will likely go down as the best superhero film of our time.
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