(Spoilers for Thor Ragnarok follow)
The plot of Thor Ragnarok is, boiled down to a sentence, that the end is coming for Asgard. The movie may also be a sign of an end to come for the MCU.
So technically speaking this is not as provocative as it seems, since this is literally true according to Kevin Feig, President of Marvel Studios. He said once Avengers 4 is over, that’s pretty much the end of the MCU as we currently know it. But you’re not reading this story to see me reposting retread links are you? Heck No, hot takes await!! The end is coming for the MCU!! *
*legal disclaimer: Greg does not think Marvel will shut down and stop making movies. Greg is engaging in a legal term known as hyperbole to make some sort of point, and maybe a Star Trek reference too*
Why is a Ragnorak coming for MCU? I read from Marvel signing off on this final cut that they felt for this movie to make money, it had to turn Thor into an absurdist comedy, a farce even instead of a classic action movie. Almost every Marvel movie to date has been funny, but there is a fine line between being funny and being a farce, and Marvel drove 150 mph over this line in a Ferrari.
For many people, this will be seen as me once again sitting on my porch yelling “Get Off My Lawn!!”. And some part of this is true. I am old fashioned. I like my action movies to focus on, shockingly, action!! Instead, Thor Ragnarok was focused on being a parody of a marvel movie first and foremost, with the action being secondary.
Based on the reaction of the people in the theatre I watched this with, most everyone welcomed this. “The best Marvel movie yet!!” was a common reaction. The critics certainly loved it, with a 93% rotten tomatoes score. And I get it. The previous Thor movies were heavy on Shakespearism and light on fun.
And I really hate to ruin the party for everyone…
I really do…
This is what the Thor universe was!!!
Thor never pretended to be a Deadpool wannabe as the Ragnarok portrayed, nor was the Thor story ever some meta commentary on the rest of the MCU. Thor was, is, fundamentally, a story centering on big, huge, familial themes (as well as a lot of good “fish out of water” stories, even in the comics!). Even just looking at the first two movies this was still true! To transition this story into a parody is a sign that Marvel no longer trusts its own content for making good movies.
But so what you say, the audience and critics loved this movie, so what am I talking about??
Fair question! And I have answers…
So I have at least 3 credos in my life. One of them involves Jason Statham, and is most definitely NSFW. However, OnStage Blog EIC Chris Peterson still insists on keeping OnStage Blog family friendly, and so, that credo will have to wait until he registers www.onstageblog.xxx.
My 2nd credo, if you have to have a 2nd credo, is here.
My 3rd credo is to always consider long term ramifications off short term decisions. And making Thor Ragnarok into a parody was a short term decision based on, I suspect, the success of Deadpool.
Thor Ragnarok generated $123 million on its opening weekend. That total is 80% higher than Thor 1, and 40% higher than Thor 2.
Hollywood loves to do trend analysis. Making a Thor movie into a parody reversed the trend from the lowest of box office performers to one of its 7 best. Marvel loves to make money. So guess what’s going to happen to future Marvel movies if they have one single movie that struggles or underperforms at the box office?? You got it. “Open the comedy night club, your main event is your wild and zany wise cracking couple, the Scarlet Witch and Viiiiiiiiiiiision!!!”
Before everybody writes stuff in the comment section like “ZOMG this dude doesn’t want any movies to have fun!1!1!!!!11”, while I would never think to write a formal review to compete with OnStage resident critic Ken Jones’ review of Thor Ragnarok I would give Ragnarok 3 out of 4 stars in a formal review It set to be a parody, and it succeeded on that front.
(Side note: I actually would think to compete with Ken Jones, but Peterson said our weekly fight club in the basement of the Shubert Theater is sufficient competition for the staff. See, I give you a peek behind the curtains in addition to hard hitting analysis!)
But the long term question is still: “Is Marvel too afraid of the weirdness some of their stories have to offer without winking to the audience that “don’t worry we think this is silly too”. Lest we forget, Dr. Strange, a movie based on a very serious world of the mystical arts, went through some late re-writes to add more humor to the story.
We have a possible clue as to their answer: Taika Waititi, director of Thor Ragnarok was quoted as saying this regarding managing the tone of the third installment:
"If we were taking things a little too seriously," Waititi revealed, "I would say, ‘Never forget that we're making a cosmic adventure with a space Viking.' That sort of captures it all. We've got the Incredible Hulk, and a giant woman with antlers. We've got aliens and spaceships. It's almost like a bunch of kids were asked what they wanted to put into a movie, and then we just did that."
He somehow hit the nail on the head and missed the forest for the trees at the same time.
He is basically saying “aliens, spaceships, and people like Thor and Hulk are ridiculous, and we are going to let the audience know we think that throughout this movie”. This was not done mean spiritedly, it should be said, but does this attitude jive with what we have been told for 7 years, which is the Infinity Wars is the most serious, high stakes confrontation we will ever have!!!! Did they cross the line of having fun vs making fun of it?
Before you go to the comments section once again and angrily type “Yes you idiot, we can handle more than one style of movie at the same time!!111!!!11” consider this: Asgard, central to the entirely serious Thor story, was literally burning to the ground, and it was nothing but a footnote in the movie. If Asgard burning down doesn’t matter, then why will the Infinity Wars stakes matter?
Franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings will stick with us forever because they clung to our emotions with the stakes being as high as it was. The galaxy’s fate was at risk, Star Wars said, and all of the characters believed it. (See, Star Wars, and no Star Trek. This is what we call fair and balanced).
Do we, the MCU audience, think the galaxy’s fate is at risk after we ventured through a movie where Thor and Loki were more invested in their next joke vs what was happening with their home?
So what am I getting at? Is Marvel going to stop making blockbusters as a result of this?? I’m not delivering a hot take stupid enough to even imply that. The Ragnarok here is, simply, “To be watched, perhaps even enjoyed, but then not remembered”. That is the looming Ragnarok for the MCU as a result of Thor 3. Thor and Loki let the Ragnarok happen to Asgard. Will Kevin Feige let it happen to MCU?
Only the time stone will tell.
*I am an occasional contributor to OnStage Blog. You can follow me on twitter @Grege333. And I liked the movie, ok?? Can I like the movie and still question the ramifications of making it the way they did????"