The Problem of Stakes in Thor: Ragnarok

Spoliers Ahead—


Having recently seen the MCU’s latest offering in the form of Thor: Ragnarok, I’ve been particularly struck by the critical plaudits that the movie has been receiving; it currently sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of any MCU movie, and one of the highest of any superhero movie ever, higher then both Logan & The Dark Knight.  Now my opinions on Rotten Tomatoes is that you should take their scores with a pinch of salt at best, but it’s shocking to think that any website could put Thor: Ragnarok above either Logan or The Dark Knight; both of which defined their genres, something which Thor: Ragnarok never attempts to do.  Truthfully, I found Thor: Ragnarok perfectly passable, but it was nothing more than that; and certainly not the masterpiece that a 96% score would seem to imply.


My primary problem with the movie, and the thing which many are signalling as its triumph, is its “humour”.  I say “humour”, because, personally, I didn’t find the movie funny at all.  It was at the best of times: chucklesome, and at the worst of times: childish, cringeworthy, and jarring.  It became increasingly difficult to engage with any of the dramatic setpieces, as each one was intercut with a gag or two, which distracted from dramatic tension.  This became even more problematic as we move towards the movie’s climax and the apparent end of days (Ragnarok) being brought upon by the villain Hela.  I never felt threatened or worried for any of the main characters, nor did I feel intimidated by the movie’s villain. Even when Thor lost his eye, a moment which should elicit some kind of reaction, did nothing for me; in fact, I’m almost certain that I felt more dramatic tension when Thor lost his arm in Thor: The Dark World.  


It’s ironic that a movie with a title which evokes the Norse apocalypse feels utterly lacking in stakes, tension, or weight.  This also becomes a problem moving forward in the MCU, as they try and convince us that Avengers: Infinity War carries real stakes for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, when all evidence in the MCU thus far would beg to differ.  The Russos have a tall order ahead of them as they attempt to make Thanos intimidating or threatening, because up until now, not one MCU villain has accomplished this. 

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