Thor: Ragnarok is exactly what its trailers promised it would be: a new take on the the Thor franchise that’s vastly different from 2011’s Thor and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. While the first film was an origin story that treated the god of thunder with appropriate gravitas, and the second film was as dark and gloomy as its title implied, Ragnarok caps the trilogy off with much more levity and humor, maintaining the sort of epic spectacle that’s been consistent throughout all three, while also going off on its own with a unique brand of Flash Gordon-esque neo-psychedelia.
But that’s not to say that the franchise had been completely devoid of levity in the first two movies. In fact, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor—Chris Hemsworth’s Thor—has had a fair share of well-timed, well-delivered comedic moments in every movie he’s been in. It’s just that in Ragnarok, that same brand of humor becomes a defining characteristic of the entire movie and its characters—not just a temporary lapse of seriousness.
The humor of Ragnarok ranges from dark to sarcastic and even slapstick (Get help!)—sometimes so boggling that it can feel like a stoner movie (although it goes without saying that there are no illegal substances in the film—my gahd). Even Loki and The Hulk, who have been serious characters for most of the previous Marvel films, are funny Thor-buddies in Ragnarok. And unless you’re the type who really takes the Thor franchise seriously, and prefers that it take itself seriously too, this is a delightful departure.
The film begins with Thor stuck in a far side of the universe, in the middle of a minor hiccup in his quest to collect the Infinity Stones. Without revealing too much more of the plot, sufficed to say he encounters Hela, who pledges to conquer the universe and bring about Ragnarok, the end of days. But before Thor could stop her, he and Loki are thrown to yet another world, where they encounter The Hulk and Valkyrie. So Thor must assemble his crew, The Revengers (which incidentally, is also the name of an upcoming Vice Ganda movie), and rouse them to fight alongside him for the liberation of Asgard. Idris Elba’s Heimdall and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster fit in somewhere in there, at some point along the way; and so does Korg, a lovable rock-like gladiator voiced by director Taika Waititi.
Therein lies the most glaring problem with Thor: Ragnarok, at least on a technical level: there’s almost too much going on with its plot, and the story doesn’t flow quite so well from one point to the next. It’s not that the plot is ever indiscernible—just that it moves around rather abruptly and awkwardly at some points, while also choosing spend a lot of its dialogue and its runtime on novelties and comedy (which, to be fair, are sincerely enjoyable). Not everything makes sense, but you tend to stop caring about that when the movie throws Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant’s Song” at you.
Aesthetics, however, are a strong point for Ragnarok. Long before its release, the movie had stirred up some arguments about its colorful and hyper-saturated Nickelodeon-like look and feel, which was really the first big indication that it was a very different film from the rest in the franchise. But as it turns out, the whole ’80s neon aesthetic suits the film perfectly, and looks great on the big screen. Like the film’s overall humor, the look-and-feel of Ragnarok is a bit absurd and eccentric—not what we’re used to, but fantastic in its own way, if you can play along with it.
That’s what Ragnarok demands from its audiences in order to be enjoyed thoroughly: Don’t take Thor too seriously. This film isn’t like the previous two, and it fits into the grander scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its own unique way—which is a feat in itself, considering how crowded the MCU has become. Ragnarok is as much a superhero comedy as it is a superhero action-adventure film, a balance that it struck using hyperbole and by stuffing as much as it could into its runtime. So just let it take you along on the joyride of a movie that it is, as you might with a stoner flick.