How 'Thor: Ragnarok' Can Put the God of Thunder On Top of the MCU

How 'Thor: Ragnarok' Can Put the God of Thunder On Top of the MCU

Jul 08, 2016

Before his debut MCU film in 2011, you were hard-pressed to find a regular fan on the street who knew any details about the Marvel Comics iteration of Thor, God of Thunder. Adapted by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby from the timeless deity of Norse mythology, Thor is one of the Marvel Comics Universe's premiere heroes, serving as one of the purest powerhouses in that world, as well as a prominent member of the Avengers (well...traditionally, anyways).

While the first Marvel Cinematic Universe Thor film from 2011 was well received critically, it performed modestly at the box office by the standards of most Marvel films. Thor, of course, exploded along with his fellow teammates in 2012 when Joss Whedon's first Avengers film hit theaters, and the 2013 Thor sequel, The Dark World, had the advantage of featuring both the God of Thunder himself, as well as Avengers villain Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston.
 
The Dark World, though, had the reverse problem of its predecessor. It was more financially successful, but it wasn't as critically well-received as other "Phase Two" Marvel Studios films. Now that the third solo MCU outing for Thor has commenced production, we'd love to see the sub-series return to the solid critical standing of the original Thor film.
Here are a few pointers on how to do that.
 
 
1) Get Personal Again
 
One of the primary elements that continues to make 2011's Thor such an interesting watching experience is the fact that it was quite narrowly focused on the relationship between Thor, Loki, and Odin. Loki's discovery of his true parentage felt like it had a genuine amount of dramatic weight to it, and the God of Mischief's face-off with his father became one of the film's most memorable scenes as a result (likely due to both Tom Hiddleston's insight into playing Loki, and dramatic master Kenneth Branagh's ability to keep Anthony Hopkins engaged in his part as the All-Father).
 
In The Dark World, there was some effort given to the familial elements of the main characters, but it was overshadowed by several other, larger factors. The loss of Frigga, though intended to create a palpable focus of rage in both the brothers toward the film's villain Malekith, didn't seem to have quite the punch that it could have, though.
 
Ragnarok can rectify this, though, by virtue of the pieces put in place by the end of The Dark World. With Loki making a more brazen attempt at the Asgardian throne by imitating his father in the closing minutes of the second film, the family is in a unique position to become a head-on force to face down the very promise of its title. With the inclusion of a character like Hela, as played by Cate Blanchett, that could potentially give Thor, Loki, and Odin a reason to create a more united front to face the forces of Hel, which would likely force them to explore their dynamic in greater depth.
 
 
2) Don't Rely on Humor Too Much
 
It works well in Iron Man, and it helps make the Avengers efforts fun by watching everyone interact differently. An over-reliance on humor may have inhibited the overall impact of Thor: The Dark World, though.
 
Was it actually funny? Sure! Who doesn't chuckle at seeing Stellan Skarsgård run around naked because the Tesseract may have made his Dr. Selvig a little crazy in The Avengers? Still, though, the overall strength of Thor and the unique world he inhabits in the Marvel Universe is the inherent gravitas in the characters and their world: many notable comics writers who recognize that have told stories with those characters that truly feel (and before I say this, know that I absolutely hate overuse of this word) epic.
 
At their best, the respective runs on Thor by writers like architects Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, up to Walt Simonson, up through the likes of J. Michael Straczynski, Matt Fraction, and Jason Aaron have effectively used the broader, bigger worlds of Asgard and the Nine Realms to tell stories that were worthy of the grand, cosmic scale they were designed for.
 
Does that mean that the film should be bereft of humor? No, certainly not. It should probably take more influence from the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier over Iron Man 3, though, and use humor to humanize the characters without being...well, goofy.
 
 
3) Open Up the Worlds of the Nine Realms
 
2011's Thor hinted ever so slightly at the grand worlds beyond by giving us our first, substantive look at Asgard. While Thor: The Dark World seemed to promise a cosmic story that would open up the bounds of the Nine Realms, one of the weaker elements of that film was the fact that it felt weirdly claustrophobic by having only a minimal reliance on practical sets for scenes that weren't supposed to be happening on Earth.
 
The very title of the film promises something grand, though. In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events that foretell the coming of a great battle that results in the deaths of many of the Norse gods, including all three of the major characters that will be featured in the upcoming film: Thor, Loki, and Odin (not to mention Týr, Freyr, and Heimdall).
 
Because this is a story taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's likely pretty safe to assume that many fans would want to see a monumental event like that portrayed on the widest possible canvas. The Nine Realms should be breathtaking in their scale, scope, and diversity, but so far the largest canvas we've seen from a Marvel film thus far is likely in Guardians of the Galaxy. Let's see Thor: Ragnarok give that film a run for its money by giving us that massive, sweeping scale that we all know Thor and the other Asgardians are so capable of.
 
These are just a few suggestions, but that doesn't mean at all that there's not a lot to get excited about for the forthcoming film. Thor: Ragnarok has just commenced shooting under director Taika Waititi, and will star Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Goldblum.
 
It hits theaters in North America on November 3rd, 2017.

Chris Clow is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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