Monday, May 21st, 2018
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THOR: RAGNAROK: A Beast Of Hollywood’s Burden

In the age of over-bloated Hollywood tentpoles and remakes, Thor: Ragnarok is truly King of the Norse. With its 130 minute script that has no clue where it's going, mixed with a mash-fest of 1980's fantasy/sci-fi films we've already seen, it is an intumescent mega mess. What Are We Going For Here? I was a DC comics gal growing up and was never much into Marvel

THOR: RAGNAROK: A Beast Of Hollywood's Burden

In the age of over-bloated Hollywood tentpoles and remakes, Thor: Ragnarok is truly King of the Norse. With its 130 minute script that has no clue where it’s going, mixed with a mash-fest of 1980’s fantasy/sci-fi films we’ve already seen, it is an intumescent mega mess.

What Are We Going For Here?

I was a DC comics gal growing up and was never much into Marvel comics. When Marvel started its venture into film in the early 2000s, I was skeptical, but ended up being introduced to a slurry of fantastical worlds I really enjoyed.

Thor is one of their lesser known characters to begin with, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with the first film. I got sucked into Marvel’s version of the young God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), whose ego was too big for his ability. Like many others, I was also taken with their depiction of Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Though the first film wasn’t without its flaws, it had much to say about power, its responsible use, and a true hero’s journey. After the addition of the first Avengers film, Thor and Loki became my favorite characters.

THOR: RAGNAROK: A Beast Of Hollywood's Burden

source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor and Loki are displaced to the trash planet of Sakaar, after a botched escape from the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett). They find out from a dying Odin (Anthony Hopkins) that Hela is their older sister, and Odin’s first born. She once had promise to rule, but like many other villains, got too power hungry and Odin was forced to banish her. She is so powerful, she is able to shatter Thor’s hammer with one hand. After witnessing the level of power Hela had, I thought we might be led on to a whirlwind of a new delicious bad-ass villain. Unfortunately, she was swept under the rug for most of the film.

While in Sakaar, we are inundated with superfluous characters, hokey, out-of-character dialogue and quips, and beyond extensive narration. One of the first rules of screenwriting is “Show, don’t tell”. All three screenwriters, Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, missed the boat on that. Sakaar’s world becomes the focus of the film instead of Thor’s mission to save Asgard from Ragnarok, its total destruction.

THOR: RAGNAROK: A Beast Of Hollywood's Burden

source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Those of us old enough to know, will recognize all of the ’80s references director Taika Waititi has saturated planet Sakaar with. Amidst its Flash Gordon style music and effects; it’s Mad Max/Blade Runner characters and Duran Duran’s Rio album reference, we are overwhelmed with an inordinate melange of “already done”.

Sakaar becomes the biggest character in the film, drowning the actual characters in its The Fifth Element excess and 12 year-old boy humor (i.e. a massive portal named The Devil’s Anus). Though creative, there is no new creativity here. This world and its adventures recalled for me boys on the playground, putting forth every “What If” imaginable for the action figures they were playing with, with no real direction.

Great Females Denied

I could literally imagine Hela, bored, tapping her fingers on Asgard’s throne, awaiting Thor’s return. So much time is wasted on Sakaar, cameos, and needless fillers, I almost forgot she was part of the story. 

THOR: RAGNAROK: A Beast Of Hollywood's Burden

source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tessa Thompson plays a banished Valkyrie, named Valkyrie. Though the writers created what could have been a second epic female character, she too gets lost in the adolescent fray, diminished and waysided. The best part of the movie involved a beautifully filmed backstory on the Valkyrie’s rise against Hela. It is a 3D, moving graphic novel, painting. The writers and filmmakers missed a potentially glorious story slant and face off, between Valkyrie, Thor, Loki and the Goddess of Death.

Instead, we spend way too much time on a wannabe comedic lackluster unessential side story, seemingly, for the “fun of it”. Hela could’ve lived in comic book film history as one of the coolest villains ever, but rather, is set far away and, ultimately, not even dealt with by the film’s heroes.

The highlight of this film is Waititi himself. As an indigenous New Zealander, he has been an outspoken advocate for the Maori culture and of indigenous people worldwide. He made a concerted effort to not only cast indigenous actors, but also hire indigenous crew. The addition of women and people of color to leading positions in filmmaking, is a crucial step forward to leveling the playing field in film and highlighting unheard voices all over the world.

Thor: Ragnarok: Characteristically Hollywood

Overall, I have found myself as confounded and disappointed as Loki looks in the above picture, with mainstream films.

I am beyond disgusted with what the industry has become. It is a glorified ego-boosting, all about money greed fest, prophesied by its insiders to implode on its own narcissism. Before watching Thor: Ragnarok, I sat through 25 minutes of previews. More, remakes, war stories, Matt Damon bombs, Star Wars and run-into-the-ground comic book re-imaginings.

The industry is monopolized by power hungry greedy business people who think they know everything about filmmaking and art. They don’t care about inspiring audiences; featuring new, talented artists or original screenplays; diversifying casts and crews or chronicling film’s current place in history. All they focus on is numbers: the numbers that fill their pockets. It’s getting to the point where a well-written script is a thing of the past. Nowadays, one just needs an idea for a tentpole and the rest will be filled with aimless spectacle and homage to the egos of the producers and show-runners. Even the director and writers seem like veritable titles only, not actual jobs. I imagine that they are told what to write and film, rather than collaborated with.

Thor: Ragnarok is not alone, nor an exception. The studios nabbed Waititi, whose original indies were highly creative and entertaining and turned him into a studio robot. There are countless cameos and HUGE stars in Thor: Ragnarok, but they wander around as clueless and aimless as the script. By mid-film, I just felt sorry for them. It’s as if they took a well loved/known treat, like a Twinkie and filled it with refuse instead of sweet cream. Those making the decisions in mainstream film have managed to destroy everything I’ve ever loved about it and made a gluttonous mockery of it.

I hate to be the rain on the self-aggrandizing, Hollywood parade, but with the amount of money they have, they owe it to audiences to create something outstanding. They also owe it to their artists to make something they can be proud of. A-list actors need to start refusing to work on substandard scripts and audiences need to start demanding more with their hard-earned money. Until then, all mainstream film will be, is glorified garbage.

Do you think Hollywood owes moviegoers more?

Thor: Ragnarok is currently playing in theaters worldwide.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Amyana Bartley is a screenwriter and producer. Her company, Queen B. Productions, supports filmmakers of all walks, interested in creating thought provoking, moving projects. As her company grows, she will create "real jobs" for any talented artist, in front of and behind the screen, who is passionate about making a difference using the art of film.

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