Thor, as a concept, is a lot. He’s a literal Norse god, but he’s also an alien, but he’s also a king, but he’s also a superhero, but he’s also a bro? The mishmash of genres is a lot for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to handle, and while fans love Chris Hemsworth’s character, the first two Thor movies have been so-so. The second one, The Dark World, is in the running for the worst movie in the MCU, though that’s debatable. What isn’t debatable, though, is that the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok relishes throwing everything from the previous movie away. It’s the anti-Dark World.
The 2011 Thor did a pretty good job introducing him to the MCU, mostly because the film spent most of its runtime with the God of Thunder stranded in a very grounded, podunk New Mexico town. The serious courtly intrigue and high fantasy were secondary to just getting to know this character. The Dark World, though, was very serious and as the title might imply, dark.
The Dark World, which featured Christopher Eccleston as the dark elf Malekith, a.k.a. the most forgettable villain in the entire MCU, featured universe-ending stakes, Natalie Portman’s imminent death, and all sorts of courtly machinations. It’s self-important yet forgettable, and nothing really registers. It’s all a wash — heck, even the posters for the movie were basically just colored in shades of grey.
Compare that, then, to the first teaser for Ragnarok.
This is colorful. This is fun. This is proudly weird. Above all, it’s memorable. Thor’s finally realizing that comedy (and Hemsworth’s accented charm) are the franchise’s biggest strengths, not high-stakes, high fantasy mumbo-jumbo.
Malekith, a villain who you probably forgot about since I mentioned him two paragraphs ago, lacks a personality. From her very first smirking appearance, Cate Blanchett’s Hela oozes an almost pulpy panache. From what little we see of Loki, hit doesn’t seem like he’s the focal point of some big question about his true loyalty. No, he’s just flipping knives like an unrepentant badass. The Hulk is in this movie — and he’s described as Thor’s “friend from work.” Director Taika Waititi is letting Thor’s freak flag fly freely rather hoisting up some royal banner with great and agonizing pomp.
Ragnarok looks like it’s borrowing more from Guardians of the Galaxy than it is from The Dark World. Thank the gods, ‘cause Thor’s more fun when he’s having fun.
Thor: Ragnarok crashes into theaters on November 3.