Does Thor: Ragnarok Solve Marvel’s Villain Problem?
2017 has been an incredibly successful year for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. First The Guardians of the Galaxy returned. Then Spider-Man made his proper MCU debut. A trilogy of colorful, fun and entertaining films was capped off by Thor: Ragnarok. A film that is unlike any Thor adventure yet in every possible way.
Throughout the year, I’ve written about Marvel films and how the threat of Thanos has grown too dark and ominous to ignore. But he was largely ignored nonetheless. Ragnarok briefly mentions Thor’s quest for Infinity Stones then totally bypasses the major MCU plot thread completely.
Three films have come and gone and the only thing we know for certain is that Thanos has a really big ship and is doing… things… We just don’t know what.
I’m now fully convinced Black Panther won’t deal with Infinity Stones and Thanos. It would appear Marvel has stuck to their long game and saved the Mad Titan for the Infinity War. I’m aware I sound like a spoiled fan. But after raising the bar with Civil War, I expected Guardians 2 and Ragnarok to (at least) deliver better post credit sequences to move more pieces into position.
In the end, this is a minor complaint. It’s just too easy to look past these films when the mother of all IMAX experiences is less than a year away. Thankfully, it was a complaint I was happy to brush aside because Thor: Ragnarok is hilarious, action packed and shares many similarities to it’s cosmic cousin GoTG.
If you really break it down, Thor: Ragnarok is a Marvel movie. It’s DNA follows a very simple formula that has been refined and perfected over a decade of connected storytelling. Overall, it’s another win for Marvel.
However, what I loved the most deals with the action in the film. Going into the film, I was afraid Thor vs Hulk and Thor vs Hela would be rushed. Marvel’s biggest mistakes revolve around weak third acts with ‘powerful’ villains meeting their ends quickly in lackluster sequences. Villains like Whiplash, The Red Skull, Malekith, Aldrich Killian, Iron Monger, Yellowjacket and more.
Marvel has battled their ‘bad villain’ stigma by introducing villains with deeper connections to heroes. Star Lord’s Dad, Peter Parker’s… friends… dad… And now, Thor’s Sister. It’s easy to fall into the trap of a giant setup followed by a primitive and uninspired final battle. In a way, it’s a testament to the power of a Marvel movie as their villains can often falter yet the films are still successful.
Ragnarok delivers a better than average battle against Hela and her henchmen. It was close but I give the battle a passing grade aside from the fact that Surtur’s arrival ended things a little too quickly. (Much like Aragorn’s convenient undead army in The Lord of the Rings.)
More importantly, the battle between Hulk and Thor was phenomenal. It’s nice to see a big budget film take its time with a crucial sequence like this. My biggest fear was a sequence where they fight briefly, only to be ‘interrupted’ by a greater threat etc… The sequence turned out to be a central showpiece for the film. In short, Taika Waititi did a fantastic job realizing the promise of his premise.
As good as the Hulk sequence is, it raises another familiar problem. Hela is essentially forgotten for much of the film’s second act. She may be a worthy foe who causes REAL irreversible damage. But she spends an alarming amount of time wreaking havoc off screen. Thankfully, in the end, she wasn’t just a mild gust of wind blocking our heroes from moving forward.
Black Panther will face off against Killmonger next. A war that looks to feature several separate clashes along the way. I have high hopes for that film. Especially now that I’ve abandoned all hope that the final Infinity Stone will be revealed.
Regardless, the ultimate villain is coming. Its poised to be a struggle like we’ve never seen before. Marvel proved with Ragnarok that villains can deliver. (Loki isn’t one of the most popular MCU characters for nothing. Is Marvel’s villain problem solved? Not entirely but the momentum is on their side as Black Panther’s release approaches.
Let’s hope these lessons carry over into 2018. It could be a special year for comic book movie fans.