Thor: Ragnorak, the third installment in the Thor series and the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, debuted this past weekend, and as an avid fan of superheroes in general, I made sure to see it right away. Nearly three hours after sitting down in the theater, I walked out disappointed, popcorn bucket hanging limply at my side. The movie was so over-saturated with comedy that it failed to be funny. In our nearly full theater, laughs were scattered, even though there was nary a moment in the movie that took a serious tone.
Let’s be honest, we don’t go to see these movies because they are known to have superb acting or poetic dialogue. Superhero movies will rake in the box office dollars no matter what because there is a universal appeal to seeing good conquer evil; and watching a better, more enhanced version of humans succeed at the impossible.
Superheroes are supposed to be a better version of us, and people (especially children) love superheroes because we like having something to look up to and aspire to. Superheroes provide a symbol of hope and inspiration, not only in their fictional worlds of Gotham city or Asgard, but also in the real world. Every Halloween, children dress up like Iron Man, Wonder Woman, and Captain America, and comic books still have enthusiastic fans, even among adults. We dress like them and consume their stories because they allow us to escape into a world of imagination where we can be just like them.
Furthermore, many superheroes are a reflection of the times in which they were written. Captain America was a political and nationalistic symbol during a time when morale was in short supply. Iron Man appears throughout history fighting on the U.S.’s behalf during wars, starting with the Cold War. Their creators recognized that people needed hope, and a nation needed a savior, so they created exactly what we wanted. While superheroes have weaknesses, qualities that make them relatable, they aren’t meant to be just like us. It is unlikely that any of us will gain the ability to fly or yield a powerful hammer, but we can attempt to mimic the superheroes’ fortitude and loyalty.
Now, Marvel creators seem to think that we have given up on our desire for an aspirational hero and instead have left us with a bunch of goofy people in capes. It was weirdly jarring to watch Thor, the Norse god of thunder, unable to have a serious moment despite being in the middle of scenes that called for it. The cringe-worthy, forced comedy drew away from any greater cause, lesson or emotion that the movie may have been trying to convey. Thor went from being powerful and heroic to merely playing slapstick comedy for easy laughs.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good laugh, but in moderation. Superhero movies should make room for comedy, but not at the expense of why we love them to begin with. Here’s hoping that the next Marvel installment will return to a higher standard.