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7 Things That The MCU Can Learn From Thor: Ragnarok

It’s fresh at the U.S. box office this week, but it’s official worldwide: Thor: Ragnarok is a monster hit and sitting at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Forget the fact that it’s the best God of Thunder movie to date; this could be one of Marvel’s greatest films, period.

To quote our own Matt Donato’s review:

“As Thor tumbles head-over-feet through the infinite cosmos, summons thunder blasts and tries to erase the image of Hulk’s gargantuan – how did Tony Stark put it, zucchini(?) – from his mind, “Cosmic Marvel” continues to evolve as the studio’s most fascinating subgenre. It’s where MCU mastermind Kevin Feige allows filmmakers the most freedom, thus far.”

Not a lot of people had high hopes for the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), featuring what many described as one of the blandest superheroes on screen, yet director Taika Waititi managed to give us a splendid adventure that had us glued to our seats. There was no Captain America, Iron Man, or Spider-Man in this flick, but none of us missed them for a single second as Thor and his companions ran rampant and entertained.

So, what was Waititi’s secret ingredient? What did he do differently than the directors before him? Well, that’s the reason we’re here: to discuss and analyze what future MCU films can learn from Thor: Ragnarok in greater detail. Make no mistake, the MCU is a mega-franchise and hugely successful in its own right without this film, but it would be wise to absorb and implement the latest lessons learnt from its current blockbuster.

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments. So, if you agree or disagree with any of the points listed – or have any of your own – please sound off in the comments section below.

With that said, click that next button and let’s begin.

You Don’t Need Tony Stark

As one of the biggest characters in the MCU, Tony Stark has appeared in a multitude of the franchise’s biggest movies. In fact, he’s to the MCU what Batman is to the DCEU; however, audiences have wised up to this and grown weary of his presence. Remember how most of Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s criticisms were about Tony’s presence in the marketing and trailers?

The criticism is a tad unfair since the filmmakers are only giving the casual viewers exactly what they want to see. Nonetheless, they should be pleased that Thor: Ragnarok proved you don’t need Tony in a Marvel film to be successful. Yes, the character is referenced several times throughout, but did it ever feel like it was forced or was it simply a natural conversation due to the shared universe?

Tony will always be money in the MCU – that’s a fact and something we should all accept by now. Even so, he doesn’t need to be inserted into every movie for it to be successful. Along with Guardians of the Galaxy, this film is living proof of that.

Jack Kirby-Inspired Storylines

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Stan Lee might get most of the credit for where Marvel is today, but if it wasn’t for writer/artist Jack Kirby, we wouldn’t have half of these characters and amazing worlds -including Thor. His style was pivotal to the boom of the comic book medium and his unmistakable influence can be felt throughout the industry and to this day.

So, when you see a movie where the kaleidoscopic colors pop and everything is larger than life, you can’t help but smile and remember the first time you lay your grubby paws on a Kirby book. It’s a good reminder of the time when comic books were all about fun and over-the-top adventures that made your heart race with excitement. Much like Thor: Ragnarok.

Marvel would be wise to acknowledge this tone and feel of its latest film and carry it over to future projects. At the end of the day, most of these heroes are a bunch of people in colorful tights and with the most absurd motives. The filmmakers should let the ridiculousness of the medium shine as feverishly and brightly as it does in Waititi’s film and include more Kirby-isms wherever possible.

It’s Okay To Be Funny

One of the stupidest complaints of Marvel films is that they’re too funny. According to the internet, every film needs to have the seriousness of Schindler’s List and the dialogue of an Aronofsky movie. It’s a ridiculous complaint, because when done right, humor can be the best component of any film.

In Thor: Ragnarok, we got to see a different side of Thor and Hulk. Up until now, both these characters had worked better in team-up efforts, like The Avengers, than in their own standalones, because they’d been made relatively serious and quite frankly, boring. By injecting some humor into their personalities though, it transformed them into two interesting characters tailor-made for entertaining exchanges and gags. That said, this wasn’t slapstick or forced by any means, as the humor remained within the frameworks of each character.

Look, there’s a time and place for seriousness, and there are many superhero films that work well without any humor (like Nolan’s Batman movies). The MCU, though, is at its best when it’s lighthearted and funny. Honestly, how amazing would it be if Waititi could tackle a Fantastic Four film with the same tone and style as Thor: Ragnarok? Sign us up for that!

Smaller Team-Up Films Work

As mentioned before, Hulk and Thor had previously worked better as characters in team-up affairs than their own films. Yet, in Thor: Ragnarok, the God of Thunder finally shined in his own starring vehicle – with Hulk, Loki and Valkyrie adding extra sheen to the movie and cementing themselves as critical supporting cast members.

Much like the old-school Marvel Team-Up stories from way back in 1972, there could be something special in exploring smaller team-ups here. Instead of releasing a whole bunch of standalones and origin tales, smaller-scale, buddy-styled features could be the future of the MCU. It’s evident that we don’t need an Avengers-sized project every year, but would you be against a film starring Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Hulk as an example?

With Kevin Feige discussing how Marvel will be deemphasizing the shared universe concept in Phase Four, fans will need to be convinced that the future of the franchise will continue to pump out good quality. Perhaps the smaller team-up movies will be the best solution for the next Phase? Ultimately, it’ll be a win-win for everyone.

Pay More Attention To The Villains

Let’s just say that Hela is one of the MCU’s best villains to date. Naturally, this is aided by Cate Blanchett’s incredible talent, as well as screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost’s laudable treatment of the Goddess of Death.

The point is, the villain’s motives were clear from the get-go and there was a purpose to her actions. Hela’s relationships with Thor, Loki, and Odin were the meat and potatoes of the narrative, and her backstory also enabled us to find out more about other characters in the film. She wasn’t just a villain for the sake of needing an antagonist, but someone far larger and important to the legacy of Thor.

Additionally, this MCU villain wasn’t defeated in a silly manner (like a dance-off) and there was a lot of sacrifice needed to overcome here (such as the destruction of Asgard and Thor losing an eye). She was formidable and provided a proper threat to the heroes. Look, not every villain will be a smash-hit like Hela, but this level of high-quality antagonism should be what filmmakers strive for in future projects.

The Music

Whether you’re a Marvel or DC fan (or hopefully, both), you have to admit that the MCU’s soundtracks have been largely forgettable in contrast to its rival’s, which has produced some modern classics. Waititi, though, took a much different approach in Thor: Ragnarok and the impact was felt from the first trailer.

From the power of Led Zeppelin’s thumping “Immigrant Song” to the electronic-styled score, the music had real character and charm, reminiscent to the era of comic books it drew from. It fed into the playfulness of the movie and remained with you long after the credits roll – and isn’t that exactly what a good soundtrack should do?

Rather than stick to the cookie-cutter scores of previous films, the MCU should take this as a positive sign that people want and are receptive to something different and new. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here or go too avant-garde, but a little more diversity in their soundtracks could do wonders and make the movies more memorable in the long run. Let’s hope that Thor: Ragnarok was a turning point in this regard.

Allowing Creative Freedom

Much like Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars, there are rumors that Kevin Feige runs Marvel Studios with an iron fist and directors need to either fit or…you get the gist of it. One of the most often cited examples is director/writer Edgar Wright who walked away from 2015’s Ant Man, stating, “I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie.”

Well, it appears as if Thor: Ragnarok could be the start of something different, considering it has Waititi’s DNA all over it. Maybe it’s the fact the previous Thor films had been met with a mediocre response that inspired Marvel to allow Waititi to try something different, or it could be a new directive from up top in the food chain. Nonetheless, the film shows that giving creative freedom to a director can result in something fresh and exciting – and possibly even inspire the future of the franchise.

Sure, as with anything else in life, there will be a misfire here and there, but at least it’ll freshen up the formula and breathe new life into the franchise. If you keep releasing the same type of movie over and over, the audience will grow tired of it and demand something new.

Tell us, do you think the MCU would be wise to learn from Thor: Ragnarok? Let us know in the comments section down below.

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