Recently, “Thor: Ragnarok” was released in theaters, making it the fourth Marvel movie to be released this year alone. In this particular installment of the Thor series, Thor must stop Hela from inflicting a prophesied destruction called “Ragnarok” on his home planet, Asgard. Hela breaks Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and chases him into space, after which he crashes onto Sakaar, a junkyard planet. He is captured and forced to fight the Hulk (who somehow flew to a planet on the other side of the universe, go figure) in a gladiator tournament, but loses because Jeff Goldblum’s character, Grandmaster, has rigged the match.
Eventually, both characters escape, and Thor’s adopted brother, Loki, as well as a character named 142, are ordered to find them. Despite their orders, all four team up to prevent the destruction of Asgard.
As ridiculous as it sounds, that is the actual plot of this movie, and according to critics, it is actually pretty good.
Sure, it might be getting stellar reviews, it has a star-studded cast, and Mark Mothersbaugh provided the score, but I would honestly rather watch “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” than sit through yet another two-hour-plus montage of Chris Hemsworth whipping his luxurious locks back and forth intercut with CGI explosions. This might come as a shock, but all the gratuitous violence, celebrities dressed up in ridiculous costumes and those post-credit sequences setting up a sequel are getting, well, kind of old.
There is no substance to these superhero movies anymore; they are essentially just hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown willy-nilly at a camera. Since its inception, the film industry has always been more concerned with profitability than artistry, so it really comes as no surprise that Hollywood’s executives keep capitalizing on the same exhaustive formula.
The most blatant issue with the superhero genre is that every movie seems to have the same basic plot structure that gets tweaked ever so slightly to fit within the context of the chosen character.
First is the exposition, usually an origin story for our protagonist or in the case of a sequel, just picking up where the last film left off. Next is the inciting action. Usually, an antagonist causes a catastrophe, threatening the safety of the city, or worse, the entire planet. Because of this, the protagonist must now make the decision that it is up to him or her to stop the antagonist, which leads to the rising action. Usually, this will involve a minor battle between the protagonist and the antagonist, and the protagonist realizing he or she severely underestimated the enemy. Now comes the fun part: the climax. This is always an extended battle sequence in which the protagonist does a terrible job of being a superhero and lets nearly half the city, or planet, or galaxy or whatever get destroyed. After a few billion dollars’ worth of property damage, the protagonist will win, but wait for the post-credit scene, because it is going to reveal that the antagonist is still out there… somewhere.
Concluding a story this way might be satisfying for an episode of a TV show, but it makes a full-length movie feel like one giant advertisement for the sequel.
This brings us to the next major problem with superhero films: sequels.
Of the seven major superhero movies this year, “Wonder Woman” was the only one that was not a sequel or a spinoff of another series. It probably is not a coincidence that “Wonder Woman” also happens to be the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time. Believe it or not, a lot of viewers actually enjoy original characters with unique perspectives, rather than shoving the same bland character in a variety of scenarios.
Sadly, DC saw the success of “Wonder Woman” and decided to shove her, as well as their other highly profitable intellectual properties, into “Justice League.” From a business standpoint, it is understandable why executives choose to make sequels. Financially, it is less risky, most of the actors are already cast and comfortable as their characters, and there is already an established audience from the original movie.
Unfortunately, rarely does a sequel live up to its predecessor, and half the time it just comes off as an uninspired ploy for money. Granted, there are some amazing sequels out there: “The Godfather Part II,” “Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Good The Bad And The Ugly.” However, for each of these, there are dozens of sequels on par with the atrocious “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.”
All-in-all, “Thor: Ragnarok” is probably a perfectly fine movie, even with its ludicrous plotline. If you do not question the movie at all, it will undoubtedly serve one of the main purposes of cinema: to entertain. But, with original films like “Battle Of The Sexes” and “Loving Vincent” also in theaters, it is hard to justify purchasing a ticket to yet another superhero movie.