Thor: Ragnarok: Anti-Patriarchial Action Adventure
I knew going in what I wanted fromThor: Ragnarok going in–And I got it. But it also had some excellent surprises. First let’s go over the good stuff we expected:
I wanted humor. The very first Thor film had a lot of excellent humor–and who doesn’t love a hero–and a franchise–that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Who doesn’t love riffs on anti-cool-ness? (I do!)
I wanted Hela! I was excited to see an all-powerful villainess with the most-est.
As played by Kate Blanchet, Hela in all her glory is a lot of Goth eye make-up and a lot of scorching fury. Her tortured, slinky self was magnificent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: her antler horns are ridiculous–almost as ridiculous as Loki’s–which is saying a lot. It takes quite a good actor to wear it well, and Blanchett did.
I wanted Loki – Hiddlesbum, you hot thing you. He was expected, even needed in the film every bit as much as Thor was. Always elegant, and in this film not given particularly much to do. He nevertheless did a good job of portraying his own skewed agenda throughout. Sometimes a reluctant part of the team, Loki’s never one of the mob. He’s an independent thinker, with his own perspective, and that’s why I like him so much.
Idris Elba as Heimdall, alas, has never pleased me in the Thor franchise. Three reasons why:
- They loaded him down with some crazy eye contacts
- and about five tons of too much sincerity
- in too small a role. Sigh.
What I wasn’t expecting was:
Valkyrie! Tessa Thompson got to play the reluctant hero role as a POC side-kick. YAY! I found her arresting.
Thor gets a make-over! He gets a haircut. (Yay!) There is also some gratuitous shirtless Hemsworth time. (Was that abdomen CGI? I don’t think it was, but day-am!) Hemsworth, really is at his best as an actor playing a frank, yet dumb warrior dude. He doesn’t deserve his role because of pure acting skill; there is no denying the man’s super-human arms. Whew! In a way, I’m glad his shirtless moment didn’t go on and on, because I have no idea what was being said in that scene, and wouldn’t have been able to follow the movie’s plot had such shocking Hemsworth shirtlessness continued.
WHAT YOU DIDN’T SEE IN THE FILM BUT I COULD TOTALLY IMAGINE:
I think the creators of Thor know us by this point, ladies. That Thor ending—where there’s a bit of a singular moment between Thor and Loki when they’re alone. Full of emotive unspoken feelings. Full of pauses.
This is what I said to my sweetie on the way back to the car afterwards:
In my version of the film that’s where they would have started having sex.
Sweetie said: No way! They’re brothers.
Look it’s been a hard year for us women. We need Thor & Loki sex.
META-NARRATIVE ABOUT THE DEATH OF OLD SKOOL PATRIARCHY, ANYONE? (!!!)
It was a surprise to see Karl Urban with a bald head and heavy make up at the beginning of the film, yet he was there purely as a representation of Old skool masculinity.
A sop to a certain kind of gun-loving guy, Karl Urban has babes and guns at the beginning of the film. But the film really deflects that. An instant later, some creature spits up all over the babes, and things go to hell in a handbasket. Poor Karl really just wants to have his one true warrior moment. At the very end, he gets to have that moment—along with all the gun-toting idiot dudes out there–as he go down in a blaze of old skool masculine glory, seemingly selfish at first, but sacrificing himself for the good of others.
LET’S GO DEEPER PEOPLE: That’s one layer of the film–and it’s thin.
I would posit that the rest of Thor is attempting to shift Action Movies in a new direction—make them more progressive. (Shocking, I know.) How did THOR: RAGNAROK mark a profound shift in action adventure movies of the future? Many critics are buzzing about the different meaningful aspects of this new directorial vision – the first POC director in the franchise. I want to argue that the film is (as much as it is anything else) literaly dismantling patriarchy, as well as creating space for women as active players in the Thor Universe.
First the women: Hela is a great villain. She could have been more clever, could have gotten deeper, but her role involved a shocker—see below.
There’s also the Valkyrie. No more Thor’s mother and sister sitting around at home while all the action was happening elsewhere. The Valkyrie is right up in it. She is the female Karl Urban, taking up far more space in the film. She also fights in the end, knowing she’s gonna die.
No women need to be saved because they’re the weaker sex in this movie—on Valhalla the entire population needs saving. Nor are the women reserved for romantic interest fodder. There are no romantic interests at all in Thor: Ragnarok (unless you buy my Loki & Thor m/m fantasy. ;>) Women are included as players, pure and simple. Hela kicks ass, and the Valkyrie—full of doom and foreboding–wads into a losing battle, then pounds away at it just like the men. Why not, right? They’re all gods–it’s not like their physical forms really matter.
But what was even better and more riveting to me—was this fabulous tearing down of Odin—Thor’s father (played by Anthony Hopkins.)
The back story in this movie is that Odin had a daughter, named Hela – and they ravaged 9 kingdoms together, raking in the booty. That is, until one day Odin seemed to grow a conscience about all the plundering and decided to go in another direction. So Odin’s solution was to cast his daughter out of Valhalla. Her very history was written over, with other remnants and symbols from that time buried and forgotten. Until Odin’s death. As he’s dying, he tells his two sons about their lost sister—and once he’s dead, she’s back, with a big old chip on her shoulder and some major daddy issues.
The first thing she does is go and uncover all this erased history in Valhalla, (I couldn’t find pictures of the cool moving ceiling mural–but it was really well done) staking her claim as first born to rule all of Odins 9 realms. And what the hell—she wants to go out and conquer all the remaining realms as well.
So as a villain, her major lasting strike is that she complicates the idea of Odin as a good guy. Nor is he ever vindicated in the end. There’s no rolling back from her revelations once she’s vanquished. The upshot: Valhalla, built upon ill-gotten, illicit colonialist wealth, is destroyed.
Buh-bye patriarchal kingdom.
In the end, yes, Hela is displaced by Thor. It’s not done with a “the man’s supposed to rule” kind of presumption. Thor acknowledges that as eldest born Hela has a legitimate claim to the throne.
But then Thor points out that she’s the worst. True. Hela has an unquenched desire for conquest, totalitarian rule, and a cavalier disregard for the death and destruction of her subjects. That’s what they say, but that’s not how actions play out. At the very end, Hela **is** left to rule Valhalla–and to destroy it. A world born out of multiple sins is pulled down into flames and destruction, while Thor and his people seek a new place to start fresh.
Want to read more interesting discussion about the film? Here’s a Mashable blog post on Thor’s themes of colonialism.
and a blog post about the deliberate use of Maori humor in Thor:
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Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had. She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice. Check out her other Lady Smut posts, Join her newsletter or follow her on Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.