Thor Ragnarok: Laughter proves to be Marvel’s best medicine
In less than two minutes, Thor: Ragnarok emerges as Marvel’s glorious step towards the light, leaving DC rivals Batman & co alone in the dark.
The trailer for the third Thor movie smashed viewing records for both Disney and Marvel, and all due to a much needed shift in tone.
Reaching 136 million views in less than 24 hours is in itself a feat, but more so when we consider how unsuccessful the last instalment was.
Thor: The Dark World was ravaged by critics and dissed by audiences and, for a minute, it seemed as if Marvel may have exhausted the formula.
The sometimes cheesy, often self-serious Mighty Thor was never a particularly funny character in the comics.
Being the son of Odin and the defender of Asgard made him a dull, muscular God with no sense of humour – that is, until now.
By getting New Zealand comedian/director Taika Waititi on board for Ragnarok, Marvel accepted that Thor’s character needed a revamp and found just the right tone.
In the first seconds of the new trailer, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor introduces himself to the audience while hanging down a lava pit.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he tells the audience. “How did this happen?”.
Breaking the fourth wall is exactly the kind of comic relief which made Deadpool such a success – Marvel got the message.
In fact, the comic book giant’s most successful movies have been the work of filmmakers who refused to take themselves seriously.
Director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey Jr turned a boring millionaire in an iron suit to Marvel’s first truly successful franchise.
Along came Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man, Deadpool and, finally, a short film shot by Waikiki and released last year, showing what Thor had been up to since the Avengers last assembled.
In the mockumentary, the God of Thunder tells us about his life on Earth, how bored he is from not fighting evil and from sharing a house with an office clerk named Darryl.
Rather than just a short, this was Waikiki’s way of introducing a new Thor, whose self-serious tones are ridiculed on screen.
And if the DC Universe is losing the ratings war, it’s because the deep voice of the Batman and the self-righteous glory of the Man Of Steel won’t allow a single laugh – at least not on purpose.
Partly to blame is director Christopher Nolan, whose approach to the Cape Crusader owed more to Nietzsche than to Tim Burton.
But Batman was already a sombre hero, and Nolan’s action-packed Dark Knight trilogy far exceeded any other DC franchises.
Now, with both Nolan and star Christian Bale literally out of the picture, there was a fresh chance of revamping the franchise.
Instead, Ben Affleck’s Batman is now a rich, depressed old man who still struggles with the loss of his parents and Superman, well, the same.
I’m reminded of what Heath Ledger’s psychotic Joker once asked the Batman.
“Why so serious?”.
I don’t know, but it’s not doing him any good.