If you don't mind, would you elaborate on the use of slapstick in Thor: Ragnorak when compared to other similar action comedies? You totally crystallized something I couldn't put my finger on. Like, I really did enjoy GotG and GotG2, but I felt the slapstick there undercut at the expense of story & characters, rather than enhanced audience understanding of the characters. IDK why tho?
I think it’s in the type of jokes being told. I mean a lot of times, slapstick comes about because of either misunderstandings or a character being inept at something. Like Drax and his metaphors. Or when Rocket tricks Peter into getting some guy’s mechanical limb. The gist of the joke is that our characters are clueless or ignorant. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it gets tiring. Especially when you find yourself thinking “…shouldn’t they know better than that?”
What stuck out for me about the humor in Thor: Ragnarok is that most of it has to do with timing, klutziness or sheer dumb luck. Like when Surtur and Thor have their early confrontation and Thor’s swinging in the chain, which keeps interrupting the speech. That has nothing to do with Surtur or Thor being inept. Surtur is clearly very powerful. Thor clearly has something up his sleeve. It’s just…silly timing. Or how Thor’s speech kind of trails off because Mjolnir, which IS on its way, hadn’t quite made it yet.
It’s a cute lampoon of the entire genre really. Those kind of speeches are a staple of superhero movies, and both heroes and villains always manage to strike a pose and deliver their lines with panache and NOTHING ever ruins the moment.
In Thor: Ragnarok, EVERYTHING ruins the moment. Dumb luck. A window doesn’t break like expected. Someone trips over their own two feet. The kind of stuff that happens to us all the time but never to superheroes! And that’s really funny. It brings them down to our level.
But at no point do they stop being who they are. Sure, Banner falls face first onto the bridge. But he’s still incredibly powerful as the Hulk (he doesn’t get to show off his brains as much this movie, sadly). Sure, Thor manages to knock himself over when he throws that…ball thing? But he’s still clever enough to outwit Loki at his own game. Valkyrie can fall on her ass off her ship, but still kick the ass of anyone who challenges her.
The joke isn’t that our heroes are inept. The joke is that our heroes are incredibly powerful, competent and clever…but still things don’t go their way sometimes.
The humor humbles our heroes without lessening them.