Remember back in 2009 when Disney first bought over Marvel Studios, and fans the world over panicked that this would spell disaster for the comic book film studio? After all, Walt Disney Studios are known and loved for their child friendly films and programming, not exactly something that gels well with the often dark and violent nature of comic book heroes.
Regardless of personal taste, the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have achieved almost dizzying levels of success since they began with 2008's Iron Man, and have securely cemented the superhero genre film in the consciousness of the public since then. It's no secret that the MCU has a tendency to step on the lighter, more humorous side (Guardians of the Galaxy ended with a fricking dance off guys) leaving the dark brooding introspection to DC with the likes of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight franchise.
But then we heard rumours that the third instalment in the Thor series, [Thor: Ragnarok](tag:956858), was set to be Marvel's darkest film yet, which makes a hell of a lot of sense considering that it is literally dealing with ragnarök, the Norse apocalypse. The end of the world. The biggest of the big bads. And that sounded pretty exciting.
Comedy horror director/actor Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows / Flight of the Concords) is now officially on board to direct, and the popular theory is that he's been brought in to "lighten it up". This isn't entirely unreasonable if you take into account the tone of Thor: Ragnarok's predecessors, Thor and [Thor: The Dark World](tag:206462). Though they both still contained perils and trails for the titular hero, tonally they weren't what you would call the most serious of the MCU.
But then neither were they the most popular, The Dark World in particular garnered a very lukewarm reception and wasn't nearly as big a financial success as its counterpart MCU films. Given that they're looking to tie-up the Thor trilogy with a bang, hopefully recapturing audience attentions, it may be time to take a slightly different angle in approach for Ragnarok.
Ragnarok is supposedly going to have a major impact on the wider MCU, according to the almighty Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios, presumably paving the bloody road that's leading our heroes towards [The Avengers: Infinity War](tag:738027) in 2018, which will also see the conclusion of Chris Hemsworth's contract with Marvel. Whether or not he stays on after then will be up to him, and there's been rumours that Thor might be killed off at this time.
Though it's unlikely that Thor will be permanently bumped off in Ragnarok as many have speculated, you can't set the foundations of Infinity War and the Asgardian apocalypse (which does actually take place in the comics, resulting in Thor rebuilding Asgard upon Earth) without dipping your toe into the darker side of storytelling. It's just not believable.
This comes off the back of the ratings controversy currently surrounding DC's Suicide Squad, which in turn highlights a larger problem in comic book adaptations, an issue of source material fuckery addressed by Matt Goldberg over at Collider:
"The rules of violence and character behavior are loosened so that as long as a movie fits a blockbuster mold and can sell toys, it gets a “PG-13” and really has no ceiling on how much money it can gross."
Of course, I'm not suggesting that Thor: Ragnarok should feature Jared Leto torturing people (he'll be in the wrong franchise for one thing). And Waititi is a wonderful director and I'm very excited to see how he's going to handle the third film in the Thor series. But I will point out that this again steps into a larger issue not just in Marvel but in Hollywood, the oldest one in the books, taking something that has meaning and diluting it to make money.
I used to love the Marvel Cinematic Universe but now (with the exception of Ant-Man and last year's [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973)) it's becoming formulaic. Its watered down narrative and characterisation pandering to the box office and filling movie executives pockets.
It probably sounds naive and self-entitled to complain about, but there's no reason that a balance can't be struck between good storytelling and financial profit. I've seen it done in the MCU before, and can only hope I'll see it again when Thor: Ragnarok comes to theatres in November 2017, just so long as it doesn't shy too far away from the darker side of the end of the world.