‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is about colonialism


Asgard is a realm faraway from Midgard (or as we all know it, Earth), however make no mistake: Thor: Ragnarok is as a lot about us as it’s about them.

Specifically, it is in regards to the bloody historical past of colonialism, and that historical past’s refusal to remain buried, regardless of how keen we’re to whitewash our sins.

In Thor: Ragnarok, we study precisely how Asgard got here to be the rich and highly effective kingdom it’s right now. The reply is not fairly. Before Odin was generally known as a clever and benevolent ruler, he was generally known as a bloodthirsty conquerer, tearing by way of nations along with his daughter, Hela, at his facet.

Odin is happy with his energy and riches, however ashamed of how he received them

But, Hela explains, her urge for food for destruction finally outmatched his. Odin turned on her, locking her away and primarily writing her out of the historical past books. He has her actually painted over within the palace mural, changed by prettier photos of peace and prosperity. As Hela bitterly remarks, Odin is happy with his energy and riches, however ashamed of how he received them.

Centuries later, youthful Asgardians like Thor appear to have solely the faintest thought of their land’s ugly previous. Thor is conscious that his father was as soon as a fearsome warrior (it is explicitly talked about and demonstrated in his earlier motion pictures), however apparently hasn’t spent a lot time fascinated by whom his father was combating, or why. 

As for Hela, he would not even notice that she exists

Fun fact: This shot does not exist in the movie.

Fun truth: This shot doesn’t exist within the film.

Not that it issues. By burying Hela as an alternative of correctly reckoning together with her, Odin has ensured that she’s going to, sometime, be another person’s downside – and that that another person will probably be woefully unprepared to cope with her when that day comes. 

Sound acquainted? The story of Asgard has echoes throughout our personal world: the “free world” constructed on the subjugation and slaughter of others; the sanitization of our previous and present misdeeds; the youthful technology raised on patriotic half-truths. Hela serves as a terrifying reminder that the previous has a approach of catching as much as the current, regardless of how desperately you’d prefer to erase previous sins.

Hela serves as a terrifying reminder that the previous has a approach of catching as much as the current

In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor is the one who rises to the event of dealing with down Asgard’s ugly previous. He would not have to – Hela’s already thrown him off-planet, and the best and most secure factor for him to do can be to remain out of her path – however he feels an obligation to guard his individuals from his sister. Emphasis on “his people”: Thor takes to coronary heart that Asgard is a individuals, not a spot or a factor. 

His precedence all through the ultimate battle is Asgard’s inhabitants, not its land or its gold or its fame. In different phrases, he prioritizes individuals over patriotism. 

By the tip, Thor has deserted the bodily realm of Asgard solely, leaving Hela and Surtur to tear it aside. He and the opposite surviving Asgardians are huddled collectively on a spaceship, refugees hoping to make a brand new dwelling on Midgard.

To be fair, I, too, would be very tempted to follow Cate Blanchett into the apocalypse.

To be truthful, I, too, can be very tempted to comply with Cate Blanchett into the apocalypse.

Thor’s not the one one who has some key selections to make in Ragnarok. Hela’s right-hand man is Skurge, who goes alongside together with her rule not out of some nice ardour for her trigger, however as a result of it simply looks like the straightforward factor to do. When it turns into clear that the tides are turning, he boards the refugee ship with the opposite Asgardians.

Skurge is the undecided voter of Asgard, and he lastly steps up

Then, on the final minute, he does one thing genuinely heroic: He sacrifices himself to make sure that the ship can get to security, laying waste to Hela’s forces with two machine weapons he picked up on a lark in Texas. (They’re named Des and Troy, as a result of when he places them collectively, they destroy. Thor: Ragnarok could have weighty ideas on its thoughts, nevertheless it’s by no means one to cross up a great joke.)

With Skurge, Ragnarok exhibits us that nice evil may be enabled by odd indifference, that “hero” and “villain” will not be fastened states, that it is by no means too late to do the correct factor, and that even nobodies should resolve the best way to wield no matter energy they’ve. He’s the uncommon Marvel character who is not simply categorized as “good” or “bad.” He’s the undecided voter of Asgard, and he lastly steps up.

Meanwhile, again on Sakaar, the Grandmaster has his personal issues to cope with. Thor and Hulk’s escape has sparked a revolt led by Korg (with an help from the Revengers). Whereas Hela is overtly harmful and dominant, the Grandmaster is a extra ingratiating determine. 

He’s launched by way of a video that rebadures his contenders they have been discovered by somebody who loves them. Never thoughts that the Grandmaster holding individuals captive and forcing them to combat to the demise – he fancies himself a benevolent caretaker. In a jab on the fashionable jail system, the Grandmaster shudders on the phrase “slaves” and prefers the euphemism “prisoners with jobs.” The message is evident: he is the identical previous oppressive bullshit, repackaged to look brighter and gentler.



Key to all of Thor: Ragnarok‘s themes are who’s telling this story. Taika Waititi is the franchise’s first non-white director, and one in every of its few non-American administrators. That unusual-for-Marvel perspective could have one thing to do along with his choice to show this superhero smash-’em-up into a mirrored image on the horrors of colonialism. Others extra certified than I’m to debate it have taken additionally word of Ragnarok‘s uniquely Kiwi and uniquely Maori sensibility.

While Thor: Ragnarok nonetheless facilities round a white man, it is received a meatier function than ever earlier than for Heimdall, chief of the Asgardian resistance and protector of its individuals in Thor’s absence throughout Hela’s reign. The movie introduces Valkyrie as a former hero of Asgard who steps up once more in its time of want, hinting on the trauma she endured in between. Plus, after all, there’s Korg, voiced and mo-capped by Waititi himself in a definite New Zealand accent. This is a narrative about oppression that truly makes room for non-white individuals, in contrast to so lots of the others that hit our theaters.

And, sure, Thor: Ragnarok does all this whereas delivering jokes about Shake Weights and Hulk dick and introducing one thing referred to as the Devil’s Anus to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s fizzy and humorous and enjoyable in a approach that Thor’s earlier motion pictures have not been. But do not mistake its silliness for lack of depth. 

Just as there’s extra to Thor than his Point Break persona, there’s much more to Ragnarok than its gags.

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