Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Thor: Ragnarok by Mark Mothersbaugh (Review)

posted Oct 30, 2017, 9:14 AM by Kaya Savas

With Marvel embracing the glowing neon of nostalgia in Guardians Of The Galaxy, we see that now seeping into the universe of Thor. With Thor: Ragnarok gone are the days of muted grey and blues. Let’s get some synth and color! Marvel did their typical hiring of an unconventional director for one of their big-budget tentpoles, but it seems this time the leash was a bit longer. Taika Waititi is mostly known for indie comedies likes Eagle vs Shark, Boy and What We Do In The Shadows. Here he brings the improv approach to Thor: Ragnarok where the film was shot mostly with improv acting (similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm). Coming in to score the synthy sc-fi action is Mark Mothersbaugh who was another unexpected creative choice. With Waititi behind the camera and Mothersbaugh in the composer’s chair, we finally have a Marvel movie with its own pretty unique personality.

Mark Mothersbaugh has dipped his feet into the action pool here and there, but usually with action-comedies like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. Thor: Ragnarok definitely falls in the action-comedy genre. The interesting part of Mothersbaugh has always been his sound; coming from the band world with Devo he’s always given a unique twist to his scores. This particular score is a score with a lot of personality, and thankfully it doesn’t give us another dose of generic heroism. The score feels old fashioned, and not just because it blends in some retro synths. There’s something about how actively the music is working that just makes it feel old-fashioned, and in the best way possible. The music doesn’t feel like a blanket that was easily pulled over to make everything feel bold and heroic, it really feels tailored like a great-fitting suit. Structurally, everything is pretty sound with a great 3-act structure that is constantly elevated by the score’s personality. The simple story of Thor teaming with Hulk to stop the destruction of Asgard gives plenty of room for the characters to add a lot onscreen through their comedic interactions. And like most good comedy-action scoring, the score leaves the funny stuff to the actors. Throughout the running time of the story, the music helps keep the world feel real and engaging, and it's one the best strength's of Mothersbaugh's stylistic approach.

Some people might be getting tired of retro synth-based scores with the style making a very strong comeback in the past few years, but man does it make things great when the style is used by someone who knows how to handle them. Recently we’ve had full on synthetic scoring experiences such as with Blade Runner 2049 and Stranger Things, but this blending of orchestral gravitas with synth colors makes Thor: Ragnarok stand out as having a unique personality. Thor: Ragnarok is just pure fun. The music doesn’t comment on the improvised comedy that makes up the character interactions, instead it builds the world and makes it full of energetic life. This is a great sci-fi action score that gives Thor a fun personality, and in turn makes his past overly dramatic heroic adventures pretty forgettable.