Third time is apparently the charm for Marvel’s God of Thunder. Early reviews for Thor: Ragnarok, the final chapter in this oh-so-loosely-connected-trilogy, are fantastic; director Taika Waititi actually delivered on his promise of an improvised, colorful, and funny superhero film — fans are clearly excited too, as Rotten Tomatoes lists the film at 98% (57-out-of-58 reviews are “fresh,” if that sort of thing excites you).
More important, after a summer of flops, underperforming box offices, and ever-eroding theater audiences Thor: Ragnarok might represent something of a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the rest of a jam-packed fall and holiday movie schedule. Right on the heels Thor: Ragnarok‘s hammer-punch is a running brawl of big-budget, blockbusters straight through the end of the year, including Justice League, Coco, The Shape of Water, The Last Jedi, and Jumanji (just to name a few of the major releases over the next two months).
Fortunately, expectations for Thor: Ragnarok‘s (domestic) box office are off-the-charts good. According to Variety, Thor: Ragnarok is projected to haul in a stunning $100 million during its opening weekend — where it should have little-to-no-competition, both the week prior and the week following. Justice League picks up the baton two weeks later, and then it’s a week-to-week fist-fight for box office supremacy (and survival).
Thor‘s relatively open runway is no accident, however. One of the often overlooked aspects of Disney’s stable (including Marvel, Pixar, LucasFilm, and its own Disney-branded films) is their ability to spread their releases throughout the year, avoiding possible audience cannibalization or market confusion. Most of the other major studios tend to give wide berth to anything under Disney’s giant, multinational, conglomerate umbrella.
So why is Thor: Ragnarok projected to be such a big hit, particularly when so many other sci-fi films have struggled this year? Alien: Covenant, Valerian, The Dark Tower, and Blade Runner 2049 all spectacularly crashed and burned in 2017. Granted, Thor: Ragnarok is viewed by many as a superhero film, but since it takes place within Marvel’s cosmic realm and many of Thor’s powers and abilities have been stripped the film has more in common with the aforementioned sci-fi movies than with the more traditionally earthbound Captain America or Batman genre films.
Obviously, the Marvel brand has a built-in following, but that’s no guarantee of success; the first two Thor films were actually some of the weakest performers in Marvel’s 16 MCU films to-date. Additionally, many fans and media have railed against the adherence to formula in these MCU movies — a trap that both previous Thor pictures fell into.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the tone and mood expressed in the film’s marketing (trailers, teasers, posters, press photos), which suggests that the actors were having a blast, playing jokes, and otherwise taking risks with their characters and the plot. Thor: Ragnarok simply looks like a good, fun time at the movies, which is incidentally why people still like going to the movies. If Thor: Ragnarok is an indicator for the rest of 2017’s big movies, it’s going to be a great fall and holiday season.
Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters on November 3, 2017.