Perhaps it’s unfair to compare a “Dungeons & Dragons” movie to something with the emotional and spiritual heft of Middle-earth. Instead, let’s analyze it next to something more equally paired – “Thor: Ragnarok.”
The former is one of Marvel’s more famous films. It marks the MCU debut of director Taika Waititi and is widely considered a movie that resurrected the failing Thor franchise nearly from the dead (its prequel, “The Dark World,” is consistently ranked amongst the worst MCU movies.) While “Ragnarok” was important turning point for the better in the Thor franchise, the film is also notable because it is markedly goofy. It features similarly ridiculous imagery to D&D, pokes fun at itself, and consistently cracks jokes at its characters’ expense.
Yet, “Ragnarok” succeeded because it remained an honest story that doesn’t break character. Odin dies a very real death, and Thor and Loki are allowed to genuinely grieve on-screen without interrupting the emotion via jarring comedy. Hela’s threat is very real and has organic consequences that fit in with Thor’s universe. Asgard really explodes. Thanos leaves everyone quaking in their boots in that end credit shot.
Even when humor is used, the movie doesn’t betray its self-awareness. It doesn’t buddy up next to the viewer and put its arm around them as it laughs and points at itself. It uses inherently funny personalities like the Grandmaster, Hulk, and Thor himself to channel its humor. It confidently sells the good, the bad, and the ridiculous as a complete package that, with a little dose of the suspension of disbelief, is an enjoyable ride. In fact, the use of humor to support rather than betray the movie gives it a singularly entertaining element that attracted many casual viewers who might’ve otherwise skipped it.