Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thor--Ragnarok (Why The End of the World Can Be Fun)

Got to see Thor--Ragnarok last night.

Doctor Strange and Spider-Man Homecoming were enjoyable to me, but both felt like they could have pushed things a bit further and had a bit more substance.

I loved the actors in Doctor Strange, but the plot felt safe. I loved the actors, especially Michael Keaton, in Spider-Man Homecoming, but felt like the reliance on tech and the painfully obvious avoidance of anything that even hinted at his origin story ended up hurting the film for me.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Two had some tremendous emotional impact, but I felt like the comedic beats were all too close together. I don't know that it was more comedic than the first movie, but it felt like the first movie did a better job of weaving drama and action in between those comedic bits.



So, knowing my heretical views on the last few Marvel movies, I dearly, dearly loved Thor--Ragnarok.

I won't give anything away, but the comedic pacing felt much more like the first Guardians of the Galaxy to me--it was present, and important to the film, but it never felt like it was overwhelming the film at any point. A lot of the comedy came from "real" moments of interactions between characters.

When it comes to Thor movies, I enjoyed the first movie. It was a "safe" introduction to Thor and his world. Because this was still early in the Marvel Cinematic universe timeline, they walked the line between not scaling down Thor's power from the comics, but still making it more of a "human level" story. They introduced Asgard and Thor's supporting cast, but in a way that let them take a backseat to Thor talking to "real" people on Earth, because the studio wasn't sure how much "out there" Marvel cosmic weirdness an audience would bear.

Thor--The Dark World was a disappointment to me. It felt like they tried to do the first movie's formula again--having the focus of the movie be Thor interacting with mortals, on earth. But it also seemed like there was a conscious decision to not cast Asgard as the weird melting pot of magic and technology that they hint at in the first movie, and recast most of the mythology of Thor's world as being absolutely 100% space alien stuff.

Granted, the seeds of this were planted in Avengers, where we saw less of Loki having blurry "sorcerous" powers, and more of him using alien artifacts. But the biggest disappointment with this "aliens and tech" realignment were the Dark Elves. There is nothing magical about them. Aside from the pointy ears, they could be any nihilistic aliens. And Kurse, who had a really interesting character arc in the Thor comics, is completely wasted in that movie.

Its telling that one of my favorite characters from the first two Thor movies was Cat Dennings' Darcy, who was created specifically for the movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy set the tone that the "cosmic" side of Marvel is a weird, wild place. It pushed boundaries, and took risks. Without the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor--Ragnarok wouldn't have happened.

To get maximum usage out of Thor and the Thor comics contribution to the Marvel Universe, you
should have a universe where blaster rifles, starships, undead armies, giant wolves, and giants made of fire can all exist in the same story, without anyone blinking. The Thor franchise has struggled with the question of "should we be about mythology," "should we be science fiction," "should we be epic"," "should we tell personal stories," and the answer wasn't "pick which ones" but "yes" to all of the above.

Thor--Ragnarok also manages to weave in a few iconic scenes and themes from Thor storylines spanning the years, without getting too lost in any of them.

When I heard that Taika Waititi disliked the previous Thor movies and wanted a clean break and a radical new direction, I was worried that would mean Thor would be moving further away from its source material. Instead of running away, it feels like he loaded the movie up with some of the most over the top moments and ran headlong into the heart of the craziest aspects of Thor's storylines.

This is a clean break that doesn't ignore the past, but ties up a lot of loose ends from the surface level treatment that came before, and ropes in a wider array of Thor stories from decades of the character's history.


That's about as much as I can say, without getting into spoiler territory, but Thor--Ragnarok is my favorite Marvel movie in a while.

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