Tag Archives: Comics

Fanboy Review #8— Thor: Ragnarok

[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead, so take heed.]

Marvel’s latest addition to their cinematic universe released recently, taking the world by storm (sorry, couldn’t resist). While ranking 11th amongst  Marvel releases, it is nevertheless doing better than either of the previous Thor movies. It’s ranked at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing. Let’s dive in.

Thor-Ragnarok-title-card

Stop…Hammer Time!

First Impressions: I found the first two Thor films entertaining, but nowhere near Marvel’s strongest offerings. For my part, it’s sort of a toss-up between Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World for worst movie in the MCU.  While I think that Chris Hemsworth plays Thor with just the right mix of power and humor, he wasn’t given much to work with in the first two installments. Director Taika Waititi has a fresh take on the character, so I’m in.

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What he said. 

What I LIKED:

  • THE SCORE! – When I got home from seeing this movie, I immediately downloaded the score by Mark Mothersbaugh. It’s so unexpected to have this strange, resonant sort of ’80s synth vibe going on. It’s like if Flash Gordon had taken place a decade later, mixed with the background of Stranger Things. It really adds something both delightful and different to the action sequences.
  • Thor and Loki – I loved seeing these two characters together again. Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston have fantastic comedic timing. We got to see that a little before, but here it’s all over the place. They feel more like brothers here, especially the way they try to get back at one another. I maintain that I would gladly see a Loki-centric movie. He remains one of the best villains, and best characters, the MCU has produced. Which leads me to my next point…
thor-ragnarok-3

Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie. 

  • HELA! – I’m used to Cate Blanchett in dramatic roles, which is why it’s a surprise she’s so funny as the Goddess of Death (yeah, not one I would have seen coming). To date, she is the most powerful villain we’ve seen on screen in the MCU. Without the Infinity Gauntlet, I doubt Thanos would stand a chance against her (more on that below). Wow, when she cuts loose on the Army of Asgard, it’s like Sauron and Neo in the levels of sheer badassery.
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  • Heimdall – Have I said lately much I love Edris Elba? His Heimdall makes me wish there was a whole other full-length movie of what he’s doing in the background. They say a few times that Asgard is a people, not a place. If that’s true, Heimdall is the true savior of Asgard. It looks like there are only a few hundred survivors in the aftermath, and Heimdall, fighting on his own, gathered them all to the Yggdrasil sanctuary AND kept Hela from getting his sword, so she was effectively bottled up in Asgard. LOVE. IT.
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No comment necessary. 

  • The Grandmaster – Jeff Goldblum perfectly fits in with the type of offbeat humor Thor: Ragnarok exudes. I’m always happy to see an appearance by one of the Elders of the Universe. It reminds me of reading Silver Surfer as a kid. And through him there’s a nod to the Contest of Champions, and a look at Gladiator and Beta Ray Bill as his former champions.
  • The Visuals – Much like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange, this movie is stunning to look at. The art direction, the set, and costume design are all fantastic. They give Thor a brand new look, new armor, short hair and (later) one eye, and it all sort of works. Waititi cites Jack Kirby as his inspiration for the look and feel of the film, and he NAILS it.
  • Hulk as a Big Toddler – We see far more of the Hulk in this movie than anything previous. Before, it was mostly when there was fighting, but here we see him outside of combat. He’s like a big toddler with a limited vocabulary, and one prone to misunderstanding and tantrums. It’s a little odd to see the Hulk in some of his calmer moments, but that’s an insight into Banner’s Mr. Hyde we just haven’t seen before. Well done.
  • Korg & Company – Even though we never saw them in the arena, the colorful group of gladiators were pretty funny and cool. I particularly like Korg. He looks like he would have a deep, raspy voice, but actually speaks with a higher pitched, cockney accent. I think he had some of the best lines, even one that maybe should have been rethought (see below.)
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Wait, Hela is *Odin’s* daughter? 

What I DIDN’T Like:

  • THE FRIGGIN’ WARRIORS THREE, MAN! – There is one thing I absolutely HATED about this movie, and it’s how Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun the Grim went out. I really like those characters, and they were supposed to be elite warriors of Asgard. Volstagg and Fandral were put down by Hela. Hogun got a few hits in, but then was instantly killed in a way that DOES NOT sit well with me. I understand establishing Hela as a dire threat (and mission accomplished there), but give them heroic deaths, yeah? They were shown the same kind of disregard, bordering on contempt, as Jimmy Olsen in Batman V. Superman. NOPE. I’m just glad Lady Sif was nowhere to be found.

The-Warriors-Three

  • The Quinjet – Perhaps there’s an explanation I’m not aware of, but this seems like a big continuity error that goes beyond simple retconning. Hulk is obviously on the Quinjet the Avengers used to defend Sokovia, as it still has Tony Stark’s clothes in it. Isn’t this the Quinjet that they found ditched in the Pacific Ocean, near Fiji? Now it’s on Sakaar? And what was an airplane even doing in space in the first place? Who’s in charge of keeping facts straight at Marvel?
  • Odin’s Departure – It seems rushed and weird. And could they not shoot on location for some reason? The shot of Thor, Loki, and Odin looking out at the ocean in Norway is some of the worst greenscreening I’ve seen in a while. Nothing about that looked real. Good thing Doctor Strange pointed them in the right direction, huh? A few more minutes of conversation and Odin would have slipped off without saying goodbye. But, I am at least glad that Anthony Hopkins got to reprise his role as Odin.
  • Doctor Strange – We got a bit of a bait-and-switch with the stinger scene in last year’s Doctor Strange, where he meets Thor. It’s quite a bit different when we see it here. While the post-credits version seemed like Strange wants to help Thor, it’s clear that here he’s really just trying to get Thor and Loki off of the Earth ASAP. Aside from pointing the two to Odin in Norway and sending them there, a character as cool as Cumberbatch’s Strange doesn’t contribute much to the story. I had hoped he would stick around to help them out with their first obstacle, trade a few barbed exchanges with Loki, and then remain behind when Thor and Loki returned to Asgard. Guess Strange isn’t going to be happy that they coming back (or trying to), huh?
doctor-strange-thor-ragnarok

Hang on…how many Asgardians are coming here? 

  • Banner’s Choice – There are many missed opportunities in this movie. It’s clear that Banner might be committing a form of suicide if he turns into Hulk again. When he sees the Asgardian survivors besieged from both sides while trapped on the Bifrost bridge, there should have been a moment where we see Banner make the choice. Mark Ruffalo is such a good actor that all it would have required is about five seconds for him to sell the finality of this choice with his eyes. No dialogue required. The scene is kinda there, but had no weight to it. It was glossed over in favor of a humorous moment, which reminds me…
  • Humor Overstaying Its Welcome- Let me be clear: I thought the humor here was really good. And it was a different blend of humor than the Whedonesque style we normally get. But, I think it overstayed its welcome in places. It felt jarring when the movie was put on pause to deliver a joke. The most egregious of these is when Asgard explodes. It’s the punchline to a joke, and has zero dramatic weight to it. This was their home. This should have all the punch-to-the-feels of Kirk watching the Enterprise burn up in the Genesis planet’s atmosphere. There’s none of that here. Once again, a missed opportunity.
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Remember when our eons-old home was destroyed right before our very eyes? Yeah that was HILARIOUS. 

  • The Executioner – I like Karl Urban as an actor, and I thought he did a good job with what he had, but the character is super predictable. He joins Hela, but never does anything too irredeemable, then (big surprise) turns on Hela at the last minute, has his moment of glory, and then dies. What a waste of potential. Ugh.
  • The Hand Waving of Jane Foster – I get it; Natalie Portman doesn’t want to be in the MCU anymore. They’ve been making excuses for her continued absence since the first Avengers. Now they just write her out of the picture by a simple breakup? And this is common knowledge?
  • The First Stinger – I had to read an interview with Kevin Feige to know that the ship that showed up in the stinger was the Sanctuary II, Thanos’ new ship. Some context, please? That could have been anyone. If you want us to feel something about it, we need some sort of hint that it’s Thanos. Throw us a bone here, people.
Marvel-Phase-3-Thanos-Infinity-Gauntlet-Tease

Can’t. Wait. 

Unresolved Questions (At This Point):

Is Hela really dead? She is the goddess of death, so I’m going to take a wild guess and say that she’s going to return. (Perhaps death is more of an inconvenience to her.) And will she be the incarnation of death that Thanos tries to woo when he gets the Infinity Gauntlet? Goth Cate Blanchett? Can’t say I blame him. Wow.

Will Mjolnir ever be reforged? If so, will that be the way they hand off the character to another actor or actress? They could go the route of the Odinson in the comics, which would allow the Hemsworth Thor to retire and rule Asgard in place of Odin. Might that open the door for Lady Thor or Beta Ray Bill to come in to fill that role as Midgard’s champion? Who shall be worthy?

What about Lady Sif? I know the real reason she’s not here is because of Jaimie Alexander’s RL scheduling conflicts, but since she (Lady Sif) wasn’t present for Ragnarok (and the culling of Thor’s companions), maybe she’s still out there somewhere, and can rejoin her people at a later time.

How does Thor get from the starship at the end of the movie to the meet-up with the Guardians of the Galaxy in Infinity War?  What does that mean for the handful of Asgardian survivors? Will Asgard be refounded on Earth, perhaps in Norway, or even Oklahoma, per the comics?

Loki almost certainly grabbed the Tesseract while in the vault, so does he (once again) betray his fellow Asgardians by giving it to Thanos? Or does that go down some other way?

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Boss fight.  

Conclusions:

I liked this movie quite a bit. There are really great moments in it, and the comedy usually works, even if it’s at the expense of the drama at times. As I said before, I found the other two Thor movies entertaining, but not the best the MCU has produced. Thor needed a different take for the third installment, and I think this movie delivers on just that. It’s unfortunate that we may not see Chris Hemsworth in his own movie again, just as the Thor franchise seems to have found a combination that works. I do hope that Taika Waititi has the chance to helm another Marvel blockbuster, because I think he worked wonders with this one.

And that’s the way this fanboy sees it.

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Brian’s Comic Contemplations II — The Miles Morales Syndrome

[Brian is a HUGE Spider-man fan. In all my travels, I have never encountered a bigger fan of the wall-crawler. Here are some of his thoughts and opinions on the State of the Spidey.]

Now that my first rant about Deadpool is ancient history, I thought I’d offer Matt another break from the blogging grind with another guest submission before he changes his mind. So here are a couple of similar issues that leave me bewildered when it comes to the comic book world.

Watch out, here comes the Spider-Man...

Just your friendly neighborhood…yeah, you know the rest.

At a point several years ago, Marvel decided they needed a new, more modern Spider-Man. One that reflected the cultural realities in the U.S. population. So, they introduced a new Spidey. A boy named Miles Morales. They then “killed” the character Peter Parker.

This is something that really chaps my Boo Berries. Look, I realize that comic book and movie companies are influenced by marketing departments. And I know we live in a politically-correct, inclusive society. Hey, I welcome that. Not complaining. But why slough-off the development of multicultural characters?

Why take the cheap route? Once again, indolence, I assert.

All this back and forth with the Spider-Man identity prompted some good things in the comic world. Notably, the Spiderverse storyline and, by some extension, The Superior Spider-Man tales. But it also spurred on the dubious debate as to which Spider-man would be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). With the huge success of the Iron Man Franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, Marvel had its mouth watering to reclaim the legendary web slinger and (perhaps correctly) add him to the already impressive MCU roster.

He's got radioactive blood...

As it should be.

Of course, this is all after Sony pictures launched and failed two cinematic iterations of the character. (Tobey McGuire and Andrew Garfield). Regardless of what you think of those movies, Marvel thinks they can do better. And their current box office track record may make for a compelling argument. At last look, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe had grossed an astonishing $7.787 billion at the worldwide box office. (And that was before Ant Man.)

But then the debate started as to which Spidey they would add to their upcoming Captain America: Civil War film – as an introduction back into the MCU.

What?

The “debate” has long since been settled with Marvel finally deciding that our old buddy Peter Parker would get another kick at the can instead of Miles Morales.

Don’t get me started about the casting. (Tom Holland, Asa Butterfield, etc.) I have no idea what the logic was there, but suffice to say, this wall-crawler, for better or worse, will be more akin to a Spiderboy than a Spiderman. Going back to the era when Spidey/Peter Parker was a high-school teen is a decision that may or may not work. I started reading Spiderman comics at about Amazing Spiderman #40 with the late, great John Romita Sr. back in the late ‘60s, and by then, he was becoming a Spider-MAN, but I won’t quibble with the youth-movement approach to the MCU story, because I DO understand the tactic. And it does bear continuity with the early stories. So, fair enough.

Take a look...overhead...

Spider…um, man?

But a while back, I read a blog by an, evidently, selfish individual who submitted that there was no place for a white Spider-man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – clamoring, “Enough Peter Parker!”  Well, Sir, THAT is YOUR opinion. Yes, I’m sure there are others who may share your view. Lord knows, I’d certainly hate for you to have to take into account the opinion of someone who has been rooting for ‘ol Petey since I was old enough to read.

Despite being the white-bread character he was originally conceived, Mr. Parker became, arguably, the most popular Marvel superhero, and has remained so for over 50 years. That’s focus group testing you can’t ignore.

Go change the identity of Batman or Superman… leave Spidey alone! (No, I don’t want that either, but you get the point, right?)

You want more ethnic /socially representative characters? By all means! Have at it! But do me a small favor, get up off your cognitive arses and use your imagination!

Here’s a novel idea: Create! Make up a new character – See Female character rant below. Don’t just “mail it in” with a convenient reiteration. Do the work. EARN your way to popularity. The way that Stan Leiber and his little science nerd did back in 1962.

Spins a web...any size...

So, what do you REALLY think, Brian?

Stop ripping off other people’s ideas. And YES, I’m looking at characters like you, John Stewart!

There’s already fantastic, ethnic characters represented in comics: Black Panther, Falcon, Spawn, Vibe, Luke Cage, Firestorm, Cyborg, etc. – It CAN be done!

BONUS CONTEMPLATION:

Female Versions of Almost Every Character – Why do comic book companies feel compelled, or perhaps obligated, to create a female version of a popular character? It comes off as SOOO contrived… and repetitive – and uncreative. It’s not that I don’t like female heroes. They’re great. But it’s like saying, “Let’s market a pink keyboard.” It takes character creation to a mass-production mentality. I.E; Nice shirt does it come in plaid? Marvel and DC already wallow in a sea of sameness with heroes, why take the easy way out with female characters? Comic writing should be a creative art form. Not a flippin’ mimeograph.

Rant over. Attack at will. 🙂

[Do you agree with Brian about Spider-Man? Yes? No? Let us know in the comments!]


Brian’s Comic Contemplations – Of Regeneration and Sloppy Writing

Since no one who reads Matt’s blog knows me from Black Adam, I’ll give you a quick profile: I’m in the advertising business, and I’ve been reading comics (Marvel) for around 49 years. ‘Nuff said. (I don’t want to bore anyone with the gory details of my Paris to Dakar failure in ’98, or my savage war with the peanut butter industry – I’ll simply leave that to your imagination.)

Anyway, Matt – being quite an intelligent fellow – often regales me with his detailed knowledge of Greek history, movies, and comics. (Notably the DC side of comics, of which I am intrigued by, but largely ignorant.) So when he encouraged me to throw in my two cents on his blog, I was anxious to oblige.

I figured, in an effort to foment some fun thought and discussion, I’d start by hitting a few comic-world opinions you may, or may not agree with.

Here goes:

Wade Wilson

The Merc With A Mouth.

Deadpool – Is it just me, or has the writing for Deadpool become lazy and cyclical? I LOVE Deadpool. The character, the irreverence, the cheeky format that allows them to go to places most comic characters can’t go. But lately, every time I pick up a DP title, the story seems to include some sort of dismemberment for Wade.

Wade sets into “whatever” plot. He encounters a baddie. And the baddie (no matter what his skill level) eviscerates, or disembowels, or amputates, or shoots & stabs him. Naturally, because of his miracle healing power, he generally (arguably?) prevails.

But isn’t Deadpool supposed to be some kind of expert fighter/swordsman/assassin/marksman? Why the inept bumbling with EVERY villain? Every time? I present the following from Marvel’s own Deadpool profile:

Deadpool is an extraordinary hand-to-hand combatant and is skilled in multiple unarmed combat techniques. He is a master of assassination techniques, is an excellent marksman, and is highly skilled with bladed weapons (frequently carrying two swords strapped to his back). He is fluent in Japanese, German, Spanish, amongst other languages.

(For laughs, let’s juxtapose Deady’s stats with say… Hawkeye, who, despite having no real super powers, has (mostly) managed to dodge fatal attacks and dismemberment.)

Deadpool

DEADPOOL

Hawkeye

HAWKEYE

Deadpool’s natural physical attributes have been enhanced. Deadpool’s musculature generates considerably less fatigue toxins than the muscles of an ordinary human being, granting him superhuman levels of stamina in all physical activities. His natural strength, agility and reflexes have been enhanced to levels that are beyond the natural limits of the human body. Deadpool’s agility and reaction time are superior to those of even the finest human athlete.

So how come Mr. Pool keeps getting shot in the face? Is it just for our amusement and titillation? Are the writers so lazy they can’t think of situations where Wade might actually show enough skill to NOT get his arm chopped off? Or is it simply because Wade is so crazy he doesn’t even try to avoid injury?

I’m not saying I never want to see Wade get abused, but once in a while I’d love to see him take care of business without being mutilated. (Sigh) Am I just gettin’ too old for comics? GOD forbid… but maybe.

BONUS CONTEMPLATION:

Marvel-Comics-Classic-Wolverine-Costume-Yellow-Blue

WolverineSee Deadpool rant. I have the same issue with Mr. Howlett. (Loss-of-healing-factor issues notwithstanding.) I know he comes at enemies like a weed whacking tank – with little thought but, OCCASIONALLY, I’d like to see Logan’s vaunted “Samurai training” and 100-year fighting experience pan out BEFORE he takes a sword/bullet/laser to the gut. JMO, of course, but is it too much to ask?

Again, if Spidey, Cap, Clint Barton, Daredevil, Batman AND Robin can dodge fatal knife, bullet, and death-ray wounds successfully for 50(+) years, why can’t Wolverine and Deadpool once in a blue moon? Throw a little love to character profile continuity.