Monday 30 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Ramble

[Plot spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok. None of the major revelations but if you want to go in completely cold just ignore this one. Good film, though]

First up: judging by the presentation of Hela and Valkyrie the director of this film has some very specific fetishes and I approve of all of them.

On a more serious note I felt this was a very strong movie. I'm of the (mildly unpopular) opinion that the Thor movies are rather the weak link of the MCU: I found the first one a bit bland and the second one had a lot of issues, not least of which was its determination to waste just about every actor who wasn't Hemsworth or Hiddleston. Now, I like Loki as much as the next man (and members of every other gender regardless of orientation, Hiddleston's just that hot) but there was a lot more I felt could be done with that cast. Giving Christopher Ecclestone more lines in English, for a bloody start.

I was worried going in that the film might be biting off more than it could tell. I mean, the trailers were promising a story about Hela attacking Asgard and an adaptation of Planet Hulk. They also had to pay off the cliffhanger to Dark World and resolve the teaser from the end of Doctor Strange. That's a lot of plot but damn me if the movie didn't absolutely deliver.

Yes, its a lot funnier than the previous two even though Thor has probably been the most comedic member of the Avengers. There were a lot of laugh out loud moments in the cinema. Not least of which were the scenes where Anthony Hopkins is obviously loving playing Odin-who-is-secretly-Loki. The man doesn't get enough chances to play comedy since he became a venerable, wise looking old man several years before I was born and I hope people see this and realise there's potential there.

Loki, of course, is a big draw and his actions in this movie make me hope for a permanent face turn in the future. I say that as an unabashed fan of Keiron Gillen and Al Ewing's work on the character and wanting to see Hiddleston play the Agent of Asgard version of the character. The scene, released on YouTube and such as a teaser, between Thor and Loki in the elevator finally discussing their issues, is pitched perfectly and actually rather affecting.

Immigrant Song is actually a fantastic choice for a recurring song in this one, I can't say why but it works amazingly every time its used (and its used a lot). That wasn't just a trailer thing.

As the MCU goes on I begin to wonder if the Avengers films work as well as all that. The first one was a party in celebration of its own existence and the second was really just the first one again but with robots instead of aliens. Seeing as how well Hulk works in this film it might actually be a better approach to just have people turning up in each other's movies than just saving it all for a big team crossover every couple of years. Just a thought.

But, yeah, the Hulk works great here and there's even a scene where Banner and Thor talk super-science because even though Thor is a self-confessed non-scientist he comes from a culture so advanced that “not good at science” translates to “capable of rattling off theoretical physics” by Earth standards. Its also fun to have Thor and trying to bring Hulk down enough to get Banner back because of all the Avengers Thor is the least capable when it comes to emotions and this the funniest to put in a position where he has to be emotionally supportive and caring.

Speaking of Sakaar, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster is Jeff Goldblum and if he isn't improvising half his lines its because the part was written perfectly for him. The whole set-up of Sakaar and its absolutely perfect live action adaptation of Jack Kirby's art style is a joy to watch, Its nice that Marvel managed something appropriate to the King's hundredth birthday somewhere. Pity it wasn't in an actual comic but there we are, let the Distinguished Competition corner that market.


Oh, not to say how and why but at bloody last Marvel does something with the fact that Odin, as well as being a white bearded Christian-style paternal god, is also a trickster figure. That is a genuine problem I've always had with the Marvel version of Odin: the fact that he's only fifty percent Odinic. There's also a wonder moment of parallelism between Thor's development and the mythical origins of Odin but, again, can't say how because spoilers.

Cate Blanchett, of course, is amazing as Hela and if he sees this Peter Jackson is going to be kicking himself that he thought shooting a scene in green photographic negative was the best way to portray evil Blanchett. She's also ably assisted by an unexpected (at least to me) Karl Urban.

No Sif, sadly. Not for any great reason, it turns out. They just didn't contact the actress with filming dates soon enough and she was working on something else on another continent.

Still, we get Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and she is glorious. Appropriately for a character who is an independent hero in the comics she clearly has her own storyline and issues coming into the movie, some of which parallel Thor in the first film and come of which don't. If Marvel workshops this character for a while I think she could support her own feature, I really do and I'm not just saying that because she's a gorgeous woman in command of substantial firepower. Valkyrie being bi, incidentally, is entirely a decision of the actress (probably based on researching the character's recent comics history) and not actually something in the plot of the film. I mean, she does what I'm told is known as the “bisexual strut” in the final battle, Wonder Woman-style, but that's genuinely it.

All in all, a strong movie, one of my favourites of the MCU and, I'd argue, the strongest of the Thor movies by far. 

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