Thor: Ragnarok

Hidyho there readerinos!

I’m gonna preface this review by saying, right off the bat, I have a huge case of the superhero movie fatigues. I know this is a thing that people have been saying for a while, so it’s not an original or interesting perspective, and it shouldn’t really be relevant when it comes to reviewing an individual piece of art (“judge it on it’s own merits!”), but it’s the truth. I’m tired of them. Tired of watching them, yeah, but also tired of getting excited and then, inevitably, disappointed by them. I made the mistaken claim after watching Spiderman: Homecoming (which was the dopest dope, in case you were wondering) that I was cured of it forever, but honestly? I think that was just a lucky shot.

Take this new Thor movie for example. I had really high hopes for it. It looked wacky and wild and colourful, different in a way that I’m so, so ready for. The posters were weird, hyper-saturated pieces of scifi art, the pre-release positive hype was there, the trailer was incredible. Everything was lined up to get me excited for this movie, to get me off my couch and into a theatre to see it. And then…*shrugs*.

Okay, let’s talk first about all the good bits (and there is a bunch of them!). Everything about Thor’s far off space adventure was amazing. The world was wonderful and odd and specific, the humor was great (this is probably the funniest marvel so far, which I think is helped a little by the Thor mythos. The campyness and spectacle of it really suits comedy a lotttttt better than self-serious drama), the costumes were top notch, the updated and translated Hulk was better and more interesting than he’s ever been. JEFF. MOTHERFUCKING. GOLDBLUM. Ugh, and that score you gals. This might just be the first time that I’ve been aware of a score in a Marvel movie, and it’s definitely the first time I loved one. So much good stuff! (Also, I’m going to insert a shoutout to Korg here, before people get mad at me for not mentioning him. Yes, he was the best. Yes, his weirdness and sense of humour perfectly personified everything that was great and good about this movie. Yes, I too, loved him).

And now the bad bits. Everything to do with Asgard. I felt like this film’s connection to Asgard and the previous Thor movies was a huge, cumbersome chain wrapped around its neck. Whenever I began to forget that this was just another Thor movie with another Big Bad who was trying to do Big Bad Things, we’d flash back to Hela and all the stuff I just could not give a shit about. I mean, you have a serious boring villain problem when even CATE BLANCHETT (who ate scenery for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and did a great job of it) can’t make them interesting. Listen, I get it, part of the theme of the movie was moving away from Asgard and the old Thor films, and in order to do that they had to go back and burn it all down. I just…I dunno. I guess I just didn’t care. I was having a really good time with this movie, and then the last twenty minutes of it turned into big explosions and magic and CGI fights and Karl Urban giving the cheesiest death performance outside of an anime. And because that was the end of the movie, the freshest part of it when I left the theatre, I ended up feeling like I liked this movie a lot less than I think I actually did (if that convoluted sentence made sense to you, you win ten points! And a hug!).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this movie had a lot of promise and, even though it did deliver in a bunch of ways, I still left feeling kinda meh about it. And that’s so disappointing! If anything I wanted this to be the type of movie that you couldn’t shrug at, so weird and out there that you either loved or hated it. And I saw glimpses of that, yeah, but they were wrapped up in that same old marvel movie safeness, that feeling that I knew what was going to happen, I knew who was going to survive, I knew that Thor and all his friends would be victorious. I know that’s just the price of admission for a movie like this, but I guess it’s one I’m getting tired of paying.

Anywho! You should go out and see this movie. It’s fun, and your dollars will help Taika Waititi gain the power he needs within Marvel to really lean into his weirdness and (hopefully) provide us with a superhero movie that isn’t as anchored down by its own tropes, restrained by the industry’s impulse to meet our expectations, instead of exceeding them.

VBR

 

Spiderman: Homecoming

*Disclaimer at the top: This post, because of my undying and forever love for Peter Parker, is looooonnnggggg. Continue at your own peril.

You gals, you gals! They did it! They finally did it!

I’ve never really gotten on the nostalgia train. They’ve been aiming things from my childhood at me for the last ten years or so and, despite the fact that I loooooved that shit when I was a kid, still love some of it (I am an unrepentant cheesy comic buyer. Give me alllll the X-Men melodrama), I’ve mostly just let it sail right past. The ones that I have watched (most of them being comic book movies) have been bad to just fine. And that’s not to say that there are no good comic book movies out there. Logan was incredible! Deadpool is really fun! Captain America: Winter Soldier is really underrated as an action/spy thriller. But the characters of those movies weren’t a part of my childhood and they didn’t make me feel how I felt watching those stories as a kid (Logan was probably the closest, but Wolverine has never been my favourite member of the X-Men. I’ve always liked the big, sappy team stories better).

When I was growing up Peter Parker was my boy. I’ve talked about it on here before, but the early 90s cartoon version of him, with that terrible turquoise and blue striped shirt and super, duper 90s hair, was probably my first crush. But not only was I macking on his fine, mom-jeans-wearing ass, I also looked up to him. I remember watching him struggle and suffer to do the right thing, putting his relationships and his school work and his job in jeopardy again and again because of his desire to help people, and thinking “that’s who I want to be.” I idolized him. I pestered my mom into buying me Spider-man everything and climbed anything I could find (to her almost constant frantic dismay). I would’ve given my right arm to have a live action Spider-man movie.

So when I finally got one in 2002, I was really stoked. It was the first piece of directly aimed at me nostalgia-art and (even though at that point I was a teenager who refused to show enthusiasm for anything) I could barely contain myself. And after watching it, I remember telling people, somewhat frantically “That was pretty good, right? Like, I know it wasn’t perfect, but it was…okay. Like some of it was okay, right? RIGHT?!” I hadn’t got that feeling I remembered watching the cartoon as a kid, nowhere close, but I hadn’t hated it either (although I, to this day, can’t stand to watch Willem Dafoe in anything. He’s…such a bad actor, you guys. Awful). Over the next few years I had that experience again and again, with steadily diminishing returns, until eventually I stopped going. I haven’t seen the last X-Men movie and I won’t see the next one. I turned the Spider-man movie before this one off a quarter of the way through. I didn’t get what was so great about nostalgia. It seemed an awful lot like disappointment to me.

So I went into this one a little…nervously. If people hadn’t already hyped it up so much, I probably wouldn’t have even gone. I’m tired of watching big, dumb, loud action movies with the names of characters I loved when I was a kid attached to people who act nothing like them.

You gals, this movie knocked my fucking socks off. I’m usually a stone-faced bitch in movie theatres (I’m not sure why. I think it was just drilled into me at a young age that you’re not supposed to make noise/move/breathe when doing so could be bothering somebody else), even if I really like a movie you wouldn’t be able to tell until the credits have rolled and we’re talking about it after. If I absolutely love it, or something super clever happens, it might get a slight smile. This movie had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I laughed out loud, in a theatre full of people. I cried a little. And I left with a little nugget of joy in my chest, reminded of how much, and how purely, I used to love this kind of stuff as a kid. I feel like, for the first time, we had people who actually loved the character doing the movie. This was my Peter Parker, struggling and bumbling, constantly sacrificing what he wants to do the right thing. Failing a lot, but never giving up. And he was a kid, finally (And yes, I know, he’s twenty one and you’re all super relieved about it). He was awkward and insecure, but also sometimes over-confident in that way that only teenagers can be. Ugh, it was all just so good.

Okay, that’s probably enough nerd gushing for one day. Just go watch this movie, it’s really good. Even if you’re not a lifelong fan, there’s plenty there for you to enjoy.

VBR

Wonder Woman

Okay, so since I’ve been back I’ve been trying to chew my way through all the pop culture that I missed, and this seems to be a big one. It came out the day before I left (which didn’t quite give me enough time to squeeze it in) and already people had been singing its praises. Critics liked it, fans liked it, it was slotted to make tons of the monies, everything was great. Now it’s three weeks later and it’s still doing great, both critically and commercially, better than anybody could’ve hoped for. I mean, I saw it on a Wednesday night at the quietest theatre I know, and it was still packed. That’s gotta say something.

It’s also become something of a cultural talking point. Errrrrybody and their mom has something to say about it. Mostly, if they’re idiots, it’s about how surprising it is that the movie is doing well. “You mean a good director can make a good movie, even if she’s a lady?! Poppycock!” And if they’re not it’s about how great it is to finally get a good, female led super hero movie or that it’s nice that the curse of the DCEU is finally over. And I agree with both those things! Diversity of representation in films is important (and I am not implying, in any way, that the problem is solved. Only that this is a positive and necessary step in the right direction) and having a superhero that the other fifty plus percent of the planet can use as wish fulfillment is a good and positive thing. Plus, even though I’m an unashamed Marvel fanboy (Peter Parker was solely responsible for my sexual awakening. When I was a kid I used to watch the 90s cartoon and just want, so hard, to be 1/2 of a Mr. and Mr. Spiderman marriage. Ever since then, if you’re not a handsome secret genius that wears skin tight suits and cracks wise while beating up street thugs, it’s probably not going to work. If you are though, get at me, I’ve found dating really difficult for some reason) it’d be nice to get good movies from both of the big houses.

So basically I went into this movie hella ready to heap my love on it. My heart was full, my tear ducts were open, and my fingers were poised to tippity tap out their sweet, juicy approval all over the internet. And…

It was pretty good!

I mean, I liked it. Well, not all of it. But most of it! Sort of most of it. Some of it…

Part of the heartbreaking amount of meh I feel towards this movie may have to do with my superhero fatigue, which the child/teenage version of me would punch me right in the mouth for saying. “You had to watch Mutant X for years just to get your fix, and now you have too much?! We watched all of Smallville you sonofabitch! And I get his anger, I do! It’s like a rich person complaining about how having too much money is a burden. I’ve just…I’ve seen so many, and almost all of them are the same. They’re different too, different characters, costumes, powers, villains, whatever, but in most of the ways that matter they’re identical. Person discovers they’re extraordinary, discovers a bad guy that needs to be stopped, suffers tragedy and hardship, grows in some way, defeats said bad guy. The End. And that’s not a terrible thing, in and of itself. I’ve spent years of my life loving it. Not only that, but I generally tend to love genres that use repetitive narrative structures, mysteries being another good example. I find the predictable nature of them delightful and comforting. But that type of mystery, where I kind of know the end, and the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad, are not the only books I want to read. And neither is this type of superhero movie. I like it when people surprise me sometimes, when they take that expected narrative device and do something interesting and different with it.

I think another big part of my problem with this movie was the beginning and the end. The middle chunk of this movie is incredible, almost perfect. But the setup is a little rushed (which might just be me. I like a nice, slow burn, and tend to find shoe-horned in exposition really jarring. Most of it was pretty good, but every now and again it seemed like they were just whipping through stuff as fast as they could), which wasn’t a huge deal. I get it. It’s a big movie, you’ve got a lot of stuff to fit in there, and it’s already pretty long. But it’s not like there isn’t stuff you could cut out to make the film fit better (*ahem* boss fight *ahem*).

Which brings me to the only thing that I really, really didn’t like about this movie: the third act. God am I ever tired of these. I can’t be the only one, right? Big, firey, CGI smash em ups just aren’t that fun or interesting to watch. And the middle part of this movie is sooooo gooooood! She starts on one end of the spectrum (people are good and if they’re hurt you should help them) and Steve starts at the other (things aren’t that simple, and if you want to do good you have to compromise) and throughout the course of the film they learn from each other and move towards the middle (him more so than her). I just thought it was building to a more complicated, nuanced finish, and when it didn’t I was really let down. Also, the execution of it was a little on the cartoonish and silly side, and didn’t fit the World War 1 setting and tone.

Listen, none of this is the filmmaker’s fault. Patty Jenkins has nothing to do with any of the previous superhero movies and she shouldn’t have to shoulder all the baggage and expectations I came into this with. This was a good movie, with a great cast and a solid story. She did enough. But I can’t help the way that I felt when I left the theatre: fed, I got exactly the meal I paid for, but not quite full. Wanting more.

VBR

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