Long time no see. Here’s a talk through of sorts about Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League. I’ve just realised that this post contains a sort of Marvel v DC rivalry.
The Thor series has always been my least favourite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; I’ve just never cared for it. But seeing as I was actually influenced by the hype surrounding Ragnarok, I decided to make it a point to see the film. I only saw Thor a couple of months and ago and quickly watched the sequel a week before Ragnarok came out and I found the two films to be very underwhelming and honestly quite forgettable. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes going into the film.
However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Directed by Taika Waititi, the film has an incredibly light and jovial tone, never taking itself too seriously, or really at all. (But I’ll come back to this later). The film follows Thor as he realises that Ragnarok – a prophesied apocalypse – will soon materialise and his newly-discovered half sister Hela, the goddess of death, has been released from her prison and hell bent on causing chaos and destruction. Naturally.
Most of the original cast returns, with notable exceptions being Odin (who dies after what is essentially a cameo), Jane Foster (who I found to be incredibly dull and not at all worthwhile) and by extension, Darcy, who I actually liked but was a small price to pay if it meant that we wouldn’t see Jane again. Jane and Darcy’s absences were even more appreciated (by me) because it meant that we didn’t have a film about a Norse god that was set primarily on Earth. Ragnarok takes us through other worlds, in addition to Asgard. New additions to the film include Valkyrie, an alcoholic bounty hunter who can hold her own against anyone and once legendary member of the Valkyrior and Grandmaster, ruler of the planet Sakaar, who is played by Goldblum and also, Jeff Goldblum. I found him to be an absolute delight even though his character was quite backwards.
As aforementioned, the film provides an abundance of laughs but honestly, it kind of detracts from the film as a whole and really became a comedy with a touch of of action. This is true of the MCU as whole, they stay trying to make the audience laugh, even in dramatic moments and it just isn’t necessary. I can laugh at Hulk being a punchline but not when it comes during the film’s climax. Oh yeah, the Hulk is back which is great because it’s been a while since we last saw him, but I wish he wasn’t included in the film’s’ promo so that I could have had the reaction of my cinema partner, whose mind seemed to be blown. I feel like I’m always asking for more action from a lot of films these days, there were some cool scenes – none more so than the short, slow-motion scene of the Valkyrior in battle. My gosh, I cannot stress enough how much I loved it and wanted to see more – but just not enough. I wanted to see Hela do an absolute madness and but instead felt kind of shortchanged.
Having said all this, it really is the ‘worst’ thing I have to say about the film, I did really enjoy it and Waititi’s direction was wildly different from the previous films. He has a fantastic eye for visuals and I really admire his work as a filmmaker, plus he provided the performance of my new favourite character Korg, who I laughed at pretty much constantly. I also think the film cemented Chris Hemsworth’s status as a leading man; he really came into his own here which I think was due to the humour. He is a funny guy from what I’ve seen in his interviews and the cast as a whole was amazing.
I’ll actually be excited if another Thor movie comes out.
I don’t think I’ve ever entered a film with less hopes and standards than I did for the film. Let’s be honest, DC doesn’t have a good rap but I tried to not let it discourage me because the only other DC film I’ve seen is Suicide Squad and what I know of the DCEU (EU for Extended Universe) comes from reviews and word of mouth.
Okay, let’s start with the plot: following Superman’s death, five superheroes come together to save the planet from the threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. Steppenwolf seeks the three Mother Boxes, the sources of ultimate energy, which are on Earth, two of which are guarded by the Amazonians and Atlantians.
The Justice League are Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Batman who knows himself that he has no business being in the League, helms the group, followed closely Wonder Woman who is actually a really good person and arguably the most powerful and should honestly be leading the group but because she’s humble, she won’t push for it. I’m indifferent towards Affleck’s performance and don’t actually have much to say about him; Gadot makes a good and believable Wonder Woman and this may seem like an odd observation but I loved her battle face. It did suck to see shots focused on her bum and having to watch the film from a male gaze, but what else is new I guess. I really enjoyed seeing Cyborg’s arc and think that Fisher gave a quiet yet commanding performance as a man struggling to hold onto his humanity and I am always happy to sing Miller’s praises who shines as the socially awkward, neurotic yet hilarious new addition. A lot of his lines aren’t actually that funny but he makes it work with his delivery, the bit where he tries to spud Cyborg had me laughing hard. Momoa has a ridiculously strong and powerful on-screen presence and it’ll be good to see him further his role.
I have to highlight the action that occurs when Steepenwolf has the audacity to come for the box guarded by the Amazonians. Guys, my head was spinning, mind was blown, all of that. I absolutely loved the women and their sheer strength and power and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t watched Wonder Woman and missed out on what I hope is several more scenes that showcase how sick they are. I also liked that Steppenwolf alone put up a serious fight which showed him to be a formidable opponent who held a chance, no matter how small, that he might still be standing at the end of the film.
Pretty much after this, I can only ultimate sum up the film in one word: messy. And please, I’m actually upset to write that because I had such hopes after the aforementioned scene. My first thought upon seeing Steppenwolf was “Oh, he looks weird” but I figured that I would get used to it and I did. But guys, listen, Justice League had a budget of $300 million, making it so far the third expensive film of all time. Please, someone tell me where they spent that money because the film had no business looking as ugly as it did.
The visuals are just one of the film’s many issues. Zack Synder is billed as the director but he stepped down during production and Joss Whedon of Marvel fame (hey, there’s a link between the films that I didn’t have to force), leading to two months of reshoots which cost about $25 million so I guess that’s where a chunk of the budget went. Synder and Whedon’s styles slightly clash, with aspects of the former’s being dark, gritty and slow-motion whereas the latter is light and quippy. During the film, I wondered why Henry Cavill’s face looked fake. “He’s a real person” I thought, “So what’s up with that?” It turns out the reshoots coincided with Cavill filming Mission Impossible 6 and he had a moustache and the powers that be wouldn’t let him shave it, so it was edited out. Listen I don’t want to get too ahead of myself here but what I’m saying is that, the film had so many issues behind the screen that unfortunately it spilled out onto the screen, really putting a dampener on what had the potential to be a great film.
At this point, I’d rather just watch a director’s cut (preferably Synder’s) and be done with it. I’ve heard that Cyborg was supposed to be an allegory for Trayvon Martin amongst other things which I’d love to actually see. Hopefully it gives you more understanding as well because some things are missing. For instance, although I thought Steppenwolf would be a strong adversary, yet he became gradually worse. And this isn’t a comment on Ciarán Hinds’ performance, not at all, because he does the best with what little he has but (light spoiler) Steppenwolf is able to take the second Mother Box from the Atlantians with little issue and literally has zero problems taking the third. Like, he literally takes it and zooms off into the sky. The Atlantis scene was very forced and full of awkward dialogue and reminds me of Gretchen from Mean Girls trying to make ‘fetch’ happen but this time, with the inhabitants of Atlantis and Aquaman’s backstory. It’s not going to happen.
I’ll stop here and say that I don’t regret watching this film. It wasn’t a waste of my time or anything like that but the amount of potential gone to waste is very frustrating. Clearly it isn’t the end for the DCEU as they have a lot more films in their pipeline, hopefully they don’t fall victim to what has ailed so many of their films before.
What I’m Watching:
How to Get Away with Murder, Brooklyn Nine Nine
What I’m Reading:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
What I’m Listening to:
I Will Follow – Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Gba – Burna Boy, Breathe Into Me Oh Lord – Fred Hammond