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Movie Review – Thor Ragnorak (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Thor 3, AKA Ragnarok, was incredibly engaging and hard to tear my eyes from. It’s now in my top tier of MCU movies, beaten only by the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Hemsworth’s slightly dim but mighty character is a joy, from his 4th wall breaking open, to the mid-credit end, and the man’s got surprisingly perfect comedic timing. Who knew? Turns out Hemsworth really can carry a movie on his muscular back, with more than raw beauty to show for it.

I wasn’t expecting too much going in, but admittedly the bar was so low with Thor 1 and 2 (especially 2, with the Dark Elves). The director used Thor wisely in his 3rd, and presumably final, solo film. Although it’s essentially a buddy movie about Hulk, too. Just like Captain America 3: Civil War is basically an Avengers movie, right? It works.

Along these lines, I have a few alternate titles for Thor: Ragnarok that I think would work even better (unless you are a huge Norse Mythology fan). List whichever you prefer in the comments section:

  • Thor: God of Hammers
  • Thor: Gladiator Edition
  • Thor: The Funny One
  • Revengers (like the Avengers, with added dysfunction)
  • Hulk 2
  • Thor and Hulk: Road Trip to the Devil’s Anus

What’s unusual about this film are the villains. They aren’t bland  meanies, like most superhero supervillans; they’re actually okay.  Damning with faint praise, I know. Cate Blanchett does a decent job with what she’s given (I sense there were more scenes left on the editing floor). The Ragnarok fire demon was fine – he wasn’t intended to be more than a burning lava monster, from cold open to the unusual climax. And Golblum isn’t even a “bad” guy — he’s just an amiable meglomaniac with a harem and God Complex. He reminded me of The Collector. I hope we see them both again

I do feel bad for Hela…there could have been a lot more depth to her arc. I guess she needed to get in line for scene time after Loki and Odin and Heimdall (who, thankfully, had something to do this time around). I’d be super happy with a Heimdall movie, for reals. The man was wasted, although the teaser suggests more to come. Saying anything more  would enter spoiler territory, so let’s just move along.

Finally, Loki was appropriately used, and is more understandable — this director “got” what the God Of Mischief is about. Loki is like the “Scorpion” in the parable with the fox (Google it) — it’s true to his nature to sting. Yet he does try (when it suits hims, natch) to be a hero. He wants to be better, and if you recall from the first Thor movie, both brothers had some moral growing to do. With Thanos mad at him, we can guess which side he’ll lean on now. Loki has always been a scene stealer, as well as a PITA to boot, but here I’m fully onboard with his character. He can be a positive force, if he’s just accepted and understood — that’s become super clear, finally, in Ragnarok.

I’m really stingy with my A grades, and the last time I gave out a full A+ was the 2017 space cruise ship flick Passengers. Strangely enough, my favorite MCU film is still the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The blue and purple villains were underwhelming though, and I can only give GoTG a A- grade in good conscience. (I’ll link to that article when I write it.)

But, we’re still talking about Thor here, and Thor 3 manages to pull a win from their previously low Marvel tier buttocks.

And yes, I rank Marvel movies by tier: Great, Good, Okay, and Fetid…and Thor’s been scraping the bottom in his stand-alones,  til now. I credit the director — who also played the delightful Rockman — for understanding what Thor should be used for, along with Hemsworth for embracing his slightly slow but funny godhood (“Because that is what heroes do!”), Ruffalo for being freaking awesome in his dual roles, and for the writers giving us something happy in these dark times…YES. Thank you for the color, the fun, and for Goldblum. He’s the perfect weirdo to be the Grandmaster, and I hear he smartly improvised most of his lines, playing himself, as usual. Go Goldblum, go.

And now I’ve got The Immigrant Song, by Led Zepplin, stuck in m head. It’s a good choice, so that’s okay by me. The reprise was certainly welcome, and the audience clapped at it. I was a happy movie goer that day, and saw it this three more times in the cinema later. Watch it in the theater, and watch it again on DVD.

Movie Grade: A+

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

RunPee Jilly: So, DC has its own cinematic universe. That’s fine: I won’t turn down good entertainment. I’m a geek through and through, and NEED my sci fi fix to sleep well at night. But DC has a history of being either 1. Disappointing, or 2. Really and Truly Grim. Contrast this to Marvel, which engages me, making me happy. Life is tough enough; my entertainment choices should make me laugh and smile and feel better about being alive. Mostly, Marvel does just this. (And DC vs Marvel is the topic of a whole different article. I’ll link it here when I write it.)

So, DC. Specifically, The Justice League. I’m old enough to remember the original Saturday morning cartoons about the Justice League, AKA Super Friends. I liked it then, Wonder Twins and all. Now, I’m cautious. Ambivalent. Waiting to see where things go.

Here’s what I’m thinking: we had the earnestly serious but ultimately depressing Nolan-version Batman films. Health Ledger made those watchable. Then we had some rebooted Superman flicks that were also dark, which for Supes is simply unforgivable. Superman is about lightness, apple pie, and good vibes, and making the world a better place. See Superman in the 1980s, when it was done right. Ya with me?

The new Superman made him unbearably moody. I understand a broody Batman, who is admittedly an alcoholic, a loner, and just a breath away from being a supervillain himself.

Then DC brought them together in Batman vs Superman – more grimdark stuff – and Suicide Squad, which was…okay? Guardians of the Galaxy it wasn’t,  though it tried. It shot high, landed low.

Finally, DC hit a home run in Wonder Woman. YES! It was exactly what we, the long-suffering fans, hoped for. Fun, a tiny bit joyous, ambitiously pretty, and sprinkled with humor. It somehow felt like Fantastic Beasts in the Harry Potter franchise (that’s a good thing). Of course, all three take place roughly in the timespace of MCU’s successful and original Captain America movie, but those are different universes, right?

This loooong lead in brings us to Justice League. Did it do the job, bring it, give us what the DCEU needed? Hmmmm, somewhat. It was definitely an ensemble piece with fun beats, good 70s tunes, and an amiable premise. However, the producers seemed in too big a hurry to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not earned, so I’m ambivalent. The MCU has a lot of groundwork and years on DC. When The Avengers came together, it was simpatico.

To explain: We “get” Diana Prince/the Wonder Woman. She carried Justice League on her lithe Amazonian back. We know her; we like her. She brings the action and the humor. She leads the team. I have no WW complaints.

The Batman? Hmmmm. Gloomy and underserved. I don’t have much to say on his role in JL, besides, “What the frak he was thinking to bring Supes back?” Oh, is that a spoiler? (Not if you watched the trailers.)

It’s been said here before: the problem with Superman is that he’s too powerful. You can only hurt him with Kryptonite. There’s not much else to say or do with this guy.

He also makes The Flash unfortunately redundant. Why have someone who can run fast when Superman can best him in speed?

But, speaking of The Flash himself: awesome. Admittedly, he owned most of this film’s humor, and the actor was up to the task. He’s clearly the DCEU version of Spiderman, and I want more. Gimme, gimme. I’ll be very happy to watch the standalone Flash film when it comes.

But then, there’s Cyborg. He’s a cipher, an Iron Man without the personality. I think he could have been better written. Next…

That leaves Aquaman. Superbly cast and executed — he needs his own origin movie. That’s all, mike drop, end of story. I loved the energy, the raw power he brought to the screen. What was frustrating: his character’s lack of mythological depth. What is the deal with Atlantis? What’s his relationship with Norway? Do fish obey him or what? Stuff was missing. In the meantime, I LOVED what we got, which was funny and engaging, both. DC needs to move up his movie in their queue, and drop the terrible pathos of Batman and Superman, who are frankly played out.

It’s not like you HAVE to pander to the fans, but in this case, give the Bat a break. Move on. Give us something fun and pretty and new. We want good storytelling, not another angsty reboot.

So, the JL movie was fine. A solid B, IMO. The villain was a bust, but hey; I’m used to that and have learned to ignore it. Steppenwolf was a low-rent Sauron from Lord of the Rings, but I frankly don’t care. Marvel has had its share of Macguffin villains (see Guardians of the Galaxy, my favorite MCU movie). So, I can forgive the Justice League baddie as a sucky ripoff, as long as the ensemble story works. Which it mostly does. (Oh, and the “Mother Boxes” — give me a break. Infinity Stones much? Come up with your own plot. Even Voldemort was original.)

Altogether, was Justice League good? Well. It was fine. Middle of the road; basically non-offensive superhero fare. See it in the theater, but don’t pay extra for IMAX or 3D. Joss Whedon’s involvement helped the banter significantly (you can really tell his lines in this – they stand out – mostly with The Flash, and Aquaman).

To sum: the best DCEU movie yet, coming in just a hair ahead of Wonder Woman (mainly because I loves me a good ensemble film). But, really, if I had to choose, I’d see Thor: Ragnarok again. That movie just slayed me, and I’ve seen it four times now.

Movie Grade: B

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

I enjoyed the movie. Not a lot, but enough. There was some decent humor — most of which revolves around Barry Allen/Flash. The action/fight scenes were fine. A few awesome moments here and there.

The actors all did a good job. I’d say Ezra Miller, as Flash, stood out as the best. Ray Fisher, as Cyborg, was good, but his character is so basically unemotional that it’s hard to mess it up. Jason Momoa, as Aquaman, was almost great. He brings some power, and not just the physical type, and he handled few humorous scenes well.

That being said, there’s a LOT that I don’t like about the movie.

First, why is DC in such a hurry to create the Justice League? I can understand that the studio/producers probably feel like they’re light years behind Marvel, but who cares? They have all the time in the world. There were five stand alone(ish) MCU movies before we got to the first Avengers. But the DC team just skipped over at least three standalone movies: the origin of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Each one of those could have been a movie by themselves. Plus, a few more to introduce the mythology in the DC universe. Oh well.

My biggest gripe is that the villain is honestly plain horrible in this movie. Basically, he’s a big bad god type thing, bent on destruction. There’s absolutely no lead in. And all I could think after seeing the one minute of exposition of the villain’s origin was, “Hello, Lord of the Rings much?” Really, he’s a big bad thing bent on total domination, because he has united these three boxes. And after the three armies of Amazons, Atlantians, and men defeat him, they divide up the three boxes so they can’t be reunited again.

Besides all that, the villain is basically a prop for our heroes to crush, after an appropriate amount of struggle.

My last gripe is a potential spoiler. So scroll if you want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Superman is the single worst superhero ever. He’s just too strong. Once he enters the fight at the end, it’s like playtime for him. Where’s the fun in that?