Thor: Ragnarok is the third Thor film and the seventeenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Needless to say, the Thor movies are probably the more divisive films in the MCU. While the first Thor movie is generally well received. The Dark World is considered by many to be the worst entry in the franchise. While part of the Avengers, Thor is something of an afterthought. So now Thor is back with his third film and this time he brought along his fellow Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, with him. How does it fare?
It is certainly the best Thor film but that is some faint praise. After the events of Age of Ultron, Thor went searching in the cosmos for more information about the Infinity Stones. This film picks up with him captured and casually dismissing what he left for. Quickly shifting things back to Thor events, Thor learns about Loki impersonating Odin and then the two brothers go searching for their father but ran afoul of Hela, the Goddess of Death. Things quickly shift again with Thor and Loki ended up stranded on planet Sakaar where The Hulk now resides but under the thumb of The Grandmaster. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it was. It does feel like two distinct films smashed into one that doesn’t fully come together.
Taika Waititi, known mostly for comedic films, takes control of this Thor movie and it is a distinctly different Thor movie. It has been touted as a comedy and while there are a lot of comedic elements, it rang more as an adventure romp than a comedy. The comedy was better in this film than this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but it took the wind out of a lot of stakes. Thor and Loki will have a dramatic conversation about their broken relationship and then a joke. This happens a lot in the film that it makes it hard to really care about some of the going ons.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor and probably gives his best performance. They do deliver more of the comedic elements of the actor but he does have dramatic moments to help balance out. It is also better to have Thor take more charge of things instead of being at the whims of others. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and the character is the butt monkey of the movie. The studio doesn’t want him to be the villain that he was but know he can’t be forgiven or trusted so he is constantly getting belittled. Cate Blanchett comes in as Hela and is a basic MCU villain. If the actress wasn’t so charismatic, the character would one note. Tessa Thompson enters the franchise as Valkyrie and brings a nice new element as the enforcer for The Grandmaster with a connection to Asgard’s past. Jeff Goldblum is doing his typical Jeff Goldblum thing but in a way that is not obnoxious and still gets across the potential menace of his character. Idris Elba probably gets the most to do as Heimdall in this movie but it is still undeserving of the actor. Karl Urban is another actor deserving of much more as he serves a forgettable role as Skurge. Anthony Hopkins is pretty much a non entity as Odin. Mark Ruffalo gets his most to do since taking over the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk. Hulk is now a talking character and akin to a toddler while Banner shows a different side to him. There are some interesting questions brought up about the Banner/Hulk dynamic that will hopefully carry over to the upcoming Avengers films.
Ragnarok is probably the most beautiful looking MCU film. There are bright colors and gorgeous looking sets. Even though Sakaar is a trash planet, there are some great looking designs. This is our third time seeing Asgard and it is a still a sight to see. The only questionable looking scene is one set on Earth at Norway. It is obvious that it was a reshoot with the shoddy CGI background that takes away some of the gravitas taking place during the scene.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a very good film. I will not say that it is great. It works as a soft reboot to the Thor character. It will be interesting to see where they take the character past this film. But as a whole, it’s a solid but heavily flawed film where the cracks become noticeable the more you think about it. The biggest problem coming out is, you still really have no idea who Thor is. Marvel Studios has dropped the ball with this character and franchise.
So after another director shakeup for Star Wars directors, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode IX. He previously directed The Force Awakens and was heavily involved in The Last Jedi as a producer. So it was an easy choice to make when came to him jumping back on board. It was also the safe choice.
I do slightly agree that The Force Awakens played as something of the greatest hits of Star Wars. Some people would have you believe that the movie was a complete rehash of A New Hope. I do not fall into that camp as there was enough new to help smooth out the treading of old ground. Also all the blame cannot be put on Abrams for that as that huge was multiple hands playing a factor.
I do think fresh blood would have been best for the project. New ways of thinking always brings out something new in projects. Of course the director would still have to answer to Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm. It’s like any job where you can bring your ideas to the table but you’ll still have to do it within the confines of whoever’s in charge. With all the director shake ups lately, it is easy to blame Kennedy for being the problem but who really knows?
A benefit of Abrams finishing what he started is that things are very much different from when he started. The Force Awakens was a rushed product with numerous script changes. Episode IX is not supposed to start filming until mid 2018 and Disney pushed the release date back to December 2019. That gives Abrams enough time to work and develop the script with Chris Terrio and hopefully not deliver a rehash of Return of the Jedi like everyone fears. I am someone who does not have these fears as I think Abrams is very much aware of the criticisms that faced him with his first Star Wars outing.
Though I am a little apprehensive about Abrams returning as like I previously stated, it is far from the worst choice. Lately I have been trying to approach things with a more open mind and be more positive. All the previously released Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, both had issues but turned out to be solid films. I believe Abrams will deliver a solid final outing for the trilogy that he started.
First and foremost, I love Rian Johnson’s films. Brick and Looper are some of my favorite movies I have ever seen. He directed some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad. So when he was announced as the director of The Last Jedi, I was ecstatic. I don’t have this bias against J.J. Abrams like some people do but I was glad he was not going to direct any other films post The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson has a certain grit to his films that could bring something new and needed to the Star Wars franchise. So when Colin Trevorrow was announced as not directing Episode IX, many people hope Rian Johnson steps in to direct. I do not.
One of the best things that I liked about the original trilogy and something that was lacking from the prequels was the lack of different directors. Sure George Lucas ultimately had final say over the sequels to A New Hope but there were still other people there so it’s not like he had total control. Of course with the prequels, Lucas had no one to answer to or even go to for checks and balances and those films ultimately suffered. So when Disney bought the rights and they announced different directors for each film, people were happy as variety does keep things fresh.
As of this writing, The Last Jedi is 99 days away from being released. No one outside of Disney and Lucasfilm knows how the film actually is. As far we know, it could be the greatest thing ever or a huge dumpster fire of a film. Since I do have faith in Johnson to make a competent film, I am not worried about the quality of the film. It was filmed early last year and has been worked on for over a year and by the time it comes out, it will have been worked on for about a year and half. It is not a rushed film like The Force Awakens was.
But I still think Johnson should stay away from Episode IX. I think he would be able to deliver a quality film and work with some of the issues going into the film especially since he worked on the previous entry in the franchise. But I like directors to be fresh and in the right state of mind. On Twitter, Johnson has been candid about being open to returning to the directing helm and of course he would. He wouldn’t bad mouth the franchise especially before his film comes out. If he skipped a film and came on to the next one, I think that would be a better move as he would be refreshed. I can’t imagine working on a Star Wars film under the Disney banner.
It is an interesting time in the Star Wars franchise. Since this new incarnation of Lucasfilm under Disney is still relatively in its infancy, there are going to be some stumbles. This whole director stuff seems to be things trying to figure itself out. If Johnson returns for Episode IX, I’ll be disappointed but I won’t be upset. If he chooses not to and another person steps in, I hope they do a good job on finishing the trilogy. Now who in Hollywood is willing to step in to direct this film.
Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World and Book of Henry, has officially left Star Wars Episode IX. I can’t say that I’m bummed out about the news since I’m not a fan of any of the director’s works. Not saying that this could not have been a great film with him at the helm but it was the one I was least anticipating. This news comes at a time where directors cannot seem to stay on a Star Wars film. Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired three weeks before the untitled Han Solo movie was supposed to finish principal photography. Gareth Edwards, though credited as director of Rogue One, was not involved in the heavy reshoots that the film underwent.
I can’t say that I’m really going to blame Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, for this. Being hired to direct a Star Wars film is not something you should go in expecting to direct an auteur type of film. This is a billion dollar franchise and so there are going to be a lot of eyes on it and that means it is ultimately at the heed of its owners. They fund the project and so what they want is what goes. I know it’s “cool” to be against big studios and all that but that’s just the base about it.
The news came out that it was “creative differences” and I tend to believe that. Since there isn’t much to go off and the film is so far off, I tend to believe it. The film has a lot going on for it and maybe Trevorrow just wasn’t up for the task. Episode IX is wrapping up the current Star Wars trilogy, they have to deal with the unexpected death of Carrie Fisher, and who knows what repercussions from The Last Jedi the film will have to deal with. If a director who is also serving as a writer isn’t handling it up to the studio’s expectations, then maybe they should go. The film wasn’t supposed to start filming for a few months anyways. If it was in the middle of filming or close to ending filming, then I’d be worried. But this is just business as usual but since it’s a Star Wars movie, it’s under extra scrutiny.
Now the big question is…who will director Episode IX?
It’s pretty bad but it’s a start