02 November 2017

THOR is Back! Raggin' on the Rock!!

I'M THOOOOORRR, BITCHES!! That's right - It's THOR Week here at Norwegian Morning Wood, and we are thor damn pleased on this Thor's Day to present a good smacking of Thor in advance of Thor: Ragnarok (2017) dropping thormorrow. Let's preview this thor out of this shit:

As portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, Thor has somehow become an endearing character. It's a testament to his passionate, bro-heavy portrayal that this easily knockable joke nordic god character has become a major player in this new superhero movie making industry. This is compounded by the fact that no movie featuring Thor has actually been any good. They're usually exceptions to Marvel's hot streak. I actually really dug the first THOR (2011) for its measured, focused storytelling. For all the complaints about endless world-destruction porn in big superhero movies, THOR comes down to a simple brother vs. brother fight.

THOR: The Dark World (2013) jumped on that "dark" bandwagon also taken by Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), and even The Dark Knight (2008). It was also terrible. Like, nothing in this fucking movie made sense. It does cool stuff to Loki and set up interesting sequel possibilities, but is that what we're really looking for a film? That seemed to be Marvel's second outing MO until The Winter Soldier (2014) shook all that off. And of course the Loki parts are good, Tom Hiddleston is by far the greatest part of Phase One.

Other films featuring Thor include The Avengers (2012) and Age of Ultron (2015), of course, and while the latter is definitively trash, I go back and forth on actually enjoying the former. Regardless, there's no consensus that Thor has ever been in a good movie. Neither has Chris Hemsworth! The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016), Ghosbusters (2016), Blackhat (2015), Vacation (2015), and In the Heart of the Sea (2015) is a rough fucking couple years. Somehow this dude is more bulletproof than Ryan Reynolds, though, since we're all pretty stoked on Ragnarok.

My face watching this trailer.
That certainly has everything to do with a magnificent trailer and the rest of the promotional material, although I still think it'd be awesome to be as surprised as Thor was when we first see the Hulk. Still, gotta fill seats. There's so much going on here, and it works because it trades out all the boring common Thor shit. Instead of muted browns and golds it's all insane fuchsia. Fuck mjolner, Thor needs to prove himself without it. No more long golden locks. All this could be gimmicky, but in reality it's breaking down every staple of Thor's world. It's a challenge to the character who is tested out of his element. Aliens, demons, norse gods and valkyries, it's all completely campy and outrageous.

Yet there's a real heart here, which is sold on the bond we have with this big lug. There's also a ridiculous amount of comedy in this trailer. It's as if director Taika Waititi watched Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and then went "James Gunn, hold my beer." Supposedly it could even be one of the funniest films of the year. Now, part of me holds back since this bright neon trend seems to be a thing now, after featuring heavily in Suicide Squad (2016) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). I'm concerned that that, along with its attempt at being weird and campy emerges as derivative rather than original. It's as if it just missed the mark in innovating the superhero film, instead, jumping on that Guardians and Deadpool (2016) trend.

My gut tells me it'll strike its own path. The cast and crew here is too good to fuck it up. Waititi is certifiably insane and totally a rogue filmmaker that Marvel seems to have completely left alone ont his one. He DID appear in Green Lantern (2011), which is nuts, but he's far better known for his work with the Flight of the Conchords, and most notably, What We Do in the Shadows (2014), which is a near perfect comedy. He followed that up with last year's Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), as if to proclaim that he could do a truly heartfelt, but still idiosyncratic story as well.

Hemsworth for some reason needs to lead the outstanding cast, but in addition to Hiddleston and Ruffalo we get doses of Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson in addition to the prerequisite crappy Thor backing characters from the great (Idris Elba as Heimdall) to the "I don't care" (Character actors we kind of recognize as the Warriors Three, Anthony "I Will Appear in Any Movie" Hopkins). It's legendary how much this series has grown in prominence to beef up its casting.

The one notable actress I haven't seen at all, though, is Natalie Portman's Jane Foster. Is she the most underserved character in the MCU or what? Or is Natalie just kind of over it all? I mean, she's making great movies now (or at least trying to), and in fact never really had to slum for THOR. She won an Academy Award an inch before the first film dropped. Still, her character's expertise could have easily been used in some plotline somewhere. Hell, the cartoon show did it. I haven't seen much of Stellan Skarsgard or Kat Dennings, either, although I don't particularly care about either of those characters. Still, it's weird that Thor's supporting family got the shaft, right?

That does seem to happen with the MCU. Captain America obviously ditched Tommy Lee Jones, the 1940s scientists, and the Howling Commandos, although Bucky and Peggy have had long-lasting impacts on the series. Tony Stark has done well by Rhodey and Pepper, although Gwyneth Paltrow seems to have been ditched lately, and even Jon Favreau was out for most of Iron Man 3 (2013).

There's another thing - supposedly Ragnarok is full of finality. Iron Man 3 had the same feeling, which was really satisfying, although it was totally ripped apart immediately in Age of Ultron. Finality is so hollow in these films. Of course, we're at a slightly different stage in the game now, with the end of this whole mess in sight. There could be more significance to ending some of these arcs, which is rad.

While we can pretty much figure out the story by the trailers, we can learn even more through our comic book knowledge. "Ragnarok"was a brutal mid-2000s Thor storyline, but there's a lot more to draw from here. Blanchett as Hela, God of the Dead is a terrifying prospect and certainly a villain worthy of Thor, mostly because he can't really smack her with his hammer. There are also glimpses of Surtur, the big bitch Lord of Muspelheim, land of Fire Demons. We've seen Ice Fuckers and the shitty Dark Elf World, and even Vanaheim, land of medieval humans, but it'll be cool to see Niflheim along with Muspelheim. All we are lacking is Dwarves and Light Elves, but nothing happens there, anyway. This is all a turn towards the darker nooks and crannies of the Nine Realms and watching Thor and company deal with giant demons and Death Goddesses looks spectacular. Or it's just cramming too much shit in and Surtur will be a forced big end baddie that will make this film just feel like a video game.

Now who's "Reindeer Games"?
Add to that what looks like some heafty Planet Hulk elements and we could have an outright mess on our hands. Planet Hulk is one of my all-time favourite storylines because it features Hulk in space fighting aliens in forced arena combat, includes a lot of insane alien soap opera melodrama, and a rag-tag group of insurgent alien gladiator slaves that rally around the Green Scar, Hulk. This is all of course after the Illuminati (specifically the members Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, Tony Stark, and Doc Strange) blasted Hulk into space to protect the Earth. Things didn't go great when Hulk came back, but we did get a sweet control disc battle with the Silver Surfer! In the cartoon adaptation that character was replaced by Beta Ray Bill, mostly because the Surfer is still tied up in shit like this. I only mention this note because Beta Ray Bill is one of my all-time favourite characters ever and he's totally connected to Thor! So what I'm saying is, Beta Ray Bill had better appear in Ragnarok. How do you send Thor to space and NOT introduce a Korbinite. Especially when his hammer is missing or destroyed! It's the perfect scenario to introduce Stormbreaker and Ray's ugly horse mug. C'mon baby. Let's get real weird!

As you can tell, I'm pretty excited for this, but I have some clear trepidation. So far, though, Ragnarok is getting magnificent reviews. Now, folks, I want you to think back on 2017 for a second. Hell, we started the year with Logan (2017), and thought that was a great game-changer. Then we were hit with Guardians 2, Wonder Woman (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), and now this? What's the weak link in that bunch? Homecoming? There are a lot of superhero ubiquity and industry-dominating complaints right now, but how can you blame this year of diverse filmmaking? The heart and passion of Logan, the thrill and fury of Wonder Woman, the zaniness of Guardians? They are all exploring their different nooks, and we reward them for it. This is the year that one of these films cracks a serious Top Ten list and maybe even brings home an Oscar. Or at least Blade Runner 2049 (2017) should.

What are you watching this weekend? Tyler Perry's Boo 2 A Madea Halloween (2017)?

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