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Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League Review

Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League Review

Latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Despite this movie having been out for over 20 days when we saw it, Joe Pieken (one of my best friends, and we both share the same passion for film) and I walked into a theatre that was almost a full house. “Thor: Ragnarok” is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I am aware most of you have most likely already seen it, but for the 7 of you who want to hear my opinion still, this is my review.

The other Thor movies are fine; 7s out of 10s at best. The best way to describe them are serviceable fillers, ones I would watch once and never buy (they’re overpriced anyway). The director, Taika Waititi, was presented with a difficult task: move the MCU storyline further, and make Thor cool in this timeline in the MCU. Waititi managed to do both with bountiful success. Thor needed to be given a personality beyond “god who is full of himself and doesn’t understand culture on Earth.” It goes beyond that. Everything in this movie works. The cinematography is excellent. For example, there’s a bit where Loki makes Valkyrie remember the time she and an army tried to fight Hela, but failed. The CG light effects mixed with the slow motion and camerawork is immaculate and very unique. All of the CGI blends in with the worlds that they wanted to build, and it all looks fantastic. Especially after watching this and “Justice League” back to back, it’s almost a sin to compare the two. Not just in scope of special effects, but in every way that “Justice League” was trying desperately to succeed in, but failed miserably at.

It almost isn’t fair to compare the brilliant, masterful humor and style of director Taika Waititi to the sad, cringeworthy, desperate attempts at humor from writers Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio and director Zack Snyder. “Thor: Ragnarok” was witty, smart, and had beautiful timing. “Justice League” tried to cram as many jokes into multiple randomized scenes as they could, like they had a joke quota. Maybe I like “Thor: Ragnarok” more because I saw it right after “Justice League,” but honestly I couldn’t find anything that even mildly annoyed me. I really don’t get the hate towards this movie. Did you want this to be like the other two Thor films? I know I didn’t. Those movies are not great. The first one is fun filler, and the second one is fun filler with a terrible villain. A more drastic change was needed to help Thor rank amongst his other colleagues who most of which have pretty incredible movies, but have been getting a bit repetitive. Fortunately, we’ve started to get out of that funk with “Doctor Strange,” (even though the villain in that movie was forgettable, which is a shame, seeing that he was played by Mads Mikkelsen) and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” “Thor: Ragnarok” is another welcome change to a cinematic universe that was in much need of diversity.

The acting is great. Cate Blanchett is amazing in everything I’ve seen her in, so it was no surprise she was perfect here too. She can take on any role. She was Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” and she was better than any other portrayal of him in that movie. Chris Hemsworth molded himself to the new direction they were taking his character, and you have to give him major props for that. If he hadn’t, this could’ve been grim, critically. The same goes for Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston. And if you want a perfect movie, all you gotta do is put Jeff Goldblum in it. There. No need to go to film school anymore. You know the secret.

It’s really just my kind of comedy and superhero flick. I love weird humor. The funniest things to me are the jokes that was the very last thing I saw coming. “Thor: Ragnarok’s” humor is not the mediocre, middle school jokes of “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” (that movie was fine, but I’m not the biggest fan of it). It was real humor, like “The Hudsucker Proxy” or “The Big Lebowski,” which are my favorite comedies of all time.

It honestly feels weird to give this movie such a high rating. As I said, the past two Thor movies were there to carry the story along a bit, and introduce characters for later. If there is anything, anything at all to criticize, it is that one joke is made at the end that didn’t need to be there. In a sea of amazing jokes where one wasn’t timed well, that’s very admirable. I guess it just goes to show that if you get the right cast and crew (and a good script) you can make any project an excellent film whilst staying profitable for your studio and distributor. Hey, they should keep doing that!

9.5 out of 10 

Was this what it was all leading up to? A review of “Justice League”

Batman is my personal favorite superhero. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy for me ranks about the same as the original Star Wars trilogy (which is saying something), and the Arkham trilogy contains my favorite video games of all time. Superman always had a place in my heart, too. I loved the original black and white TV show as a kid, and Richard Donner’s 1978 film “Superman” is one of my favorite movies, and one that is fairly nostalgic for me as well. I still remember sitting down with my whole family to watch it in early elementary school. I also remember my dad telling me about Marlon Brando being in it, and I had no idea of his significance back then (not unlike all first graders). Other than that, I’m not a big fan of other DC comics characters. I did really like the recent 2017 movie “Wonder Woman,” but it would be hypocritical of me to say I was a fan of her prior to seeing that film. I was impressed by the recent 2017 movie “Wonder Woman,” not because of the character, but because I was reintroduced to her by a great movie that established who she was, how she reacts, and how she lives in her (and our) world perfectly. There was some things they could’ve done way better, of course, but as far as the checklist for things that need to be done well in a superhero film, they accomplished most of those important tasks. “Justice League” struggles with all of that. It’s mildly entertaining, but it does nothing more. Zack Snyder seems to fail to understand what made “Wonder Woman” and even “The Avengers” so great. Here’s what made his film fun, but a mess.

This film struggles with pacing, setting, and dialogue the most. The pacing struggles the most during the first 30 minutes, when the team is assembling. It jumps from setting to setting, over and over again and it gets annoying. From Wonder Woman to Cyborg, to Aquaman, etc. and it’s paced horribly. I can get a sense for how they wanted it to feel, but it’s just rushed and sloppily edited. Speaking of editing, I hate the song they used in the opening credits with a passion. Don’t know what song it was or who sang it, but all film mumbo jumbo aside, it sucked. It sounds like something that an emo seventh grader would listen to on the bus. You have Danny Elfman composing a score for your film, use him. The music was great. In fact, the score was arguably the best part of the film.

The settings (except Kansas and wherever Aquaman lives) all felt like isolated, computer generated bubbles and not real places. I felt claustrophobic during this movie, which is not ideal for special effects. Maybe try not using a computer to make your entire movie and become a real filmmaker? That’d be neat. Seriously, Themyscira (Wonder Woman’s homeland) does not feel like Themyscira. It feels like this opening cutscene to a Wonder Woman video game minus the real actresses voicing their characters. That’s the best way to describe it, but nowhere felt really real. I know CGI is a vital part of the filmmaking industry. I understand why CGI is so important. When used well, CGI fills in the cracks of a movie when practical effects can’t do it. When the CGI makes me personally uncomfortable, then I take off points. The cinematography isn’t bland, to be fair. The coloring was decent, and some shots were legitimately beautiful (especially if it was in a real environment). There’s shots with Aquaman in the water with mountains behind him, and it looks great. Then you get a shot that was a part of one of the obvious reshoots. This movie had a lot of potential, it just didn’t live up to most of it.

The dialogue is quite the struggle. A lot of jokes didn’t land, and the ones that did got a small chortle from the audience. There were maybe three or four jokes that got big laughs. The serious dialogue was serviceable except for a few really hilariously terrible conversations, like when they tried to breathe life back into a relationship from Batman v. Superman and Man of Steel and that was embarrassing. I bet you’ll never guess who it involves… and who they force back to life. (Hint: His name rhymes with pooper man.)

Batman was not Batman. He wasn’t a detective, he was what someone who had seen Batman, but didn’t know anything about him. In fact, he barely had anything to do. He just assembled the team with Wonder Woman, and used the Bat-jet to get the Justice League to where they needed to be. The more I think about it, the more of a disappointment he was – which is no fault of Ben Affleck. The culprit was lazy screenwriting, as always. If the script isn’t good, then the rest of the film will fall apart along with it.

The final battle takes place in a small town in a European country. They establish that it is a populated area through dialogue, but the movie only focuses on one family. No one else. Just this one family that has nothing to say, and nothing to do other than run away, and it is so worthless to do this in a movie. It is a cheap, last-minute, and desperate attempt to try to get the audience to connect with characters on the screen. I personally hate it when movies do this. Getting connected emotionally to the characters is such a foundational thing in a film. “Interstellar” is not a perfect film, but I weep every time I see that movie, because of how well the characters are established and how well relationships are built. Treating it this lightly is hazardous to good filmmaking. Unless you’re Christopher Nolan and you make “Dunkirk.” Then you can do whatever you want.

The more I think about “Justice League” the more I find things that were wrong with it. It’s not a complete dumpster fire of a movie, which is good, considering a few of the other DC Extended Universe movies are. But this movie is not particularly good either. No, I wasn’t walking into the theatre thinking I was going to see a bold cinematic achievement that would change the industry forever, but I forgot the name of the villain as soon as I left. It is entertaining, but it isn’t even remotely near what is going to propel DC to where they want to be.

4 out of 10

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