Thor: Ragnarok (Review)

Thor: Ragnarok (Review)

I think someone likes Led Zeppelin.

The Thor trilogy might be the weirdest trilogy in the MCU.  Iron Man pretty much stays the same in terms of style but slowly goes downhill in terms of quality.  Captain America jumps up in quality by the second movie and becomes the best trilogy overall.  And here’s Thor with a pretty-good movie, a meh movie and a crazy over the top movie.

The one thing that comes to mind when I watched this movie is that the characters of Thor and Loki have significantly changed from what they were.  I believe that the director – Taika Waititi – wanted them to act like how they are depicted in the actual norse myths.  So Thor is more of a buffoon than you might be used to, quicker to act than to think.

Thor and Loki are also less antagonistic than they were in previous films.  They actually act more like quarreling brothers at times, acting more like they do in the myths.  Loki does a thing that gets out of his control and Thor has to force him to fix it.  Not to say that they don’t act seriously.  They still remember the things they’ve done in the past and this informs how they act towards each other, but you still remember that they are still brothers and they still love each other, even if they don’t want to admit it.

When I saw the logo change for the film, I was worried that they had changed it to make it more like Guardians of the Galaxy.  Well, that was exactly what they did but it was rationalized.  The film is basically the way they merge the Thor world with the Guardians of the Galaxy world.  The Nine Realms have always felt strange and like they might not exist in the same dimension as the rest of the galaxy.  This film basically says that yes, the Nine Realms are just one part of the galaxy.

It’s definitely the funniest Marvel movie, in my opinion.  Funnier even than Guardians of the Galaxy and the laughs just keep coming.  The film is never too serious for too long.  If a serious moment goes on for a few minutes, you know that something funny is going to happen to lighten the mood.  Which is a shame at times because they bring up some interesting ideas and themes that they don’t go anywhere with.  It suffers from a problem most Marvel movies have in that they never stray from the movie being about good vs evil.

Cate Blanchett as Hela the goddess of death is a blast but also suffers from Marvel’s penchant for boring villains.  Her motivations are pretty much the same motivations for Loki; she wants the throne because she was denied it.  That’s about it.  Thankfully, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie is a breath of fresh air, with a backstory and character arc that is interesting and different from others.  I found myself liking every scene she was in, making her in my opinion one of the highlights of the film.

Another highlight is the Hulk.  And when I say Hulk, I mean Hulk.  Bruce Banner is in there for a bit, but its the Hulk that has more to do.  This time around, he actually has a personality and spoken lines of dialogue.  His behavior is like a child that can destroy everything he sees, which is a welcome difference from the other iterations of him.  This time, it feels like the Hulk and Bruce Banner are two separate entities trapped in one body, which is an interesting change.

The film is definitely worthy of all the praise its getting.  It’s funny, it’s epic, it’s heartwarming and it’s just a great, wild ride from start to finish.  It’s never too serious for too long which might be a problem if that’s what you want but most likely, you’re just watching this film to watch Hulk punch Surtr the fire giant in the face.


Star Trek: Beyond (Film Review)

Star Trek: Beyond (Film Review)

Star Trek: Beyond, directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five), is the third movie in the rebooted Star Trek movie series.  In it, the crew of the Enterprise (with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scottie, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov (R.I.P)) is shot down on a remote planet and must survive together in order to combat a new alien threat.

Surprisingly, that’s not all the movie’s about.  Kirk has become disillusioned after three years in deep space and wonders if he should continue being the captain of the Enterprise.  Spock has received news that Ambassador Spock as died (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy) and wonders at his own future at Star Fleet.  The common theme is that the crew is beginning to wonder about their own future.  Not only does this help round out the characters (by actually letting them be characters with their own wants and dreams), but I couldn’t help but feel that this feeling might be directed at the franchise as a whole.

I’ve always felt the Star Trek Reboot series (or maybe its the Alternate Star Trek series?) has always suffered from identity issues.  Star Trek Into Darkness has always felt like a Star Wars movie and not a Star Trek movie.  I can understand that when adapting a long-running TV show to a movie, things can get lost in the process.  Star Trek is definitely more cerebral, with a more moralizing approach to the story and characters.  This works fine for a TV show when you have the time to do that, but for a movie, time is limited.  That said, I feel like Star Trek: Beyond is the first movie in the franchise that actually feels like a Star Trek movie.

The focus is entirely on the crew of the enterprise, making this the first movie in the series that features an ensemble cast.  Whereas in previous movies where the main focus has been on Kirk and Spock, this time every character has a chance to shine and is integral to the story.  You get to see how different members of the crew interact with each other when in previous iterations, they’ve never really shared much screen time.  It’s a refreshing take and one that works for the best.

All of this wouldn’t even be possible without the direction of Justin Lin, who I had originally had doubts about.  With a track record that mainly seemed to comprise mainly of the Fast and the Furious franchise (I’ve only seen the first one so I’m not going to make any comment on if they’re any good or not), it didn’t seem like he would be able to tackle franchise that is more…subtle than a movie about cars.  Fortunately, I was wrong and was pleased to see that Justin Lin didn’t just copy J.J. Abrams.  The imagery is simply astounding and definitely one of highlights of the movie.

All of this leads back to what I said before about questioning the future.  It always seemed to me that Star Trek has had an identity crisis.  Star Trek Into Darkness was basically just a rehash of Wrath of Kahn with 9/11 undertones.  And now, Star Trek: Beyond asks where do we go from here?  What else is there?  Showing that they have fully stepped away from the previous generations of films and created a story that can stand on its own as one of the best basically says, we are now moving forward and leaving the past behind them.  This is the main reason why I feel like this film is the first one that feels like how a Star Trek movie should be.  Maybe I was looking too deeply into it but I can’t deny what I saw and felt while watching it.  And what I saw was a great ride from start to finish.

The Jungle Book (Film Review)

The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau), is pretty much the gritty reboot of the original 1967 animated movie.  Honestly, though, that’s not a bad thing.

For the people who have never seen either movies, The Jungle Book follows the adventures of Mowgli (played by newcomer Neel Sethi), the “man-cub” that has been raised by wolves after being found by Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley).  After a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) discovers this, he vows to kill Mowgli, due to his hatred of men.  What follows is an adventure through the jungle as Bagheera and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray) try to return him back to the man village.

First of all, this movie is a visual treat.  From the first second into the movie, I could not for the life of me figure out what was computer and what was real.  This is the movie’s greatest strength.  When you’re looking at animals talking to each other, you know they’re fake and yet you can’t help but believe they’re real.  They look and behave just like how animals should except for the fact that they talk.  In fact, as I watched Bagheera interact with the world, I couldn’t help but think of my own cats and how they acted.  It was uncanny.  Even how they fought other animals.

The cinematography is simply a wonder to behold.  You feel like you are Mowgli running through the jungle.  I whole heartedly believe that this movie will most likely get a academy nomination.  You feel every hit and every shot is breathtaking.

As further proof of the power of the visuals in the movie, I actually wanted to know more about the animals.  They seem to have so much history and we’re given a lot of information that Mowgli, the main character, doesn’t know.  Yet, there are certainly things left unanswered.  How do Bagheera and Baloo know each other?  What exactly is the nature of their relationship?  Why would Akela take in a man-cub to be part of the pack and protect him so fiercely?  How does Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) hypnotize people like she does?

These questions only add to the mythos and yes it is now a mythos in my mind.  These characters take on a fantastic and mythological standing and the less we know about them, the more we want to know about them.  The only character we actually know about in detail is Shere Khan.  A fascinating story  to be sure but I hope we have more stories in the future.

The only bad thing about this movie is the rather strange and awkward singing number from King Louie (Christopher Walken).  Of course, he sings the song “I Wanna Be Like You,” because it’s the Jungle Book and you need this song.  Actually you don’t.  The song you need is “The Bare Necessities,” which is woven in quite well.  It serves more as character development between Mowgli and Baloo.  “I Wanna Be Like You,” however, comes out of nowhere and is just bizarre.  King Louie was more or less introduced in a rather threatening light and to have him suddenly break out into song is just a complete 180.  It’s jarring and I found myself scratching my head at the absurdity of it.

That is just one bad thing in a movie that I had a great time watching.  It’s fun but also dark, which works for the fairy tale theme, which this is.  This is absolutely a fairy tale and if you remember, fairy tales have darkness.  They are absolutely intense, but they are also fun adventures with happy endings.  The Jungle Book is the epitome of fairy tale made into the visual medium.