Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – A Great Movie Trapped in a Good Movie

   This was a movie that could have been one of my Top 5 Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I really wish this could have been a Planet Hulk type film as the Hulk and Sakaar are the best parts of this film are everything having to do with the Hulk, the good is the Thor movie this film is trapped in, which is very much a Marvel by the numbers. It wants to be “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” but the last films didn’t do the work for us to get that emotional investment. I’ll get into what I mean deeper into the review. For my non-spoiler thoughts though, it is well worth checking out, it is a good movie that is a lot of fun.

The film was directed by Taika Waititi, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost while being produced by Kevin Feige.

The story involves Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who is exiled from Asgard by a returned Hela (Cate Blanchett), who seeks to conquer Asgard and the known universe. Thor finds himself broken and is forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena on Sakaar for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Now in a race against time he must get back to Asgard and find allies to save Asgard from Hela.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography and Soundtrack – The cinematography is colorful and pulls you in immediately and when tied with the soundtrack creates the feel of being in an 80’s rock album. Especially with ACDC’s “Immigrant” as the main theme song of the film. The style of the film is unique too, it looks like a B Movie done with an A Movie budget.

The World of Sakaar – I wish the entire film could have taken place here. Everything interesting takes place on Sakaar. It is where Valyrie is living as a mercenary collecting fighters for the Grandmaster and also playing with Hulk. This world is fascinating as the trash and beings from all over the universe fall into the portals above this world. The Grandmaster played by Jeff Goldblum is also a real treat and should have been the main villain of this film and the film should have taken place here. Hela should have been saved as a bigger bad for later, there are enough “Conquer the universe” villains in the MCU.

Loki – Loki is wonderful in this. His reveal of being Odin happens early on when Surtur tells Thor that Odin is missing. Loki is so much fun in this, he is sometime ally and sometimes enemy but always is serving himself and his ego. This makes when he gets tricked by Thor near the end all the more enjoyable as well as his relishing of Hulk’s pummeling of Thor. When he is exiled like Thor in the fight with Hela he gets in with the upper class of Sakaar easily, which is completely in character. He does eventually team up with Thor and Valkyrie as we see his good come out when he comes back to save the people of Asgard (though it largely because he wants to be loved by them…he did build a statue of himself when he was pretending to be Odin and do a play of “Thor 2” and his “redemption.” Hiddleson continues to nail this character as he continues to be the best part of the Thor films.

The Grandmaster – Jeff Goldblum plays the wonderfully insane Grandmaster in this. What we learn is he came to Sakaar back in the beginning and built it up to be his own source of entertainment. From the tournament, from references to his orgies this is a guy who doesn’t care about anything about his own amusement. He really is a great character and is a fun villain as his own ambition (cheating so Hulk will win the fight and keeping Thor locked up with Hulk) lead to his undoing and his people rebelling against him. He shows up at the end in an after credits scene so I hope he will show up in the future.

Asgard’s Past and What Asgard Means – A major theme of the film is that Asgard is not a place it is a people and that what a people are is important. Hela is the warrior who was with Odin when they made the 9 Realms and spread the will of Asgard through them. It was after peace time that she was trapped and erased as she wanted to keep fighting. I wish Hela had been addressed as we never get why she loves battle and war and her erasure from history is an evil that Odin is never called out on and Thor never recognizes. She was a female God who was Odin’s Right Hand in the end it meant nothing because Odin changed the past. Odin was toxic patriarchy and that is never addressed. I’m still putting this in the pro area for what could have been covered and for the importance of a people meaning more than a place. People are what make a place matter.

The Hulk Story and Hulk’s Relationships – Hulk is the best part of this film, he is friends with Valkyrie who trains with him and his relationship with Hulk is funny as he sees Thor as both a friend and a threat. Hulk is like a giant child who just wants to fight and win but we see him become more and become Banner once more after hearing Black Widow’s last video. From here Banner’s story comes in and in the final sacrifice becomes Hulk again to take on Hela and her undead army. This is by far the best Hulk movie and it is the great film trapped in the good film. I wish we could have got Planet Hulk from the comics.

Okay: Surtur – Clancy Brown’s voice is perfect for the God of the Fire Demons but he is a pretty useless villain. Thor easily defeats him and he exists only as a plot device to bring about Ragnorak, which is the only way to destroy Hela. I wish more had been done with this guy and that we’d received more history and motivation. He seems driven by prophecy but he is hypothetically so powerful, there is no reason he should be driven by that.

Hela – Cate Blanchett is a great actress and she wonderfully vamps this role up…but she gets no development. We never get why she wants to conquer or how Odin shaped her into the person she is, she simply does. This is lazy storytelling and the only reason she isn’t a con is because Blanchett is such a great actress and the costume design is on point. She looks like Maleficent and her giant wolf is Fenrir and army of the Dead are a lot of fun.

The Thor Story – Thor goes through the hero’s journey again. This time it is him realizing he doesn’t need the Hammer to be Thor as he is the God of Thunder. It is after discovering this he helps Valkyrie find herself as a defender of Asgard again and helps Hulk become Banner once more. He also shows Loki what it means to be a good ruler. This is all good, it isn’t bad but it is also Marvel by Numbers. There is nothing done here that wasn’t done butter elsewhere. I would have preferred more development of Valkyrie so she wasn’t just a support character or Hela having a reason for what she did. These are things that could have made this a great rather than good Thor story. The great story is Hulk and Thor trapped on Sakaar being gladiators that we don’t get nearly enough time with as in the end the Thor and Ragnorak story is what drives the plot, and that is only good, not great.

The Asgard story is a marvel movie by the numbers. Villain has world conquest plot but is stopped by the hero when he discovers the power of friendship and his own internal power. Thi is “Iron Man 3,” “Captain America” and the last 2 Thor films. This is a shame as Hela and Sakaar both could have been so much more than what we are given. Things change with the people of Asgard being nomads now, but it doesn’t have the same weight to it as the loss of of SHIELD in “The Winter Soldier” or the death in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Hell the great movie taking place on Sakaar could have led to a Planet Hulk type film with Thor, sadly at the end of the day this is a Thor film and that is what keeps it from reaching greatness. I’d still recommend this film, it is beautiful and fun and easily the best of the “Thor Trilogy.”

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

“Wolverine and the X-Men” Season 1 – A Solid X-Men Series That Should Have Got a Season 2

Wolverine and the x-men

   “Wolverine and the X-Men” was an animated series created in 2009 by Marvel Animation and is one of the best Marvel Animated projects I have watched since the older “X-Men: The Animated Series” and “X-Men Evolution.” Animation has usually been the strength of DC, except when it comes to the X-Men, where Marvel has managed to capture everything that made these characters great and brought us to them in the first place.

    The series was created by Craig Kyle and Greg Johnson.

     The story involves the mysterious disappearance of Professor X and Jean Grey after a psychic explosion, leading Wolverine to return and reunite the X-Men as elsewhere Magneto plots from Genosha against humanity and Senator Kelly starts the Sentinel Program to capture and register all mutants.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The World of X-Men is strange and fascinating. In this we have characters from the weird alien Mojo, to the Brotherhood of Mutants, the future X-Men and a Sentinel run universe, Weapon X, The X-Men and Mr. Sinister.

The Brotherhood of Mutants – The Brotherhood are the main enemies until we learn that Magneto is the one controlling them, but even then they later change sides when Magneto disowns Quicksilver, leading to them helping the X-Men.

Avalanche – Avalanche is one of the most powerful members of the Brotherhood and seems to be a chill guy. I wish we could have got more time with him.

Domino – Domino is awesome and exists as both a Future X-Men and as a member of the Brotherhood who has a friendship with Rogue. She is the most receptive of the team to helping the X-Men as she is a true believer and just wants to protect the Mutants from humanity.

Quicksilver – Quicksilver is the leader of the Brotherhood and everything he does is to please Magneto and get into his good graces, that is until Magneto disowns him and he doesn’t care anymore…leading to him helping the X-Men until he later rejoins Magneto in exile after Scarlet Witch kicks Magneto off the Island for his crimes.

Future X-Men – The Future X-Men exist in the Sentinel run future that Professor X wakes up too and from where he communicates from to Wolverine in order to prevent the Future he exists in from happening as in the present he is still in a coma. It is a fascinating world.

Professor X – Professor X has to earn the trust of the Future X-Men and help them fight the Sentinels who now run the future. So much of what he is doing is trying to prevent the future he woke up from from happening and through that he works with Bishop and his Team to try and defeat the Sentinels and in the future present and the past. He provides a good mentor role.

Rover – Rover was created by Polaris and is a good Sentinel who Marrow befriends. In the end Rover gives his life for the Team when the Sentinels are taking them out. He was a great small character.

Polaris – Polaris is Magneto’s daughter who is overprotected in the past and in the future is the leader of a destroyed Genosha who has gone crazy. In the end she saves Professor X and helps defeat the Sentinels and rejecting her father’s philosophy to work with her sister Scarlet Witch and humanity for peace in the present.

Bishop – Bishop is awesome! He was raised in a Sentinel camp and is trained by Wolverine. He is a pretty great character and my favorite future character. He is a natural leader and knows the stakes and believes in Professor X.

Scarlet Witch – Scarlet Witch is the future leader of Genosha as she believes in mutant freedom but not when it means hurting them and causing conflict when there is peace (unlike Magneto). She is also Nightcrawler’s lover and they influence one another’s mindsets on things as her experience has made her distrustful of humanity where Nightcrawler still has hope.

The X-Men – The X-Men are fantastic! The only ones who didn’t get as much exploration where Iceman and Storm, but the rest managed to have some great shining moments or were given and interesting enough backstory to makeup for how much of a messup they are.

Storm – Storm deserved more of a story, she is a powerhouse and worshiped in Africa and manages to save the Continent from a force that is trying to use her, and we learn she used be a thief before meeting Professor X. After he introduction episode not much is done with her minus a somewhat romance with Angel.

Cyclops – Cyclops is obsessed with Jean Grey and we learn his issues tie back to her disappearance in the Phoenix Force and that it was that power and her that helped him become the leader he once was. Sadly we never get to see that leader as everything he does is in relation to Jean…but he was still a pro in this series.

Iceman – Iceman has a somewhat romance with Kitty and is the confident rookie in it all. He also sticks up to his family and leaves, coming out as a mutant. So that was cool, but we don’t get anything else like that after he rejoins the X-Men.

Kitty Pryde – Kitty is awesome! She saves the Team on multiple occasions and shows that she is a leader within her own right. I wish we’d gotten more time with her too as she is leaving to Genosha when the X-Men pick her up.

Rogue – Rogue is well, a rogue. She works with the Brotherhood for a while before leaving them and has to reestablish trust with the X-Men. She is a great character though and extremely powerful as we see her shut down the Brotherhood and any powerful mutant by touching them and taking their powers.

Angel – Angel is the son of one of the men behind the Sentinel program and a “Cure” for being a mutant. In the end his wings are taken away leading him to make a deal with Mr. Sinister, where he becomes unstoppable and archangel, but also no longer the calm man living the double life he was before. His story is a tragedy as he is with Mr. Sinister still at the end.

Nightcrawler – Nightcrawler is amazing and one of my favorite X-Men! In this he protects refugees from pirates, discovers Magneto’s fascist state is a ruse and that he is planning war with humanity and convinces Scarlet Witch to help him and the X-Men.

Emma Frost – Emma Frost works for Hellfire Club and is a double agent through most of the series as she helps the X-Men but also triggered the explosion in the first place since she wanted Jean Grey for the Hellfire Club so they could control the Phoenix. She has a change of heart at the end due to her love of Cyclops and sacrifices herself in the final.

Jean Grey – Jean Grey has no memory of her prior self and events that transpired until she is back with the X-Men and captured by the Hellfire Club. We see her past self though and that was always someone with strength and confidence as she defeated Magneto as a child when he was attempting to capture her to use her powers.

Beast – Beast is the mentor and Wolverine’s second-in-command. We see him protecting others and figuring out mysteries for much of the series. I like him a lot as he’s easily the calmest and most mature member of the Team.

Wolverine – Wolverine drives the story and from it we see his attraction to Jean Grey, his connection to Weapon X and his attempt to stop them, becoming leader of the X-Men when Professor X finds him to be the only one who can to stop the Sentinels and his past relationship with Mystique. He is really cool in this and was a smart choice to lead to the story.

The Antagonists – The antagonists outside of Mojo, are really fascinating and part of what makes this story so great. Each of them have distinct motivations and ways of going about their goals.

The Sentinels – Master Mold controls them and we see how highly adaptive they are as they are becoming more like X-Men in the future. They are only stopped by Peace and the Future X-Men destroying Master Mold.

Senator Kelly – Kelly is a warmonger who lives by fear until he sees that the Sentinels will destroy everything, when Wolverine has Professor X show him and Magneto the future. In this moment he shows he is racist  and fascist(has his own paramilitary force) but can accept reason.

Trask – Trask is the scientist who creates the Sentinels but also shows he can see reason when he tries to stop Mystique from using them to attack Genosha. I wish we could have gotten more of his motivations though.

Mr. Sinister – Mr. Sinister is seeking the perfect Mutant and those he can use. This leads to him transforming Angel into Archangel and collecting samples everywhere. We see he serves Apocalypse at the end as well.

Mystique – Mystique works with Magneto but also does her own things too as her taking out Weapon X was for personal revenge and love of Wolverine. She is a great character and manages to succeed at most of her missions.

Magneto – Magneto is an outright villain in this and even after Professor X shows him the future where they all lose…starts the war anyway. Luckily he loses thanks to the Phoenix Force from the Hellfire Club, Scarlet Witch and his people turning against him and the X-Men. He goes into exile with Quicksilver after. He was a good villain but I like Magneto best when he’s an anti-hero, not someone hurting his own people.

Days of Future Past – Professor X works with Bishop to communicate with Wolverine in the past to prevent the Sentinel run future while fighting the Sentinels in that future. This was this show’s take on the arc and it is awesome!

The Phoenix Arc – The Phoenix knocks out Professor X and causes Jean to lose her memory. When the Hellfire Club releases it Emma Frost captures it and dies versus in the comics where it is usually always Jean who dies.

Okay: The Hellfire Club – They appeared at the end and should have got more setup, especially since Emma Frost caused the explosion of the Phoenix in the first place.

Weapon X – Weapon X was an okay storyline. i didn’t care about the mad scientist or Sabretooth and the only interesting thing was Mystique was going to be an experiment until Wolverine saved her in the past…and we learn they were lovers but he has no memory because of what Weapon X did to him.

The Cons: Age of Apocalypse and Cancellation – Mr. Sinister was working with Apocalypse and in the end we see Apocalypse being worshiped. This was the setup for Season 2 and since there wasn’t a Season 2 became a con.

Mojo and his Pirates – Mojo is obsessed with his hunting show where mutants are hunted…and that is it. The guy makes no sense and clashes with the main stories that were going on in the show.

   This was a series that was solidly good and shouldn’t have been canceled. The fact that they were setting up “Age of Apocalypse,” hurt the final product in the end. It is smart for shows to have a good ending to a season and only set things up if they know they have a future. I still recommend this show though. It manages to cover at leas 2 major comic arcs (Phoenix arc and Days of Future Past, as well as Weapon X) and does it really well. What helps is the characters and the villains are complex and I cared about their choices and struggles. This is a solid series I’d highly recommend.

Final Score: 9 / 10