The Agent Reviews Thor: Ragnarok – A Good Movie, Just Not The One We Wanted

To think, I almost had as much fun watching this as Thor did in this shot.
Source: Disney Video

So, I saw Thor: Ragnarok a while back but didn’t give an in-depth commentary on it because I wanted to connect with friends and peers that saw it in order to see if they noticed anything I missed. And in a truly rare moment whenever a discussion turns to film, we seem to agree for the most part; it was a good movie – amazing even. Unfortunately, for those dedicated to the heaps of lore that Marvel has been building up for decades, it didn’t resemble anything we wanted. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We should discuss the actual film first.

Oh, and obviously, this is a very recent film so expect spoilers from here on in.

So, the film shockingly starts with Thor AVERTING the titular Ragnarok of the title by faining capture at the hands of the fire giant Surtur and locking his crown in the vaults of Asgard so no one else can use it to threaten his home. Upon returning, he finds his father Odin acting strangely hedonistic and correctly deduces what we already knew from Thor: The Dark World; Loki has banished Odin, taken his form, and is unjustly ruling in his stead. After forcing him to bring him to his exiled father back on Earth, Thor and Loki learn from Odin during his final moments that his disowned and forgotten daughter Hela, goddess of death is returning with the intent of using Asgard as her starting point to conquer the remaining realms. After, easily crushing Mjolnir in her hands, Thor and Loki attempt to escape on the Bifrost. But Hela follows and casts them both out into space while she makes her way to Asgard. Thor finds himself on the planet Sakarr and is forced to fight in arena battles for the amusement of a being known as The Grandmaster (yes, I thought they recast Jeff Goldblum as The Collector as well; Turns out they’re brothers – not that the movie explains that). The majority of the movie then consists of Thor gathering a small force to return to Asgard consisting of Loki, The Hulk (who crashed on Sakarr after the events of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and has been stuck in Hulk form for the entire two years since), and a former valkyrie of Asgard living in self-imposed exile while occasionally cutting back to Hela to see what sort of hell she’s unleashing on everyone.

Did that seem like a lot? Well, that’s the first major problem with the film; much like how Sakarr is a dumping ground for cosmic debris, the first act is treated as a dumping ground for information to catch us up and understand everything that’s happening. After that, the second act pulls the drag chute for a bit to give us some good character moments, but it was a lot to sift through to get to that point.

But one of the major complaints I keep hearing from people- and I admittedly understand their frustration with – was the focus on humor over action and drama. It just doesn’t FEEL like any of the Thor movies leading up to it. The movies often bordered on Shaksperian at times (appropriate for a character whose dialog in the comics was full of thee’s and thou’s). On the surface, it almost feels like it’s trying to follow in Guardians of the Galaxy‘s footsteps to the detriment of a passable drama.

However, there are a number of ways I can justify this.

Firstly, I insist that, despite the title telling me otherwise, this is not Thor’s movie – at least not entirely. It’s much more geared toward The Hulk. One of the things that shocked me in the trailers was how they actually gave character development to Hulk. And I stress Hulk, NOT Bruce Banner. This is the first film where it honestly felt like they were two people living in the same head just as the comics intended them to be. As such, humor was needed because there are only two appropriate actions to take when Thor and Hulk share a spotlight: brutal fisticuffs or hilariously unexpected witty dialog from two of the biggest meatheads in the Marvel canon.

As for claims that the humor ruins Thor’s character, I have two rebuttals. For one, I feel this is something that has been building up for some time now. Much like how Odin grew to have an affinity for Earth in his exile, Thor loves Earth and it’s people. He’s been spending much more time with them than anyone else. So it makes sense that he might start emulating some of our characteristics such as our sense of humor.

For two, and please note that this is purely fan-speculation on my part, I don’t see the movie as ruining Thor’s character; I see it as ENDING his character. Think about it; he’s the king of Asgard now without Odin presiding. He needs to give up the superhero business and apply what he’s learned – including lightheartedness from his time with humans – to being a leader. It makes sense that the movie would want him to go out on a happier note in spite of everything falling apart around him. Plus, don’t forget that Avengers 3: Infinity War is coming up fast. In the comics, EVERYONE DIES. I doubt that will happen in the movies, but they likely will make most or all of the current Avengers inadequate. This means we’ll need some new Avengers to replace them. And that means we might be seeing the start of Jane Foster as the next Thor.

Besides, on its own merits, the movie is fun enough where, until I was forced to overthink it for review purposes, I could easily forget the continuity questions and focus on the chuckles. Jeff Goldblum is amazing as a sleazy, egomaniac (as always) and the minor characters are some of the best aspects of the film. Everyone seems to gravitate towards the stone man Korg with his lovable and friendly demeanor juxtaposing his rough exterior. But I’m all about The Grandmaster’s comedically serious, kill-crazy, right-hand woman Topaz who I can only describe as, “Miss Trunchbull in space.”

Overall, if you’re going into this movie expecting it to be exactly like the comics, you’ll be brutally disappointed. You’ll enjoy it much more if you just learn to appreciate the humor of the situation like the characters do.

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First Impressions On The New DuckTales

Oh, hey; I can talk about something happy for a change!

At this point, you know that I have a bit of an axe to grind when it comes to Disney. However, don’t take that to mean that I hate EVERYTHING about them; I am a human capable of love after all and Disney was still a formative part of my child. And one of those parts I loved was DuckTales.

Looking back, it was a very simplistic show – very much your standard, 1990’s, baddie-of-the-week, action-adventure serial. It was light on plot and character development, but it was completely serviceable with high-energy action, decent humor,  and still holds up surprisingly well after over two decades.

But, you want to know what they changed in the 2017 reboot and if they stayed true to the original source material, right? Well, let’s rap about that (NOTE: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT).

The first thing I took note of was a heavier focus on an overarching plot for the series. The first two episodes (conveniently mashed up as an hour long premiere in the video above) starts with Donald Duck struggling to make a home for his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie as the life of a sailor isn’t conducive to being a family man. Donald is forced to drop the trio off at the mansion of their grand-uncle Scrooge McDuck while he heads off to a new job interview. As the plot continues, new elements are added such as Huey, Dewey, and Louie being disillusioned with Scrooge’s greatness, Scrooge struggling to patch up strained family relations, Donald having to choose between family and success after unintentionally being hired by Scrooge’s arch-rival Flintheart Glomgold, and – end-capping the second episode – the discovery that Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s long-lost mother might have joined Scrooge and Donald in their early adventuring days.

With heavier plot came a greater chance for character development. This was where things started getting risky as this meant a chance of people complaining that the characters weren’t true to the originals. However, I didn’t have those concerns while watching. For the most part, I felt they were the same lovable goofballs I grew up with.

Donald is still a neurotic ball of rage, panic, and feathers (playing up the foul-mouthed sailor cliche… heh, FOWL… ’cause he’s a duck), but now he has the humanizing element of being an adoptive father figure to his nephews. Now his anger and frustration are justified because he’s constantly agonizing over the well-being of those in his care.

Scrooge is still the money-grubbing miser that he always was, but now he’s learning to accept family back into his life now that he’s made his fortune, thus making him a warmer and lovable character. Now, he has a chance to share his glory days with the next generation and has new meaning in his life by teaching them how to be, in his own words, “tougher than the toughies and smarter than smarties.”

Of course, the two biggest changes in character and the ones everyone wants to discuss are Scrooge’s maidservant Mrs. Bentina Beakley and her granddaughter Webbigail “Webby” Vanderquack. It’s understandable why the internet would go nuts over these two as their previous incarnations were a bit troubled from a modern feminist perspective.

Where the original Mrs. Beakley had almost no character other than being a doting nanny and mother figure to the child cast, this new incarnation is much more strict and professional – characterized as being very hard-nosed about how things are run around the McDuck mansion. She’s also not afraid to call Scrooge out on his B.S. when she smells it which has the effect of making her the Alfred Pennyworth to Scrooge’s Bruce Wayne. Her visual design reflects this by replacing her round rimless spectacles and frilly blouse with square horn-rimmed glasses and a broadly shouldered blazer to harden her appearance while keeping her bun hair-do, frilled apron, and giving her a classy brooch to remind us that under her sternness, she’s still a loving soft-hearted gentlewoman.

And she needs to be loving because she’s looking after the new Webby.

The original Webby was an example of one of the WORST kinds of female characters in fiction, the one that insists on being involved in everything with the boys for no discernable reason despite having no useful skills and calling sexism when someone tries to explain how dangerous that is for them and the rest of the team. Here though, she keeps this ‘up-for-anything’ personality while mitigating the problems previously attached to it.

For starters, there’s a reason why she wants to be with others on an adventure; she’s been horribly sheltered. Mrs. Beakley, fearing for her granddaughter’s safety sharing a home with a famous thrill-seeker, taught her every survival technique she knows but insisted that she be in a position where she’ll never actually need to use them by keeping her in the house. She’s bouncing off the walls with her growing social awkwardness. So when she finally meets Huey, Dewey, and Louie, she clings to them as the first living creatures she’s interacted with outside of the mansion.

Oh, and those survival techniques. Yeah, that means she actively contributes to the team instead of standing off to the side until she inevitably becomes a liability. It also makes my previous Mrs. Beakley/Alfred comparison stronger by suggesting that she’s a total badass.

And, of course, I’d be foolish if I didn’t mention the reworking of the original theme which is just as legendarily catchy as the before but doesn’t wear out its welcome nearly as quickly.

So, basically, this is just a REALLY wordy way of saying that I’m looking forward to seeing what else Disney comes up with. It seems they’re still making good use of those pages from the Cartoon Network school of plot and character development in animation that they borrowed when making Gravity Falls. The only difference is that they had the guts to apply it to one of their longest running franchises.

Now then, which of us is gonna start petitioning for a Darkwing Duck reboot?