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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The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

The Tao of Wu: How A Comic About A Transgender Woman Can Help Unite Us

See that adorable F***ing face? THAT is the face of peace and understanding.
Source: Twitter @kyliesummerwu

Very recently, one of my friends introduced me to the art and comedy of Kylie Wu – a young and proud transgender woman who creates the endlessly delightful comic series Trans Girl Next Door. After reading just a few pages, I was immediately hooked and I’ve been checking Twitter and Tumblr routinely awaiting the next installment.

Of course, being the dorky mega-brain I am, I had to set out on a quest to answer WHY I loved this silly little sequential art autobiography so much. The answer I got was surprisingly soothing.

I’m of the professional opinion that good art should leave you different from when it found you; even if that difference is just reminding you that you aren’t alone in the world. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s shockingly easy to identify and empathize with Kylie (or at least the parts of her she shares with us… which is still substantial).

As someone who has lived part of her life as a man and is living her current life as a woman, Kylie’s fearless sharing provides insight -not only on life as a transgender person – but also on life for cisgender men and women. That insight being that we all aren’t as different as we like to think we are.

We all have bodily insecurities. We all have romantic desires. And let’s not forget the old standby: everybody poops.

Also, even on an individual level, you’ll likely find some life story of Kylie’s that speaks to you. Guys, how often have you endured the pain of sitting on your own sack? And remember the sticky, smelly mess of hormones that is puberty?

And ladies, I know through my mom that finding the right shampoo is a glorious feeling and my roommate has demonstrated the fury-inspiring challenge of painting your toenails.

Even just speaking personally, I find Kylie’s work to speak to my own life experiences. As someone who indulges in body grooming (to the chagrin of whoever’s bathroom I’m sharing), the feeling of freshly smooth skin is amazing. Also, I’m asexual and don’t use my testicles for their biological purpose. So why not keep them for the darkly comedic purpose of an emergency food supply (alternately, I’ve thought of selling them to that phallic museum in Iceland to pay off my loans).

So, what lesson am I trying to impart on you, dear Field Operatives? Well, other than trying to help out an artist in need (seriously, give this girl a dollar and/or buy her S***; good art is hard to come by and HRT don’t come cheap) I’m hoping that people will read this, read TGND, and learn to stop judging based on our genders, sexualities and the like and start judging based on the content of our character.

We may all be structurally different, but we are all human and kin on a fundamental level. And the fact that a cisgender man-child from the gray mountains of New Hampshire can feel a sense of comradery with a transgender surfer girl from the sunny coasts of California gives me hope that the world might just be relaxing its hopelessly tight butthole and becoming a pleasant place to live.