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 Marvel-ous New Generation: 3 Marvel Legacy Heroes I Want To See In The MCU

So, If you’ve been following movie trailers for some time, you may have noticed that the previews for Logan have teased a young girl with Wolverine’s power set. Fans will recognize her as Laura Kinney; aka. X-23 – an attempt by the Weapon-X program that gave Wolvie’s skeleton its adamantium chrome job to genetically re-engineer him through cloning (they couldn’t salvage the y-chromosome from his samples; hence why she’s a girl).

Now, I’ve expressed my love of legacy heroes in the past, but I feel that most don’t get why Marvel is keen on gender and/or race swapping their classic roster. The answer is shockingly simple; they’re in the movie business now.

Actors rarely want to spend their lives in the same roles forever and those who do reasonably can’t; they grow too old for the part or pass away and have to leave the role to another – essentially creating a legacy of their own.

By test running huge shifts in appearance and perspective in comics (an industry that is much smaller and less risky than film), Marvel is testing the waters beforehand and prepping for when an actor may leave the studio. We’re already starting to see hints of this in the MCU films with Iron Man 3 setting up Pepper Potts as the new heroine Rescue.

So, while we’re refreshing the roster, I thought I’d discuss some legacy heroes in the Marvel canon that I’d like to see in the movies.

Kamala Khan; Ms. Marvel

Getting her in the roster wouldn’t be too much of a STRETCH.
Source: JamieFayX on DeviantArt

Well, now that we have Carol Danvers, the original Ms. Marvel taking up the mantle of her less memorable male counterpart, we have an empty space to fill.

I’ve said that the problem with the old superheroes is that they represent a mode of thinking from a by-gone age. So, it’s refreshing to see a young face providing a new perspective of the world, especially one from a more ethnic point of view.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, comics have always a diversity problem and I applaud Marvel for being the front-runners in trying to set that issue straight. And with all of the anti-Muslim sentiment we’ve been exposed to lately, someone like Kamala – who is just a fun character to work with in her own right – could help to lighten up people’s attitudes.

And on the subject of Muslim heroes…

Josiah X; Justice

American pride status: restored via badassery. Source: Marvel Database

American pride status: restored via badassery.
Source: Marvel Database

Most stories involving Captian America seem to come off as cynical lately. That’s because most of us aren’t happy with how our country is turning out and he comes off as an anachronism.

What we need is a Cap that is less a product of the past than they are someone reacting to the past and wanting to improve the future. Fortunately for us, there’s a cornucopia of star-spangled soldiers out there to chose from.

Josiah X (born Josiah al hajj Saddiq) is the son of Isaiah Bradley; most famously known as “The Black Captain America.” Josiah has seen America from multiple angles; as a soldier in Vietnam, as a former Black Panther (the society, not the African superhero), and as a vigilante breaking up gangs and drug dealers in the city.

Josiah could bring a new globally-minded perspective that could benefit the story and the teams he works with. Sure, Falcon is being set up as the next Cap, but there’s nothing saying Josiah couldn’t play Bucky Barnes to his Steve Rogers.

Of course, there are OTHER replacements for the Captain proper…

Danielle Cage

This is the last thing you'll see before becoming a greasy smear on the wall behind you. Source: World of Black Heroes

This is the last thing you’ll see before becoming a greasy smear on the wall behind you.
Source: World of Black Heroes

I won’t lie, this is less about cultural significance than it is that I just f***ing love Danielle.

For the record, Danielle is probably one of the least likely people to be introduced into the MCU due to the fact that she is a product of writers playing with alternate timelines (and look at how well that played out for Fox), but I adore her as an absolute badass character born from two equally badass parents; Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Who knows? Maybe after they wrap up this universe-spanning series of films, they’ll start a new series with Danielle and her future Avengers.

The MCU Just Got Darker: First Impressions of Jessica Jones and Hints of What To Expect From Marvel

Damn you, David Tennant! The Time Lord Victorious is wrong!
Source: Nerdist.com

Okay, I’m going to keep this quick as my day job schedule is a bit hectic; i.e. someone put in for vacation time and I’m too nice to deny a break to someone who works two jobs.

So, I just got to watch the first episode of Jessica Jones last night and I’m kind of shocked at the turn Marvel decided to take with their cinematic universe. Given how even the heavy stuff in their movies has been treated with some levity, I never expected them to take on some of the darker elements of their comics.

Let me sum up the first episode for those who have yet to see it. The story follows the titular Jessica Jones, a metahuman that fans of the comics will recognize (get used to that phrase whenever I talk about the MCU) as the superheroine Jewel. In the story, Jones has abandoned her vigilante life to become a private investigator (yes, comic fans. WE know why she left, but the others don’t. Don’t ruin it for everyone else).

As she works on a missing persons case, she discovers that the kidnapper is recreating moments from her past using the girl he took. We see brief flashes of this creep that fans of the comics will recognize (see what I mean?) as Zebediah Kilgrave; a.k.a., The Purple Man, who has the power to emit a mind-altering pheromone that makes others easily manipulable. Think rule 63 Poison Ivy with WAY more sleaze.

And by more sleaze, I mean that it’s heavily implied – in comics and the show – that Kilgrave has used these powers for everything up to and including rape.

It’s a good thing that this is a Netflix original series, because no cable station or movie studio would sign off on a story like this. And that’s actually unfortunate because, as painful and disturbing of a topic as rape is, it’s one that doesn’t get talked about enough in media. I applaud Marvel for taking this bold step and look forward to seeing how they handle it later on.

So, what does this mean for the MCU? Well, in terms of universe building, Jessica Jones follows the tone set by Daredevil as setting the stage for the ‘street level’ heroes like the title characters and Jessica’s love interest, Luke Cage.

Speaking of Cage, this means we may be getting a new Captain America sooner than expected. Currently, in the comic universe, the mantle of the first Avenger was passed down to the hero formerly known as The Falcon. However, the series Avengers: Ultron Forever, which takes place in the distant future, reveals that Luke and Jessica’s daughter, Danielle Cage, takes the title of Captain America.

But, more importantly, this show serves as way of toeing the waters of more serious subject matter. Should Jessica Jones be successful, it may not be long before we see stories like Tony Stark’s struggle with alcoholism.

It’s starting to get creepy how Marvel seems incapable of not making me interested in what they’ll do next.

3 Comic Books That Should Be Adapted Into Films

There’s no denying it at this point, comic book-based films are the top dog of the modern movie industry. As such, studios are looking to find ways to adapt any promising series or story arch that presents itself.

That said, there are a lot of properties and ideas that have yet to be considered that really should be (I dare argue that even the Green Lantern movie could have been improved with the presence of Dex-Starr, the Red Lantern cat).

So, to all those young film talents looking for ideas and fellow geeks looking to hound studios to work on stuff, here are some comics I’d like to see on the big screen (provided they don’t screw them up, of course).

Ms. Marvel

marvel

Dear Marvel; if you’re looking for an actress for the part, my friend Jamie can fill the role. Source: Jamie Poison on Facebook

With Wonder Woman set to have her own film in a little over 2 years, it seems appropriate Marvel should be there to meet DC with their own golden girl.

Ms. Marvel is probably the one character that could match Wonder Woman for the title of ‘most important female figure in comics’ and has a wealth of backstory to work from. I would talk at length about it, but A) that would be an article in its own right and B) MovieBob beat me to it years ago and did it far better than I could.

There have been some rumblings of Ms. Marvel appearing in Avengers 2, but the stories are slim on information at this at this point and could all be speculation with little confirmed. Still, it would be a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Update: Apparently Ms. Marvel is scheduled to make an appearance in 2018. Good for you, Marvel.

Blacksad

Dirty Harry ain’t got nothing.
Source: Wikipedia

You know what kind of story is sadly absent from movies? The film noir detective yarn. We saw attempts to use comics to revive the genre with some action tropes in the form of Sin City and The Spirit, but director/writer Frank Miller is to good story what Rob Liefeld is to attractive sequential art (that one was all the comic geeks out there).

Instead, I suggest trying again with Blacksad, an award-winning, Spanish produced, French detective comic set in 1950’s America that follows hard-boiled investigator John Blacksad as he investigates major crimes and deals with issues like political unrest and inter-racial violence.

The comic uses a technique that is not often seen today due to social stigmas; the use of anthropomorphic animal characters to help build personalities. For example, Blacksad’s character as a black cat is a clever twist on the ‘bad luck seems to follow me’ cliché.

We need some good, clever drama in film. And I think Blacksad could provide.

And speaking of great comics starring fur-clad heroes…

Usagi Yojimbo

And now you know what the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail went on to do.
Source: Cover Browser

One of my favorite film genres and the one that’s least likely to be brought up in casual conversation among my associates is chanbara (literally, “sword fighting” in Japanese); a set of samurai action films that helped to inspire and shape American Westerns.

I mention this because Usagi Yojimbo (translation; “Rabbit Bodyguard”) is possibly the best chance to revive the genre.

Set in the Edo period of Japan, the story follows the adventures of the white rabbit ronin Miyamoto Usagi (a clever play-on-words of the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi) as he fights wars and slays mythical monsters while offering the sage wisdom of a man that seeks the best in himself after seeing the absolute worst that others can offer.

If the character sounds familiar to you, you were probably a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid as the two made cameos in the other’s stories from time to time.

If you’re still unsure as to how high quality an Usagi Yojimbo film would be, I recommend checking out the short motion comic to sample the closest thing available at the moment.

What The Heck Was That In ‘Thor: The Dark World’?

“I’m-a just stand here all sexy for the ladies in the audience and beat the crap out of giants, ‘kay?”
Source: Paste Magazine

So, over the weekend, me and a dear friend saw Thor: The Dark World and it’s every bit as good as the previous installment (meaning as good as the original Thor; there’s no way it could compare to The Avengers).

However, there were several nods to various things that my friend needed explained. Then I realized that others may need a primer as well. As such, here is my SPOILER FILLED explanation of some of the events in Thor: The Dark World.

Why Aren’t The Dark Elves Dark Skinned?

“We were going to be the Immortals in ‘300’, but Frank Miller was being a dork.”
Source: Marvel Movies Wiki

This is a sad result of us – the audience – suffering from cultural colonization and misinterpretation of lore.

When most of those of a geeky persuasion hear the term ‘dark elf,’ we tend to think of the drow; a race of dark-skinned, subterranean elves made popular by Dungeons & Dragons. However, these dark elves have no connection to Norse mythology or even elves in general.

The drow we know, originally called trow, are actually hideous and mischievous fairy folk from Celtic folklore that have no connection to Norse mythology other than that they bear a strong resemblance to the trolls of Scandinavian legend.

Nordic dark elves, more accurately known as Dökkálfar, are the diametric opposites of the light elves or Ljósálfar. Because Celtic and Old Nordic cultures drew from one another, it’s likely the two stories were combined over generations.

Granted many Norse legends describe the Dökkálfar as “blacker than pitch,” but here, I feel they went with a more traditional elf appearance to draw greater attention to the primordial darkness that was their world before the universe as we know it manifested rather than a physically dark appearance.

Also, our big bad of the film Malekith does begin to look more like a traditional Dökkálfar later in the film as he draws closer to his evil goal (I won’t say how; have to keep the spoilers to a minimum) and making them pale white sets up our next topic.

What’s The Significance Of Thor Scorching Melekith’s Face?

“I’m gonna Harvey Dent the hell out of this film!”
Source: NerdyButFlirty.com

In a display of the utter badassery that he’s known for, one scene has Thor blasting a fleeing Melekith in the face with the lightning of Mjölnir permanently burning half of his face. Why is this a big deal?

Well, it draws a parallel with Hel, the Goddess of Death. In the original myth, Hel was the child of Loki who presided over Niflheim, the World of Darkness. Did you see what they did there?

There are many depictions of Hel’s appearance including half-human/half-blank or half-alive/half-dead, but most art depicts her as half-pale white/half-pitch black. So going with the most recognizable depiction makes the most sense from a storytelling standpoint.

Who Was That Weirdo In The Ending Stinger and What Is An ‘Infinity Stone’?

Surprisingly, this is NOT the illegitimate child of David Bowie.
Source: 10 Minutes from Hell

I’ll be honest; the man who inspired me to do this blog, MovieBob, did a whole episode of The Big Picture all about this particular weirdness and I encourage you all to watch it on the grounds that he explains it better than I ever could hope to. That said, I can help to try and fill in a few of the smaller gaps.

So, as he was introduced, the very eccentric acting fellow in the obligatory Marvel end credit stinger is Taneleer Tivan, The Collector. He is a member of a pantheon of characters known as the Elders of the Universe who comprise the oldest sentient beings in the universe and are essentially the Marvel Universe equivalent of gods. In Collector’s case, his life goal is to preserve the universe by collecting specimens of it.

So, what about these Infinity Stones that they mentioned? It’s almost certain that they meant the Infinity Gems, six powerful stones that grant different powers on their own, but when combined into the settings of the Infinity Gauntlet can make their wielder nigh unstoppable.

Only one villain in the Marvel Universe has completed the Infinity Gauntlet: Thanos, The Mad Titan. Who is he? Well, you met him in the stinger from The Avengers. He’s the big, purple guy with the evil smile. He wants to destroy most of the known universe as a tribute to the love of his life, the physical embodiment of Death. This makes that whole, “To challenge them is to court Death” line both amusing and terrifying.

So, judging from the events of the films and comics, it seems the Tesseract will serve as the blue Mind Gem granting access to the minds of others and enhancing mental powers and our new maguffin, the Aether, will stand in for the red Power Gem accessing all energy that has, does, and will ever exist. What’s more, The Collector seems to be helping Thanos gather the stones on the grounds that, with most of the universe gone, his specimens will become that much more valuable.

So, What About The Movie?

It’s great. I won’t say it was better than the first Thor like most critics, but it was certainly on par and made me care to see what else Marvel has in store for its cinematic universe. And don’t worry; even with the spoilers I mentioned, there are plenty of twists to shock you. Go see it now.