Of COURSE, I went to see Thor: Ragnorak. What did you expect? The surprise is that I also went to see Justice League because, really, it’s DC and I usually can’t be bothered. Apart from the natural antipathy we Marvel True Believers have towards DC (did you see the way they treated Siegel and Shuster? Did you?? It’s almost as bad as the way Marvel treated the King!),they don’t have any compelling characters. Superman? C’mon, Kryptonite or no, it’s no contest with that guy. He could thwack Thanos with his thumb and what’s the fun in that? Besides, he died in the last movie. Batman? The Dark Knight trilogy, sure, but everything else? Meh. Wonder Woman?
So Marvel is going to get my interest far and above any DC title so, yeah, Ragnorak first. And, it was good. Excellent. Superior. And caused me a bit of suspicion.
About a week before I saw it, I read an article (whose author and specific title now escape me) declaring that Ragnorak marked the end of the superhero movie because it was trying too hard to be funny. To wit:
1. Marvel and DC and all the rest have a fan base (see above) that loves them regardless. When the movies appeared, the fans went berserk and scarfed up tickets, even to such clunkers as Punisher: War Zone (which I rate as one of the worst movies I ever saw, superhero genre or no) or the very silly Batman Returns (except for Michelle Pfeiffer in leather. Or Halle Berry in leather). When Iron Man, the first real Marvel movie came out (I refuse to look at you, Ang Lee ) thought I’d died and gone to movie heaven. Here it was, my entire childhood, in cinematic splendor.
2. The General Populace, you know, the people who think The Fast and the Furious is gripping drama and Vin Diesel is poignant, glanced over and said, “Hmm. Superhero movies. That might be cool” and also bought tickets in droves, sitting elbow-to-elbow with the fan base, and were duly impressed. Not by the fan base, who are still nerds, but by the production values.
3. All well and good. But, there have now been what? fifteen, sixteen Marvel movies, eight to ten DC ones, covering ever more esoteric superheroes like Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad? You know, the kinds of comic book characters only fanboys love? So, the fan base remains berserk but the GP shrugs and goes “Been there, done that,” and they’re off to see Fasterer and Furioser number 52, convinced Vin Diesel is going to win an Oscar this time. Ticket sales waver, especially for the much ballyhooed Justice League movie.
What to do, what to do?
I know, shouts some self-delineated brilliant movie guy, let’s make the superhero movies more appealing to the GP! Let’s make them…funny!
As the article writer pointed out, that waters down the superhero and the fan base gets PO’d and stops coming, and the GP sees it as nothing but another superhero movie and gets in line for F&FMCMLXVII.
He (or she) is right.
Because, although I really enjoyed Ragnorak, thought the opening sequence was outstanding, after about a half an hour or so, I was going, “What’s with all the yuks?” It seemed like they were trying too hard, instead of letting the humor flow incidentally. You wouldn’t be faulted if you thought this was a buddy movie instead of a superhero one. I was not PO’d by the excessive jokesterism but, instead, vaguely disturbed, detecting a rift in the Force and wondering if a dumbing-down had been initiated. You know, like the NFL and the secret three-foot rule that’s been invoked for receivers and quarterbacks?God, I hope not, because the Avengers have my heart and we’ve got to get through the Infinity Gauntlet and to the death of Captain America intact, people!So, vaguely disturbed, I allowed my son to drag me into the Justice League movie (he bought the tickets), fully expecting to dislike it the same way I disliked Man of Steel, Batman versus Superman, and even Wonder Woman. I mean, c’mon, it’s Superman and, even more c’mon, it’s Ben Affleck, not Christian Bale. And, yes, Gal Gadot,but there was something…off…about Wonder Woman. Can’t really say what but I think it has to do with that whole Ares thing.
But, ya know? Justice League was pretty good.
I can’t figure out why it was so universally panned. It had a compelling story line: a disparate bunch of adventurers are brought together by Gandalf…er, Batman…to find the Ring of Power…er, Mother Boxes…er, Mutha Boxes…before Sauron can bring them together and open a portal to let the Chitauri in.Okay, I can see why it was panned.
But, really, you’ve got limited plot lines at these cosmic levels of superheroism. What else are you going to have Thor or Superman do, stop muggers?
That’s the Punisher’s job.There were some excellent moments, like the Atlantis reveal, and some pleasing surprises, like the general all around dick-headedness of Aquaman, and the upgrade of Wonder Woman’s importance. Even Ben Affleck convinced me he’s equal to the Christian Bale Batman role.
So which was better? Well, I’m going to commit sacrilege and give Justice League a centimeter more kudos primarily because I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Not that Ragnarok was a slouch, far from it; it’s a good movie, too, with enough Easter eggs, such as Thor’s umbrella, to gladden this old Marvel fan’s heart. But the excessive humor and the excessive fate of Asgard are a bit off-putting, as are what I consider some post-modernist interpretations: “Asgard is the people, not a place.” Yeah? A few generations of Vikings might beg to differ.
Besides, pleasant surprises generally outweigh expected ones.