IF I HAD A HAMMER: Movie Reviews of Thor: Ragnorak and Justice League by Howard Casner

For questions: hcasner@aol.com

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Warning: SPOILERS

When I was young, I tended to not favor DC Comics, but gravitated toward those of the Marvel variety. This is because as a barefoot boy with cheek I never really fit in, was an outsider, so I found the Marvel universe, with its conflicted superheroes and conflicted supervillains, to be more reflective as life as I saw it.

Spiderman was especially someone I could identify with and why Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spidey film because it most closely mirrored what my life at school was like.

This approach, which often drives the movies based on Marvel characters, is why I have usually found these films, even the subpar ones, better than the DC ones, with a couple of exceptions (The Dark Knight Rises).

 

And now next in line is Thor: Ragnorak, which I think is most economically described as simply a ton of fun and perhaps the second best comic book movie of the year (for those keeping score, it’s Logan, then Thor, followed by Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy).

 

One of the reasons why Thor: Ragnorak is so successful must be attributed to director Taiko Waititi who brings a lightness of touch and somewhat vicious humor backed by rollicking farce which can also be seen in such films of his as What We Do In The Shadows and Eagle v. Shark, as well as such television series as Flight of the Conchords and The Inbetweeners. (He also is featured in Thor… as the voice of Korg.)

 

It also has a screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost that refuses to take itself seriously except when it comes to comedy. It’s often blisteringly funny and though the structure may be a bit wobbly (it even depends on two deux ex machinas, both literally and figuratively), and is overcomplicated perhaps at times, the filmmakers have created a story that never bores and the whole thing is rather clever.

 

They even get away with a load of exposition by burying it among speeches that sometimes amount to a stand up comic routine.

 

The plot has something to do with an old legend revolving around the Goddess of Death who is supposed to bring some sort of Gotterdammerung to Thor’s home of Aasgard. But before Thor can save the day, he is captured and sent to a distant location in the universe to take part in gladiator games where he encounters unexpected people he knows, as well as many he doesn’t, and in which various life lessons are learned and character arcs are fulfilled.

 

As Thor, Chris Hemsworth is especially adept at all this tomfoolery. Too good looking to be taken seriously in dramatic roles, he works much better in characters where he is in many ways mocking his persona (this was also true of Christopher Reeve and why his Superman was such a good time).

 

The film also has such pleasures as Jeff Goldblum doing his best Jeff Goldblum impression in some time and Rachel House as his yeoman (and perhaps Waititi’s second best contribution to the film).

 

The movie has the usual suspects in the supporting roles, plus a few surprises along the way, as well as Cate Blanchett as the Goddess of Death.

 

And now we have Justice League, perhaps a film that defines DC movies. It’s filled with flat and uninteresting superheroes and is not much more successful with the supervillains; has a not completely boring, but not completely interesting plot; and is burdened with a not that impressive bit of directing.

 

In almost every area, they do everything wrong that Marvel does right, almost as if on purpose, but comes across more as if no one involved has a clue as to what makes Marvel work. The only exception is Ezra Miller’s Flash and the only time the movie really comes alive is when he is on the screen-and perhaps coincidently, his is the most Marvel-like character in the bunch.

 

The movie even has a fight between Superman and the other Justice Leagers that completely stops the movie dead, just dead, and only made me think of the fight among superheroes in Captain America: Civil War that was witty, clever and exciting.

 

The plot revolves around some rigamarole with three boxes that if obtained by the bad guys will be used to bring about Armageddon (even that word doesn’t quite sound as interesting as Gotterdammerung). It all ends pretty much as you expect it to, but not nearly as quickly as you might wish.

 

With Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Henry Cahill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Jeremy Irons plays Michael Caine and though I love Irons as an actor, no one does Caine better than Caine.

 

Directed by Zach Snyder and written by Chris Terrie and Josh Whedon.


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