When Thor: Ragnarok came out a couple of weeks ago, I treated myself to seeing it on opening night. I enjoyed it so much! It was a weird feeling, because I really wasn’t looking forward to it or expecting much and then it surprised and delighted me. I love it when that happens! It’s a welcome contrast to earlier this year when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a movie that I had been desperately anticipating, and ended up being underwhelmed.
Thor: Ragnarok definitely isn’t perfect, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to nitpick and complain about movies, because well, I’ve never made a movie. It looks like it’s pretty hard, and whenever people make an effort to write, direct, act, edit, score, photograph, etc, I like to respect that effort. A movie has to be pretty bad for me to declare it unwatchable (like, Soul Plane bad). Thor: Ragnarok is definitely way more than watchable, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a movie apologist. The story is actually pretty simple, but the writing of the characters is so strong that it makes the plot points seem much richer. It’s a superhero movie that seems committed to exploring personal relationships and personal growth, and I’m down for that.
I’ve made a list of all the reasons I liked the movie so much. Beware, there be spoilers ahead! (Come on though, dude, it’s been two weeks. Why haven’t you seen it yet?)
- Taika Waititi: I keep hearing this name and wondering, “Who is this guy?” Now I know who this guy is, and he seems pretty awesome. Coincidentally, I just saw “What We Do in the Shadows” for the very first time several weeks ago. Watching that movie, I couldn’t believe how insanely funny and creative and perfect it was. I also couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with Taika Waititi’s character, Viago the vampire dandy. Waititi co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in that movie, so it had his personality all over it, the same personality that comes through in Ragnarok. He’s hilarious and heartfelt, scattered and clever, masterful and silly. Also, it’s refreshing to see another brown person get to make their voice heard in Hollywood, especially on such a huge project for one of the major studios. You go dude!
- Fuck You Sky Beam! We all love watching our favorite heroes from comic books and cartoons come to life on the big screen, but we are all sick to death of the same formulaic plot that ends in the same predictable boss battle that features the same blue energy beam shooting up into the sky. Enough already with the sky beams! Choosing to step away from the act three sky beam big bad showdown is a risky choice, but a necessary one. You need cool fight scenes, but you also need originality and genuine stakes. Ragnarok successfully subverts the sky beam while still satisfying my appetite for kick-ass punching, flipping and sword-clanging. The climax and resolution in act three feel fitting for the story and like a new and brave choice for a superhero movie.
- Cool Villainess: Ever since Tom Hiddleston first joined the MCU, people have been talking about how Loki is clearly the best comic book movie villain in a landscape peppered with baddies with vague motivations and paper-thin personalities. As usual, Loki shines and delights in this movie, but he’s not the main antagonist. That job goes to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and she is magnificent. I knew she was a good bad guy, because I was definitely rooting for her to win for a few minutes there (just a few minutes, it’s hard to root for the slaughter of innocent civilians). She had what good villains need, what they’re often lacking: a relatable backstory, rational motivations, and an actual personality. What drew me to her was the sense that she just really enjoyed being bad. She seemed to savor causing death and destruction and that made her mesmerizing.
- Bromance (or maybe more like Brenemies): Remember that God-awful movie that came out last August, I think it was called something like Suicide Squad? One of the most cringe-inducing moments of that cinematic disaster was when the fire dude (I don’t even remember his name) declared that he’d already lost one family and he wasn’t going to lose another. Dude, you’ve known each other for all of a few days, and all of you are cold-blooded criminals. You want me to believe that you bonded that hard that quickly!? You barely even had any conversations! What!? Contrast that to the relationship between Thor and Loki in Ragnarok. Watching the dynamic between them resonates so hard with anyone who has a sibling, cousin, play-cousin, or really close friend who becomes like family. You learn their quirks, their failings, their strengths and their weaknesses. Sometimes you support them, sometimes you fail them and sometimes you rescue them. Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth really portray the relationship of brothers who are locked in a vicious sibling rivalry but also can’t help but care for one another, because in the end, no one knows you like your sibling.
- Refugees: So a little over a month ago, Trump capped refugee resettlement in the US at 45,000 for 2018. Just for context as to how terrible that is, in the almost 40 years that a US refugee admissions program has existed, the quota has never been lower than 67,000. Trump has done this at a moment of crisis when the number of refugees is astronomical. There are 65 million people displaced worldwide, a number that the UN calls “unprecedented”. The big kicker is that no one admitted into the US as a refugee since the program started in 1980 has ever committed a fatal act of terrorism in the US. No One. Nada. Zip. Zero. Refugees are not committing acts of terror in the US! What they are doing is struggling to survive in camps, makeshift housing, wartorn areas and ravaged lands. They need stable homes, jobs, medical attention, nutritious food, clean water, which are all things we have in abundance here in the US. Which is why it really doesn’t make sense that we’ve decided to turn our backs on people we could help who mean us no harm.
“Um, Wednesday, I thought this was a listicle about a comic book movie. Why do you have to make this all political?”
Shut up! People (mostly black and brown people) are suffering and being oppressed and all of us are complicit! The least you can do is read about it in this stupid comic book movie listicle. Then go donate some money to charity, because nightmare, hellscape shit is happening to refugees at the very second that you’re reading this.
Okay, now I’ll bring it back around. Spoilers Begin! Thor: Ragnarok ends with Asgard being destroyed in a fiery battle between Hela and some smoldering lava demon dude. It’s cool, though, because Thor and co. manage to get all the Asgardian civilians onto a big ‘ole spaceship and out of danger before everything goes boom. It’s not cool, though, because now the Asgardians have no home. At the end of the movie they’re all huddling on the ship, trying to decide what to do next, and Thor is like, “Let’s go to Earth!” Do you know what that makes the Asgardians? It makes them refugees! Through no fault of their own, their home was destroyed by violence. They had two choices: stay and die a terrible death or flee in the hopes of building a new life elsewhere.
It really struck me that this movie was a positive portrayal of a refugee situation at a time when a lot of rich, powerful white guys are doing their darndest to demonize refugees. Something else interesting is that the Asgardian citizens are portrayed by mostly white actors and actresses. Being a Marvel movie, Ragnarok will be seen by a large swath of the American population, including bigots, er, I mean Trump supporters. My hope is that the image of a bunch of white people seeking shelter as refugees will penetrate the skulls of some people and drive home the message that, “Oh, a refugee could look like me. Refugees could be anyone. I could be a refugee one day. Refugees are just like everyone else! We should help them!” Even if those refugees are a race of god-like aliens stranded aboard a spaceship, it still feels timely and topical. Spoilers End!
- You Win Some, You Lose Some: Things are, like, really aggressive you guys. Mass shootings keep happening. Nuclear tensions are rising between the US and North Korea. I keep having to break up fights between 8-year-olds at work. It’s a tough world out there, and the rule seems to be that might makes right. As someone who is not powerful in any sense of the word (physically, economically, mentally, politically), I really just wish that everyone would try to get along, because I’m not trying to become collateral damage. It seems like the cause of a lot of bloodshed is the fact that people just won’t back down. We have to prove how tough we are. We have to be dominant. We have to emerge victorious. Superhero movies are some of the main culprits when it comes to perpetuating this narrative. The good guys always have the biggest bombs and the fastest spaceships. Even if they take a hit, they always recover and vanquish the bad guys. To do good, to be a hero, you have to be the strongest, you always have to keep fighting. Well, it’s not so in Ragnarok, and it’s refreshing. Throughout the movie, when faced with a challenge Thor rises to it and when other characters question why he insists on persevering he simply says, “Because that’s what heroes do.” Spoilers Begin! During the movie’s final showdown, Thor admits that there is no way he can overpower Hela. Physically, she is completely capable of decimating him, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Instead of continuing a fruitless battle that would probably kill him he assesses what’s the most important in the situation: saving innocent lives and then GTFO (getting the fuck out)! Not only does he admit defeat and turn tail and run, he also gives the villain exactly what she wants. He surrenders Asgard to Hela…after unleashing a demon on Asgard that he knows Hela will fight, destroying herself, the demon and Asgard in the process. Thor gives up. Thor loses. Thor retreats. In doing so, he rescues the civilians of Asgard and saves his own life. I would also like to point out that Thor is no less of a bad-ass masculine beefcake for having done so. Hmm, it’s almost as if being a man doesn’t have to be synonymous with never ever having a moment of weakness. Sometimes in life you get overpowered. Sometimes in life you lose face. Sometimes being a hero is just making the best of a bad situation, even if the end result is kind of shitty. Spoilers End!
- The soundtrack makes me nostalgic for the 80s even though that is physically impossible as I was born in 1990.
- Thor and the Hulk (not Bruce Banner) as roommates is magnificent and needs to be a sitcom right now. Fuck Young Sheldon.
- I really thought the black guy was going to get killed, but he lived! Way to go, Idris Elba! Is this a spoiler? I don’t think it really counts as a spoiler. Guys, Idris Elba’s character lives…and he’s black.
- After I watched The Silence of the Lambs, I never thought that I would be able to watch Sir Anthony Hopkins on screen and not be afraid of him. Without Thor: Ragnarok, I never would’ve overcome my fear of Sir Anthony Hopkins. He’s totally, like, an encouraging dad in this movie. He doesn’t cannibalize anyone.
So, there you have it! An entirely too long listicle about why you should go see Thor: Ragnarok! Brevity is not my strong suit!
K, thx, bye!