Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

★★★

I felt disappointed after getting out of Thor: Ragnarok. I at least thought, that this one would be different from the other, more forgettable entries in the Thor series. With Taika Waititi directing, there were examples of his cool art direction, with the 80s infused setting (and awesome synth-y soundtrack) of the planet Sakaar. There was a lot to love in that aspect. What I found to be underwhelming mainly, was the waste of Hela (Cate Blanchett) as the villain and the wasted potential of exploring Sakaar.

Oh no! Asgard is going to get destroyed! Wait a minute, haven’t we already done this before? Because it sure seems like it. Now this time, Hela the Goddess of Death is the person threatening the people of Asgard. Sadly, Blanchett was wasted in the role. Just like mostly all of the Marvel baddies she is equally as forgettable. Her mere existence as a character is what takes away from the enjoyable parts of the movie. Since Thor is banished to Sakaar, whilst attempting to race back to Asgard before the Goddess of Death threatens other realms. My main issue and question with the story is: Why didn’t the whole movie just take place on Sakaar? Instead of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) having to race back home to fight a generic villain having him arrive back to Asgard would have been substantial. Especially with a gladiator arena thrown into the mix.

Hulk and Thor do in fact, fight in the gladiator arena and it is probably the best part of the film. One of the things I was most excited for was how the relationship between Thor and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was going to be handled and portrayed. There were some terrific character building moments, such as when Hulk and Thor are talking to each other for the first time in years. However, I left Thor: Ragnarok wanting more out of the chemistry between the two characters. For other characters, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster of Sakaar was great casting. Goldblum’s odd delivery of the lines provides some great comedy. Just as equally funny with his delivery was director Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Korg, the gentle rock-giant.

Even though the design of Sakaar was pretty great, I found the CGI to be lacking in some areas. I can sense it becoming dated soon. There were some points where it looked almost like it was done by a film student, rather than a professional that works in the film industry. Such as when walls and floors were smashed. It is unfortunate to see, since these movies are being produced at a rapid speed, they have to fill the scenes with CGI instead of at least some set pieces and miniatures that would help ground the film and not make it look as artificial as it does at some points in the movie.

My overall disappointment with Thor: Ragnarok could have something to do with the past two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies setting the bar so high. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)  had fun at changing up the standard Marvel formula. Offering solid villains and good pacing. Ragnarok on the other hand, is much more generic by MCU standards. It is, by no means a bad movie, but a passable one. It did not fully embrace the weirdness of the premise and setting which is why I found it to be lacking. It is still the best Thor movie however, which is not really saying much.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

★★★★

It’s pretty hard to believe that in a span of just ten years, we have had three different actors playing the role of Peter Parker. But where Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man movies did a lot of repeating what was done in the Sam Rami films, Spider-Man: Homecoming does pretty much none of that. Sure, characters like Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Mary Jane (Zendaya) are in the movie, but we no longer need to see the origin of Peter’s powers as well as the death of Uncle Ben. Instead, we are taken right into the events following Captain America: Civil War as we follow 15 year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he tries to prove what he has to not be treated like a kid by his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

The big difference between this and the other Spider-Man movies (other than what was listed in the paragraph above) is that this one is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Possibly the best instance of this, are the cameos with Captain America (Chris Evans) and just the way that Peter’s friends talk about the Avengers and know that superheros exist.

The best part of Spider-Man: Homecoming, is the characters. From Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) to Michael Keaton’s portrayal of classic Spider-Man villain, the Vulture, to even minor characters such as Hannibal Buress as Peter’s PE teacher Coach Wilson, they all add to what makes this movie work so well and makes it so funny. The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s (2014) Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson creates less of a stereotypical jock, but instead more of rival to Peter that is intelligent as well as arrogant. And of course, what would a Spider-Man movie be without a good portrayal of Spider-Man? Well, I can assuredly say that Tom Holland does a good job at portraying a teenager and while he may not look 15, he definitely sounds it. My only criticism was that I felt like the movie may have needed a bit more Tony Stark. This is because Peter Parker and Tony Stark have such great chemistry and I wanted more of it.

Thematically, Homecoming is reminiscent of the coming-of-age films from the 80s, mainly John Hughes films. The idea of the perfect girl, the homecoming dance all just screams this style. It also differentiates the movie from other superhero movies, showing that a superhero film doesn’t need to be cookie-cutter but can be a fusion of different genres.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is another addition to Marvel’s ever-growing portfolio of films and one of the best so far. I really enjoyed this movie and I think pretty much anyone can. This is a funny as well as character-driven movie that is also relateable (about growing up not becoming Spider-Man). And it was written by six people! Breaking the record held by The Mummy (2017) for the most screenwriters I’ve ever seen attached to one script. Except this one is actually…good.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

★★★★

Logan (2017) set the standard for superhero movies, at least for ones this year. But, does every movie have to be emotionally as powerful as that film was? Of course not! Marvel Studios is here more, to merely create fun entertainment in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Watching the Guardians travel from sci-fi set piece to set piece was quite impressive. The detail to the areas showed the care put into them. Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and crew were pretty much all did good jobs with the script given. With the exception of Drax (Dave Bautista) which we will look into later.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the villain is always considered to be the weakest link. With the exception of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) every other villain seems disposable. In Guardians 2, Ego (Kurt Russell) felt much more memorable as the antagonist makes it stick out compared to other marvel movies. The disconnect from the rest of the Marvel Universe makes the movie stand out as well. Not everything has to be filled with cameos and references to other superheros, and Gunn understands that.

The soundtrack was very well selected, just like the first’s. A lot of surprising picks show up on the set list. It’s best to not look into the soundtrack before watching because it makes the movie all the better. An awesome title sequence begins the choreographed music-video battles in this new selection of hit 70s songs.

Marvel really needs to slow down when it comes to the jokes. Comedy should be present, but it does not need to be as frequent as it shows up? Drax is the embodiment of what I dislike about Marvel Studios movies. His purpose in the movie was to tell an unfunny joke then laugh obnoxiously the same way Seth Rogen does as a que for the audience to do the same. Most of the movie going public seems to feel differently about the inclusion of so much comedy in these films but, it does really seem to affect the more sad or intense scenes. (Guardians 2 did handle an emotional scene well however, unlike past Marvel movies so bravo James Gunn). From the classic “language” quote from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) to “that’s the wi-fi password” from last year’s Doctor Strange (2016) people seem to have a favorite bad joke to make fun of in these films. This picture is no different, offering one of the worst yet with “Tazer Face”. The joke is unfunny at first but it continued getting referenced again and again and it just continued to make it less and less unfunny.

With the exception of the failed attempts at comedy. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is pretty great. James Gunn was also the sole writer for this film and it made the film feel much more even tonally, compared to other MCU films. This is a rare exception where the sequel is possibly even better than the original film. Thank you James Gunn, this was a great way to kick off the summer blockbuster season.