THOR RAGNAROK’S TOP 5 BEST THINGS AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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I’ve been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to have another Top 5 countdown published at Heavy Magazine. Be warned there will be spoilers in it and it is purely intended as a retrospective about what is great about the film now that it has been out for a few weeks. Look forward to hearing what you think and whether you agree or disagree. The post can be found here https://heavymag.com.au/thor-ragnaroks-top-5-best-things/

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken

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THOR: RAGNAROCKS BUT PLEASE NO THOR 4

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Taika Waititi did the impossible and got us excited about a Thor Movie. How he did it is pretty simple, he got us excited about Taika Waititi movies and just happened to be directing a Thor movie as well. The trailer promised a rocking soundtrack, gaudy colours that evoked memories of Flash Gordon and a comic tone that would lampoon previous entries. The film delivers on all the marketing in that regard, Thor: Ragnarok has laughs and spectacle as promised but it is missing one key ingredient that previous Waititi films has possessed and where the similarly styled Guardians of the Galaxy films have also shared and that is one of emotion.

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There are massive stakes in this film for Thor regarding his family, his homelands and his friends. You won’t see him shed a tear which is fair enough, maybe that’s not true to his character (by the way what is his character? a smart arse Prince who has matured? after five films I’m honestly not sure) but while throughout he continually references having to get back to Asgard to save his people we honestly don’t feel his connection to them. We don’t really know who they are. It feels almost like two films are running at once, Thor on another planet trying to get back and playing out a fun movie with characters for the most part unrelated to Asgard. Idris Elba as Heimdall on the other hand is engaged in helping the Asgardians and what is happening back home. The film never makes an attempt even a heavy handed one to draw that connection. Adding to that is a cut away to a joke at various times when the impact of a moment could be felt instead. In Hunt For The Wilderpeople we felt loss more keenly there of loved ones and the displacement of home. These themes are present in Thor: Ragnarok but are not nearly as well covered. In that film too things were not glossed over either, if a man had been homeless all his life he could learn to love again but not necessarily be a responsible guardian.

 

So what does the movie get right? First off the opening scene sets the tone with a big battle, some unexpected humour and the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song which featured in the teaser trailer. Brushing over some plot elements not shown in marketing  Thor finds himself on a planet named Sakaar trying to get back to Asgard. He is imprisoned and forced to fight in gladiatorial contests. It might have been great to leave somebody he fights as a surprise but we all know what kind of world we’re living in. Keeping that secret would have been impossible and just dumb given how much of an impact it could play in marketing but in a different world that is definitely how you would ideally play it. Speaking of The Hulk, having not reverted back to Banner for some time he is a newly developed character capable of doing good but behaving at times like a sulky toddler. One scene with him and Thor is one of the stronger character beats for both. Other characters include Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum (that’s not a bad thing), Tessa Thompson as former warrior Valkyrie now a mercenary and Cate Blanchett as new big bad Hela. Blanchett is having the time of her life strutting around confidently as a demi-God with serious betrayal issues and looking damn fine in her skin tight costume. She’s the most powerful character in the film surrounded by men trying to take her down a peg or too constantly. Subtext abounds not least of which when she delights in bossing around macho Karl Urban. Related imageThe pain of Valkyrie and Hela are not undermined by immediately following with a joke and I wish we could have seen some of that given to Thor’s trials and resolving of his relationship with Loki. Still if it is laughs you want this film has them and Waititi himself plays rock monster Korg who gets some of the best laughs. Having this special brand of New Zealand humour present on such a massively global blockbuster must be a real thrill for Kiwis and as an Aussie I certainly enjoyed it.

Maybe I’m getting old but like a lot of blockbusters of late I didn’t care for the ramped up CGI-athon third act finale. The spectacle didn’t engage in the same way say the ending of The Avengers did. Some critics believe the meta-humour and need for a laugh undermines the drama of the Guardians of the Galaxy films but I cried during the sequel as well as laughed. I regret to inform you in Thor: Ragnarok I just laughed. Yet its good to see Marvel taking chances and this is an enjoyably light diversion in this ongoing cinematic universe.

-Lloyd Marken

 

P.S. There was a Museum Exhibition in my hometown a little while back which I hope to do a post of soon. For now here’s a sneak peak of some items you may recognise from the film Thor: Ragnarok.

STAR TREK: BEYOND COVERS FAMILIAR GROUND

Simon Pegg the fan boy who made good has finally become part of the establishment co-writing the latest Star Trek movie. It took the original cast 16 years to get old  but only 7 years after the 2009 reboot introduced a hip new happening cast to take over these iconic roles and now at the age a lot of the original actors were when they began the TV series a lot is made in this film of middle age ennui.

Captain James T. Kirk, the lustful wanderer always looking for the undiscovered country, here feels lost having surpassed his father’s age and therefore apparently his shadow. Talking over with Starfleet command he’s become disenchanted with going in search of new horizons and considers taking a desk job as a Commodore which fits with William Shatner’s version ending up an Admiral at one point and also maybe reflects that this is a different Kirk. There’s a nice drinking scene between friends  Kirk and medical officer Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) that deals with this but lacks Commander Spock to complete the triumvirate. Reference is made about the closeness of Spock and Kirk but all evidence suggests they’re barely able to carry out a conversation between the two of them.star trek star shot trek beyond

Into this state of mind the U.S.S. Enterprise is called to help out on the fringes of known space where they are attacked by a new type of a species and end up crashlanding on a nearby planet with the crew separated into groups. Sadly the late Anton Yelchin is given little to do as navigator Pavel Chekov but raises a few smiles. While the bulk of the crew including helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and communications officer Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are held prisoner by mysterious villain Krall and plot escape, Bones and Spock are put together as an odd couple forced to survive and admit some of their feelings. Spock is dealing with breaking up with Uhura and whether he is best needed elsewhere with the endangered Vulcan race having received news that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has passed. Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) meets a “friendly” alien called Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who is repairing a ship to leave the planet and could be their best hope of escape. Chris Pine as Kirk meanwhile ends up riding a motorbike like a Crusty Demon which sent the internet into meltdown last year fearing a Fast and Furiousifcation of Trek by director Justin Lin.

Mic movie film trailer artsSome of the action is poorly shot due to darkly lit sequences but most are very exciting. Space battles against bug like small explosive vessels are a neat twist on the classic dreadnought engagements of old, Sofia Boutella gets a great hand to hand combat sequence and an early scene aboard Starbase Yorktown in the first act sets up later the finale where people fight in various gravity vacuums and ride ships down tunnels that barely fit them. There’s a child’s joy in some of these action sequences of building a set and then staging something exciting in it. It may be worth checking the film out in 3D and one positive that can’t be stressed enough is how good the special effects look in this film and how beautifully realised the world is.star trek star shot trek beyondstar trek star shot trek beyond

There’s many references to the sometimes maligned Enterprise series and an interesting development about the villain even if we never really understand his motivation, a very touching inclusion of the original cast and a renewed focus on bringing it back to the characters and where they are emotionally. The problem here is they are not nearly as interesting as they were in previous films. Quinto and Urban in particular nailed the characteristics of Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly previously but seem too comfortable and low energy in this. So much so I wonder if there is a phone ringing nearby. star trek star review trek beyondThe most involving character is new addition Jaylah with PTSD from her family’s death and simple heartfelt references to a ship being a home. Alas the old crew as a family doesn’t seem as together emotionally or physically. Star Trek: Into Darkness was full of references to another Khan centric film but arguably still more engaging than this. Critical and peer responses to this film have been more positive than my assessment of it so feel free to explore this latest undergoing for yourself but as an enormous fan of the reboot I find myself missing the old gang more and more as this young crew ages. Alas Yelchin now leaves the role sadly and it’s not a bad film to dedicate to him and Nimoy’s memory. These voyages are ongoing but it’s nice to remember those who have gone before.

-Lloyd Markenstar trek star shot trek beyond