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Okay, I’ve got a little bit of Marvel movie fangirling to get out of my system, so consider yourself warned.
Still with me? All-righty, then.
I’ve been to see Thor: Ragnarok twice in the last five days. Was it a good movie? Well, I had fun and enjoyed it, but as for a more objective view, that depends on what standards qualify a movie as “good.” I’ve got a bit of a sliding scale for films which depends heavily on what kind of movie it is. Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get more lee-way from me than some others because they are based on comic books, and those are already all over the place in terms of plot, character, and continuity. But I still acknowledge that many of them are held together with explosions, CGI, and witty banter rather than solid storytelling. They are essentially what I call “popcorn movies,” films with a lot of visual splash and pizzazz but little real depth or even sense. Films like Pacific Rim, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the James Bond franchise. And yet they still have a great, almost magnetic, appeal for me.
As a writer and a reader/movie-goer, I love a good blend of story, character, drama and humor. For me personally, those have been (more often than not) mixed well within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I like some of the movies less than others, but I can’t say that I hate or even really dislike any of them. I think the closest I got to really disliking a film was Iron Man 2, but since I only watched it once (like, right before going to see The Avengers in theaters), I don’t know if I gave it a fair rap. Thor: The Dark World is woefully inadequate in the plot department, even by comic book standards, but I still enjoyed the movie thanks to some really cool fight scenes and the interactions between Thor and Loki. (Besides, I’m willing to watch pretty much any movie that has Tom Hiddleston in it.) ^_^ The Marvel movies aren’t unrelentingly dark (unlike the DC live-action films released before Wonder Woman), but they also aren’t completely undone by cheesiness like many earlier superhero movies. (This is due in part to new technology that can actually make superpowers look cool.)
To be clear, superhero movies aren’t the sole course in my cinematic diet; I love a lot of other, more thoughtful, indy, or non-traditional movies that explore very deep human themes or issues. Films like The Danish Girl, The Whole Wide World, A Quiet Passion, Marguerite, The Imitation Game, Belle, and The Deep Blue Sea. Despite the presence of many classically trained actors, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not Shakespeare. But it’s not meant to be, and I think it would be unfair to judge it by those standards. It’s like judging a fish to be bad at flying while ignoring the fact that it was designed to swim. It’s nice to go someplace where good and evil are a little more clearly defined, and a good, flashy boss fight solves everything. Maybe some people find that unrealistic, but hey, we’ve got radioactive spiders conferring powers to teenage boys. How close to reality can we really be? But I also can’t call these films “mindless entertainment” or “fodder for fanboys” (although I’m sure some people do feel that way), because many of them have really poignant moments or ideas that make it impossible to completely dismiss them. (Or maybe I’ve read too many of the Pop Culture and Philosophy books.)
In the wake of Thor: Ragnarok, I am reminded of just how much enjoyment these films have brought into my life. They’re a bit of a touchstone, a connection between myself and many of my friends, as well as a conversation-starter with others. Just last evening, R.E. Myles and I spent at least an hour over an Irish dinner in amiable conversation about character motivation and the balance between humor and drama in this latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The bottom line is, the Marvel movies are just a lot of fun. For all their flaws, these films have succeeded in their most important task: they made me care, and encouraged me to relax and go along for the ride. I ask for nothing else.