I don’t think I’ve ever been a fan of superhero movies. Even thinking back to my childhood, I didn’t have superhero toys or costumes. At most I watched a VHS of Batman Forever on repeat, but that hardly constitutes being a fan of the genre.
I haven’t been completely under a rock, I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies in the last fifteen years — Voluntary or otherwise. I remember enjoying Spiderman 2 (the first time they did a sequel), Batman Begins and a few of the X-Men movies. In recent years I’ve enjoyed Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredibles 2 and…maybe that’s it?
Avengers: Age of Ultron was the last Marvel superhero flick I saw in cinema, and it was my breaking point for the whole franchise. Up until I saw that film I could gleefully pass the entire genre off as useless but enjoyable popcorn movies, but then they shoved lots of people onto the screen and tried to make me care about it by pointing at themselves and going “Look! It’s Slenderman! Or Grime-Boy! Or Jimmy Jon!” Or whatever all the superheroes are called.
So I’ve missed out on a lot of the Marvel movies, and now I have a very specific conversation every three months with friends and family.
“Have you seen LATEST MARVEL BLOCKBUSTER?!”
“No I haven’t seen it.”
“Oh well — it’s really cool when SUPERHERO DOES THING, oh wait — do you care about spoilers?”
“No, I don’t plan on seeing it.”
“Well you really should, because it changes the game for IMPORTANT FRANCHISE.”
In the last year people have told me that I’d actually enjoy a couple of the new Marvel movies, those being Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. I didn’t believe the first person who suggested them — because it was the guy installing my internet and that was weird thing for him to say out of the blue — but when everyone started to recommend the same two movies for me I thought I best watch them. I mean, I’ve had a three-year hiatus from Marvel, what’s the worst that could happen?
Let’s start with Thor: Ragnarok, a film I was told I would like because it’s a comedy (thumbs up) and it’s directed by the always brilliant Taika Waititi (double thumbs-up). I was told that it’s “not like other Marvel movies”, “it’s really funny” and that “you definitely don’t need to have seen all the other Marvel movies to know what’s happening”.
*grits teeth and sucks in air*
Oh man, this is tough, because people seem to genuinely like these films for some reason. As though they’re the best films they’ve ever experienced in their life or something, so I feel awful saying bad things about them and then justifying them with appropriate evidence.
Okay, I’ll start with the positives from this movie. The rock guy (played by Waititi) and Jeff Goldblum’s character were exactly what I expected from the film described to me. They were the only two people with lines that made me laugh and had they been the primary companion and antagonist of this film I think I may have genuinely enjoyed it.
The hour of this movie that they spent on Grandmaster’s planet was fun to watch. Apart from all the Thor/Hulk stuff that you clearly needed to see other films to have a better understanding. Oh and the Thor/Loki stuff that didn’t make any sense. The antagonist from this first movie who keeps trying to betray you at every turn is being kept alive just because he’s your brother? Yet you’re all ready to go kill your sister for doing the exact same thing? Don’t get me started on sexism in the Marvel franchise, of entitled boys in suits saving the world…
I can already feel myself getting angry at the plot, so let’s talk about that. Right at the start of the movie Thor tells us that he always gets in these scrapes but manages to come out alright in the end. Fine, as long as this film remains a straight-up comedy and they don’t attempt fake threat and emotion throughout, then this will — and… they did, they did exactly that.
If you have a line like that, why am I supposed to care what dramatically happens to these people? I know they’re all going to survive because of what Thor said, (apart from the one new guy who’s always introduced in a Marvel film and then killed off so they don’t kill a franchise player), so why threaten me with peril? When they returned to Asgard and had the audacity to act as though they wouldn’t win, it was a real “walk out of the cinema” moment for me.
Also — and this is just a sidenote — why doesn’t Doctor Strange solve everything? Or do villains not fall for his magic tricks? And if not, what’s the point of him? How did Loki survive the burning city? Why didn’t Cate Blanchett even try to act? Can Thor only use thunder now that his father is dead? Can Marvel make a movie without a shoehorned classic rock song?
So many questions, no answers within the film. Maybe if Waititi had written the screenplay as well then this could’ve been decent, but he didn’t, it was written by three people! A story by committee is not a story, it’s a sketch show. And eight laughs in one-hundred and thirty minutes does not a sketch show make.
On the other hand, Black Panther, I genuinely enjoyed. I was worried for the first hour that it was going to be like any other superhero movie, but as soon as the South-African villain was killed, and the story became more about family and a culture war than it did about the threat to the wider, faceless world (which was still there but I found it easy to ignore), I could really sink my teeth into it.
The world building was far more interesting, maybe because it was butchering a culture that I know absolutely nothing about, instead of riding the coattails of Norse mythology but getting it all wrong in the process. Or maybe it played to the culture well, I couldn’t possibly say. What I do know is that dream-sequences through sinking into sand, direct parallels to the anxieties and dangers of modern society, and strong characters that aren’t just the same white dudes I’ve been watching for twenty-five years — Those are all things I want from a mindless action movie.
In the last hour of Black Panther I actually forgot I was watching a Marvel superhero movie, as it just felt like a regular sci-fi/action flick. They’d subtly set-up small details for the third act, and everything came to personal dramatic conclusions that felt emotional and meaningful.
Do I want to see a sequel? Not really — That’s part of the problem I have with these franchises. Just leave things alone and allow them to be remembered fondly. Although, I know how important a movie like Black Panther is to the black community, so maybe true equality is milking every cash-cow to the point of a “terrible” 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, a “measly” 1.5 billion dollars, followed by a reboot? Yeah! Mediocrity for everyone!
I tried, I really did — I just don’t think these movies are meant for me. Maybe you had to have been either a fan or a child when all of these films started, and I was just caught in the middle of all of that. Too old to enjoy them, too young to remember the Saturday-morning cartoons and original comic books.
I guess I’ll watch another couple of Marvel films in 2022 or something. When they start rebooting them all for the third time.
Today is Thursday, September 20th and watch what you like, like what you like, but believe that your blockbusters can be better.
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