By: Daniel Kilgallon, Staff Writer
To no surprise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had yet another successful year at the box office thus far, with their two feature films released grossing well over $700 million combined in the United States alone (Box Office Mojo). Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming have also received critical success, earning considerably “fresh” reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I believe that each of these films are worthy of their praise and I was more than satisfied leaving the theater from these blockbusters that have become increasingly episodic due to the ever growing universe of this monumental franchise. It is hard to believe that Spider-Man: Homecoming was just recently released on DVD and blu-ray and that the next chapter of the series, Thor: Ragnarok will be in theaters on November 2nd.
In all honesty, I have a little bit of skepticism looking forward to one of the biggest movie releases of the fall season. I have enjoyed almost every one of the sixteen films in Marvel’s massive series so far, but the first two Thor movies stand out as a bit of an exception to that. It has nothing to do with the performances delivered by Chris Hemsworth as the god of thunder, in fact I think he has done an excellent job with the character. This has been especially true in the team-based Avengers movies, but the individual installments of Thor are not nearly on the same high level of quality as standalone films such as the original Iron Man movie from 2008 or any part of the Captain America trilogy.
I had fun with the first Thor when it was released in 2011, but it simply isn’t as innovative as any of its predecessors or movies that have come ever since. It isn’t a terrible film by any means, but Thor doesn’t have much of a rewatchability factor and contains a rather bland story overall. It’s sequel, The Dark World, was even more of a downstep in my opinion, largely due to the most forgettable villain of the entire franchise. Marvel is particularly notorious for their antagonists, but the Dark Elf Malekith is perhaps the most dry and uninteresting of them all. There is also an annoying supporting character named Darcy, played by Kat Dennings, who brought the mediocre plot to a screeching halt within every scene she was featured in. I have my fingers crossed that the powerhouse studio will finally pull it together and do the beloved title character justice with a quality solo outing.
In order to avoid the mistakes of the first two Thor movies, Ragnarok needs to somewhat model itself after the excellent film that have preceded it this year, Spider-Man: Homecoming. I really enjoyed that flick when I checked it out in theaters this summer and would love to give it a rewatch on Blu-Ray given the opportunity. There are a few reasons why this movie stood out from Marvel’s other projects to me, with the first being perhaps the franchise’s finest villain in the form of Michael Keaton’s Vulture. His character alone makes the movie worth another look and it really payed off for Marvel to recruit an excellent veteran actor like him to patch up the recurring issue of weak antagonists in their movies. I really hope that two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett will be enough to provide Ragnarok with an equally effective character and long overdue legitimate threat to one of the most powerful Avengers.
Another thing that really worked well in Spider-Man: Homecoming was the surprisingly effective use of Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man in a supporting role. I feared that the second reboot for the beloved webslinger would turn into “Iron Man 4”, but that wasn’t the case at all and he was used just enough in the film. With Hulk being featured in the new Thor movie, I hope that his character is treated in a similar manner, used to supplement the story instead of taking it over. If Marvel can make that happen and manage to pull off another memorable villain, I truly think that we could all be in for a real treat when Ragnarok hits theaters next month.