'Thor: Ragnarok' Is The Film Marvel's Been Trying To Make For Years

'Thor: Ragnarok' Is The Film Marvel's Been Trying To Make For Years

How Taika Waititi's refreshing point of view enhanced the superhero genre.

Which movie is the most well-made Marvel movie? Not which was your favorite or which was the most successful, but which one is genuinely the best stand-alone film? Before this month, most Marvel fans might have said Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

It realizes the importance of character and relationship development, it's the only Marvel movie to really nail Natasha's character down, it's dramatic, well-written, and well-paced. For many Marvel fans, it's the obvious choice.

That is, until Thor: Ragnarok came out last weekend. Ragnarok is essentially the opposite of The Winter Soldier, between its flashy, colorful aesthetic and humor-driven sensibility, but it has succeeded in ways past Marvel movies haven't been able to: it appeals not only to casual viewers but to people who explicitly don't like Marvel's films.

So what did director Taika Waititi do that got it right?

One of the most obvious differences between Ragnarok and previous Marvel movies is the color scheme. Every Marvel movie in the past five years has been desaturated and gray, The Winter Soldier included, as if this might enhance the reality or drama of it all.

Waititi's film, on the other hand, shoots for bold colors and high contrast, an aesthetic that is reflected in the fact that nothing in the film is dull. The plot, the characters, the humor, the finale -- everything is embellished and with purpose.

This contrast between gray and color is most clearly seen in that fact that Ragnarok is genuinely funny. Nearly every Marvel movie sticks to a sarcastic sense of humor, and one-liners seem to be the only currency they deal in. Basically, no matter what character is talking, they get varying degrees of the Iron Man sense of humor.

Waititi's previous films, from Two Cars, One Night (2005) to Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016), share a sense of humor reviewer Dan Taipua brands "Kiwi humor," a sense of humor that is "distinctly Māori" that carries into Ragnarok. It is deadpan and deprecating, yes, but it is also situational and made up of actual jokes, for once.

Ragnarok doesn't abandon character development for the sake of comedy or plot, though. Every character is at their peak in this movie, especially Thor, who most writers have difficulty utilizing to his full potential. His cocky, slightly oblivious personality is hard to nail and apparently hard to make compelling, but Waititi decision to knock Thor down and let him find his way back combined with his biting sense of humor allows Thor to develop without sacrificing or changing what other writers managed to put into him.

At Thor's side stand Loki, who remains one of Marvel's most compelling characters thanks to Tom Hiddleston's Shakespearean sensibilities, Korg, a light-hearted rock creature played by Waititi himself, and Valkyrie, a refreshing female warrior played by Tessa Thomspon and one of Ragnarok's most important players.

Natasha's role was heavily praised for not being a love interest and being allowed to develop in The Winter Soldier, but Valkyrie takes it one step further by actually receiving her own character arc. Her character goes through the "former hero caught in a depression slump after losing loved ones in battle is called to action again" storyline that is often reserved for male heroes.

When it does come to plot, though, Waititi's use of comedy and character are its driving force. Waititi's films often combine comedy and adventure into aspects of the same genre, a technique that is largely why this film's finale works where other Marvel films don't.

So many superhero movies go too big in their third act and don't know how to stick the landing, but in creating such a vibrant, over-the-top world, Waititi's world-ending finale fits right in.

Taika Waititi essentially takes what exists as a vague idea in other Marvel movies and enhances it through Thor: Ragnarok. The energy, humor, and characters are elevated in a way no other Marvel movies has managed to succeed in. The film even manages to use music in a way other films haven't by using representative musical themes in the film's final moments, when "Sons of Odin" is brought back from the first movie.

Waititi is changing the game not by changing the rules, but by looking at them to see how he can make them better. Hopefully, Marvel will see the success this film has found and realize why the new answer to "Which is the most well-made Marvel movie?" is, without a doubt, Thor: Ragnarok.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube | Marvel

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Dear Shondaland, You Made A Mistake Because April Kepner Deserves Better

"April Kepner... you're not average"

I'll admit from the first time we were introduced to April in Season 6, I didn't like her so much. I mean we hated the "Mercy Westers" in the first place, so how could we see the potential in the annoying, know-it-all resident that was trying to compete with our beloved Lexie Grey.

But then, we saw her come face-to-face with a killer and thought maybe she had potential.

We then saw her surprise everyone when she proved to be the next trauma surgeon in the making and we were intrigued.

Notice how none of these stories had anything to do with Jackson Avery. Not that we didn't love her with Jackson, but for whatever reason you've chosen to end their very popular relationship. Suddenly, you think that April is not worth further exploration but you've forgotten one simple thing. We fell in love with her before "Japril" was ever in the picture.

We love her because her story was unlike the others and she had one of the best character developments on the show. She wasn't damaged like Meredith Grey or Alex Karev who have been on their journey to become all whole and healed, but she still had to fight hard to be taken seriously. Her story has so much potential for future development, but you've decided to throw it all away for "creative reasons."

I'm sorry, but there's nothing creative about doing the exact same thing you've done to all the other characters who have left the show. We've endured the loss of many beloved characters when you chose to write off George, Henry, Mark, and Lexie. We even took it when you did the unthinkable and wrote McDreamy out of the show - killing off one half of the leading couple. (WHO DOES THAT???)

But April Kepner? Are you kidding me?

She may no longer be with Jackson, but she was so much more than half of Japril. While most of us hate that Jackson and April are over, we probably could have dealt with it if April was still on the show. Now they're done and you think there aren't any more stories to tell about her character. Why? Because she'll just get in the way of Jackson and Maggie?

How could you not see that she was way more than Jackson's love interest?

She's so much more than you imagined her to be. April is the headstrong, talented trauma surgeon no one saw coming. The farmer's daughter started off an ugly duckling who became a soldier because she needed to be one and turned into one big beautiful swan who constantly has to fight for her coworkers and family to see her as such.

She's proven to be a soldier and swan on many occasions. Just take giving birth to her daughter in a storm on a kitchen table during an emergency c-section without any numbing or pain medication as an example. If she wasn't a soldier or a swan before, how could she not be after that?

Yet, you - the ones who created her - still see her as the ugly duckling of a character because she always had to take the backseat to everyone else's story and was never allowed to really be seen.

But we see her.

She's the youngest of her sisters who still think of her as the embarrassing little Ducky no matter how much she's grown.

This swan of a resident got fired for one mistake but came back fighting to prove she belongs. Not only did April Kepner belong there, but it was her talent, her kindness, her strength that made her Chief Resident. This simply wasn't enough for Dr. Bailey or her other residents so she fought harder.

She endured the pressure but always ended up being a joke to the others. When she was fired yet again, your girl came back a little shaken. She doubted herself, but how could she not when everyone was against her.

Despite everyone telling her she couldn't, she did rise and no one saw her coming because she remained in the background. She went off to Jordan broken and came back a pretty risky trauma surgeon.

We've watched for years as she was handed promising stories that we never got to see fully develop because she was in the background. We never got to see her rise. We get the beginning and the end, but hardly ever the middle.

I thought we were finally going to have an amazing story arc in season 11 when she loses Samuel, but what did we really get? Two or three episodes of her coming to terms with the loss of her baby and then April's disappearance from the show while she's grieving off screen so that Dr. Amelia Shepherd can shine her first season on the show. Where is April's life-changing surgeries? What does April get? She's background music.

Now what?

It's season 14 and we finally get the story we've been waiting 9 years for! We get Dark April and her crisis of faith. A story arc all Christians can appreciate. Here's the chance for real character development in the foreground, but wait...

Before her story is even wrapped up, you announce that this season will be her last. So we're forced to realize that the only reason we're getting this story now is that you're writing her off.

No matter how you end it, it's not going to do her story justice. If you kill her off to end her crisis of faith story, you're not reaching the many Christians who watch the show. If you have her leaving Seattle and taking Harriet with her, you didn't know April. If you have her leaving Seattle and abandoning Harriet, you really didn't know April. So anyway you choose to end her story, you lost out on one great character.

You messed up.

Both April Kepner and Sarah Drew deserved better.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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Shows Shouldn't Have To Rely On Sexist Or Racist Jokes To Be 'Funny'

Punchlines that come at the expense of female, plus-sized, LGBTQ, or other marginalized characters are too common

Recently I’ve been trying to be a more conscious consumer. I bring old plastic bags with me to dining halls, religiously carry a reusable water bottle, avoid online shopping whenever possible, and buy clothing second hand. But while I try to have my environmental bases covered, I often forget to cover my moral bases.

After reading a New Yorker article by Molly Ringwald, I started to think about my role as a consumer of art and pop culture. Molly Ringwald, an actress known for her roles in John Hughes movies such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Sixteen Candles,” examines in her article the problematic aspects of the movies she starred in and whether those iconic films are or should still be relevant today.

While the #metoo movement has already brought some of these issues to the public eye, there is still much more to unpack. As allegations rolled out against men in Hollywood for their actions, the already present calls to boycott the films and projects of perpetrators such as Woody Allen or Kevin Spacey, have grown stronger. While many have their own opinions on whether this type of action is necessary or effective, I certainly see the merit in not contributing further to the fame and wealth of the people who committed these ugly acts.

However, the line gets fuzzier when the films, series, books, etc. are not produced by people who have done something explicitly wrong, but still perpetuate that same culture of misogyny and sexual exploitation. Prompted in part by the article, I thought back on some of the pop culture I personally have grown up on, and was disappointed, though not surprised, to realize how wrong some of the movies and shows I loved are.

A classic example is “How I Met Your Mother,” a T.V. show I have seen at least twice through (with that being a conservative estimate). And while I obviously never approved of the sexist and even openly rape-y character of Barney, a serial womanizer, it didn’t really occur to me to turn off the show and choose something else. Those same problematic punchlines that come at the expense of female, plus-sized, LGBTQ, or other marginalized characters are repeated over and over in almost any sitcom I’ve ever seen, from “Friends” to “That '70s Show.” The trend isn’t just T.V. shows either, but some of my personal favorite comedies and rom-coms. I try not to think too hard about how transphobic the whole concept behind “She’s The Man” is, for example.

Acknowledging that the movies and shows I love are sexist is bad enough, but a voice inside me resists condemning them totally. That voice whispers to me that comedy is supposed to be offensive, and it’s all just joking. But that voice is absolutely wrong. I may have to remind myself that occasionally, but funny doesn’t have to be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic. Proving that are Trevor Noah, Sasheer Zamata, Kate McKinnon, and all the other talented comedians that can be genuinely funny without taking cheap shots at marginalized groups.

In her article, Molly Ringwald argues that despite their “blind spots” as she calls them, the movies she starred in are still valuable in the message of empowerment they gave to teenagers. But is the same true of sitcoms and shows with less artistic value? I don’t really know, but I think denouncing them totally probably won’t help. They are pop culture milestones that whether we agree with them or not, will remain relevant, at least for the foreseeable future.

While that may be true for older, already successful shows and movies for those still on the air or coming out now, we can make a choice. We can be conscious consumers and make a point that we demand jokes that don’t degrade others — comedy and art of a higher order. Because more and more, we see that it’s not just possible, but even funnier and more relatable.

Cover Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television

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