'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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The Neighbourhood Adds Some Color With "To Imagine EP"

Who spilled paint on this album?

Why is there color on my The Neighborhood album art? You used to refuse to even let color photos of them circulate by major media companies, but now you guys hit us with this?

I know it might sound like I'm mad, but I'm actually super happy. This EP is going to make a lot of fans angry, but I'm going to go on record by fully supporting this move, even if it replaces my downbeat sad music with upbeat sad music.

Enough with vague gushing about the album's departure from The Neighbourhood we grew up in, though. Let me walk you through this new synth-filled melancholy hill.

1. "Dust"

With that weird synth bass building at the beginning, the semi-chanting of "No more water in the lake...," I knew something was up. When the heavily-autotuned vocals of the pre-chorus and chorus came in alongside the uncharacteristic dance-like melody, I realized everything was about to change.

"Dust" sounds almost like an 80s synth-pop track and I am almost completely onboard. The music fits well with the theme of ignorance of others' thoughts, making sure you aren't listening to the lyrics to demonstrate the fact that no one wants to listen to what anyone else is actually saying, we just like what sounds good.

The only thing I'm not a huge fan of is the ending. I get what they were trying to do, and they did a good job with the song slowing down like a tape spilling out of its cassette, but I felt like it could've been saved for the very end of the EP or, at the very least, replaced with a better end.

Overall, this is a great opener and left me wanting more!

My favorite lyric: "Didn't want to listen to nobody so everybody went out of control."

2. "Scary Love"

Another dance track, but this one takes more cues from (what sounds like) The Weeknd and other dance/R&B artists before breaking out into a pop chorus that's super catchy. It sounds like driving too fast down a highway at night feels.

This one preys on the insecurities people often feel when starting a serious relationship after being heartbroken countless times. It also focuses on the feeling of moving too fast in a relationship and the anxieties that come with that.

As the song goes on, it moves from a place of fear to a place of longing, moving from fear of moving too fast to a fear of caring too deeply.

It's super fun to dance around to and easy to sing along with, but it's not as complex as other songs on the EP. There's nothing really wrong with it. It's a solid single, but it's also pretty boring in comparison to the rest of the EP.

My favorite lyric: "You're too pretty for me, baby, I know."

3. "Heaven"

This one is pretty eerie when it starts out, almost sounding like one of Kyle Dixon's tracks for "Stranger Things" with some high-pitched synth chimes and then the bubbling arpeggios of the bass.

The verses also have some rap influences, like a lot of The Neighbourhood tracks have, but it's a bit more like Drake or other radio-friendly rappers than songs in the past (like "$ting.") The chorus is also sickly-sweet, clearly coming from an infatuated guy.

I love this track, from the mixture of synth-horror themes and rap with alternative rock to the traditionally emo-reminiscence lyricism The Neighbourhood is known for, I think this track is the perfect fusion of new and old The Neighbourhood.

My favorite lyric: "No mistaking that I need ya. There's something 'bout you, baby."

4. "Compass"

This one is, I think, the most traditional of the entire EP. It almost sounds like a normal The Neighbourhood song, save for the dance synths and falsetto. The lyrics are a little bit less like traditional The Neighbourhood, a little bit more sweet than sad, but that's not a bad thing.

It's definitely one of the slower songs on the EP, but that's not a bad thing. It comes right towards the end, right when the listener needs a break, following the slowing of each track down until the final one.

I like this one, but similar to "Scary Love," it's not super-impressive in comparison to the rest.

My favorite lyric: "You're always there to help me when I'm down. I'm lucky you've been keeping me around."

5. "Stuck With Me"

These lyrics are the most like a traditional The Neighbourhood song, but the song itself has a much happier beat than old The Neighbourhood, though it is still relatively slow.

It actually delves into a little bit of nihilism before the chorus hits with disjointed harmonies that don't make much sense. They are a little off-putting, and though I still enjoyed them, some fans or other listeners will really dislike this part.

Definitely not the strongest track on the EP, but still a good addition, this is a great closer, leaving listeners wanting more for when the next album finally comes.

My favorite lyric: "I'm not tellin' you for any certain reason but now I'm feeling guilty for it."

Overall

I recommend this EP for fans of synth-pop, artists like The Weeknd, or even all of your fans of the old The Neighbourhood. Change isn't always a bad thing and The Neighbourhood proves it with the "To Imagine EP."

Of course, some songs are better than others, and I have to say that "Heaven" is the best track, with "Dust" coming in close at second best, followed by "Scary Love," "Compass," and, finally, "Stuck With Me."

The change in direction of The Neighbourhood makes me excited to see how they do in the future. Give them a listen!

Cover Image Credit: Google Play Music

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Dream Theater: 'Images and Words' Album Review

Dream Theater made an incredible leap in song writing that would result in one of the most impressive progressive metal albums of all time

Line-up:

James LaBrie - vocals

Kevin Moore - keyboards

John Petrucci - guitars, backing vocals

Mike Portnoy - drums, backing vocals

John Myung - bass

Additional info:

Produced by David Prater

Images and Words is the second studio album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater, released on July 7, 1992 through ATCO Records. Its total length is 57:04. It is the first Dream Theater release to feature James LaBrie on vocals. This album was not only a huge success when it comes to the band's massive amount of progression in song writing, but also the commercial success that the album had.

Images and Words demonstrates the band at their finest thanks to improved vocals and impressive instrumental elements throughout. I really enjoyed the soulful elements as well that made Dream Theater's technical mastery be balanced with emotion and lyricism that make their brand of progressive metal special. Their are no glaring weaknesses on the album.

Top Tracks:

1. "Under a Glass Moon"

2. "Metropolis—Part I: 'The Miracle and the Sleeper' "

3. "Take the Time"

4. "Pull Me Under"

Grading Scale:

1-1.5: Garbage

2-2.5: Awful

3-3.5: Bad

4-4.5: Disappointing

5-5.5: Mediocre

6-6.5: Satisfactory

7-7.5: Good

8-8.5: Great

9-9.5: Excellent

10: Perfect

My Verdict:

Images and Words is an amazing album that I have loved since I first listened to it. The album is full of Dream Theater classics and features Labrie's finest vocal performance as well. John Petrucci is also fantastic throughout this entire album as well. Images and Words is a perfect album from start to finish.

Grade: 10/10

Cover Image Credit: teamrock.com

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