Tom Fowler

Mystery and thriller writer

Tag: Marvel

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (let’s just call it Thor 3 for short) is raucous, good fun. It features good action scenes, some great images, plenty of laughs, and a story that moves the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) forward. There are some moments where it’s a little too cheeky for its own good, but you can look past them and enjoy the ride.

The movie: Fresh from stopping the demon Surtur (voiced by the great Clancy Brown–yes, the guy who is both The Kurrgan and Mr. Krabs) from starting Ragnarok, thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard. He exposes Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. The brothers then go in search of their missing father, aided by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Odin tells them that his first daughter Hela (Cate Blanchett) is coming, and he can’t hold her back now that his time is up.

Hela arrives soon enough, laying waste to the brothers and destroying Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in the process. When Thor and Loki flee via the Bifrost, Hela follows and knocks them out into the void of space. She returns to Asgard, where she gains henchman Skurge (Karl Urban) and begins taking over.

Thor crash-lands in a dump, where a bounty hunter (Tessa Thompson) quickly captures him. She takes him to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who puts Thor into his network of arena fighters, all waiting for a crack at the champion. If you’ve seen a trailer for this movie, you know the champion is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). After their fight (which, of course, each thinks he won), Thor recruits the Hulk (and Loki) to help him take Asgard back from Hela. He learns that the bounty hunter who collected him is actually the last remaining Asgardian Valkyrie, and she eventually agrees to go back home and lend a hand.

Thor: Ragnarok

Not the god of hammers.

Heimdall (Idris Elba) has been hiding the people of Asgard from Hela, but she discovers them eventually. Thor and his “Revengers” arrive and the Big Boss Battle ensues. Hela is too strong, however, as she draws her power from Asgard, forcing Thor and Loki to undertake a desperate gambit to stop her.

The writing: Thor 3 hits the notes you would expect from an MCU film. The characters are written well, and their motivations are generally clear and believable. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie probably has the best arc, though Thor learns quite a bit about himself in the arena against the Hulk and battling Hela at the end. (“Are you the god of hammers?” is a memorable line.)

I mentioned at the beginning that the movie was too cheeky in a few spots. It was legitimately funny, and it showed us that Chris Hemsworth has good comic timing. I think a few scenes were played too much for laughs, though, even at the expense of the characters (including Thor himself a couple times). Those moments aside, the movie entertained me the entire time. Mark Ruffalo gets a good turn as both the Hulk and Bruce Banner, and we get some insight as to the conflict between them. Of course, you’ll want to stay through the credits and see a scene that continues the setup for Avengers: Infinity War.

Thor: Ragnarok is a solid addition to the MCU. It’s probably the funniest movie they’ve made, but despite that, it has serious action chops and a few somber moments that are done well. It’s the best of the three Thor movies, and I say that as someone who liked Thor: the Dark World more than most.

Go see Thor: Ragnarok.

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Review: Marvel’s Iron Fist

Marvel’s Iron Fist (hereafter Iron Fist) is the fourth of the Marvel Netflix series (joining Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage). It’s also the last one to be released before our heroes join together in The Defenders. And as a lead-in to The Defenders, it’s . . . fair.

This show has not been reviewed well. Some of the complaints levied in those reviews are legitimate. The two that ring truest are the pacing and the quality of the fight scenes. I think negative reviews about Finn Jones’ overall performance are off the mark, however. We’ll explore each of these shortly. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the recap as spoiler-free as possible.

Danny Rand was presumed dead in a plane crash with his parents at age 10. In reality, he was rescued by monks from a secretive order and spent 15 years training in kung fu. That culminated with him becoming the Iron Fist. As the Iron Fist, Danny can periodically focus his chi, which visibly manifests in his hand glowing. With his chi focused, he can do things like punch out a wall or even heal another person. If you think that sounds kinda lame, I won’t say you’re wrong.

After 15 years away, Danny returns to modern-day New York and finds that no one believes he’s who he claims to be. Opposing him, to varying degrees, are his father’s old business partner Harold, Harold’s children Ward and Joy (who currently run the Rand company), and the ninja clan the Hand. Aiding him is dojo owner Colleen Wing, who is absolutely the best part of the show.

The show suffers from pacing issues. All the Marvel Netflix shows do. If they were all 11 episodes instead of 13, many of those issues might go away. Instead, the shows generally start strong, hit a wall around episode 8, and then regroup for a good finish. Iron Fist is courteous enough to get its pacing issues out of the way early. Starting around episode 5, the show hits a better stride and maintains it.

What doesn’t really get better is the fight scenes. There are some good ones; the problem is, most of those don’t involve Danny. Finn Jones is not a martial artist and it shows. The fights are quickly edited and sometimes hard to follow. Jones has also been criticized for not being very good in the role, being too languid, etc. I think those criticisms are unfair. Danny is written as a naive man–he’s basically a ten year-old in the body of a 25 year-old–who’s struggling with his emotions and probably some form of PTSD. I thought Jones was optimistic and cheery at the right times, and also conflicted and angry at the right times. No complaints there.

What I found weird is Danny’s comfort with modern New York. Let’s assume the show is set in 2017. That means Danny vanished in 2002. A hell of a lot has changed in the world since 2002 (including, in the MCU, all of the events since Iron Man). Because the city of K’un-Lun is supposed to be in another dimension, it’s reasonable to presume Danny missed out on the last 15 years. Yet he seems perfectly comfortable with technology, the Internet, etc. Did they have broadband internet and smartphones in K’un-Lun? Really good satellites to watch the news?

Overall, I would say Iron Fist is decent. I think it’s the weakest of the Marvel shows (Jessica Jones is the best for my money, but the others all range from pretty good to great). But it was compelling enough to hold my (and my wife’s) interest once it shed its early pacing issues. The basic plot isn’t very original, and I think the show suffers for not having a great villain. There are also too many scenes set in Rand boardrooms or focused on Rand company politics. Give me more (and better) punching, please.

The verdict: definitely watch Iron Fist if you’re a completist. I think it’s better than many of its reviews would indicate, though definitely not great. But if you try it and can’t get past the pacing of the first few episodes, I understand.

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