Despite Thor, The God of Thunder being one of Marvel’s most iconic characters and virtual co-founder of The Avengers, making him a compelling action hero has been a tough task. Even with some great directors and sleek scripting, “Thor” hasn’t quite been as exciting as Iron Man or Captain America. He’s barely risen to the Hulk who, so far, has only had one movie and a hand full of appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With “Thor: Ragnarok,” Marvel has reached the point where audiences are familiar enough with the character that they can begin to change his identity a bit. In the end, he’s still Thor, the God of Thunder, but he also comes in touch with his god like abilities when he allows himself to embrace humility once and for all.
Even after “Superman: The Movie” and its somewhat successful franchise, the idea of turning comic books in to movies or a TV show was a rare prospect. Studios considered it a gamble as then comic books were considered a kids medium, so it was an anomaly for something like the Incredible Hulk to be adapted in to a successful drama that stayed in syndication for a long time. Six years after the end of the series, Bill Bixby returns to the role of David Banner, a scientist now living in a seaside town with his girlfriend. He’s mostly lived a quiet life and is helping to create a machine that can decay gamma radiation. Though he’s helping the local lab to create it, he’s also hoping to use it as a means of killing the hulk and end his curse.
With “Age of Ultron,” Marvel and Joss Whedon essentially pave the way for a series of films that will make “The Avengers” the enduring franchise that fans have always wanted. It’s made abundantly clear that not only is the movie series here to stay, but we can expect a roster of rotating superheroes in the future that will create new conflicts and brand new dynamics. While “Age of Ultron” sags in certain places, it’s a superior follow up to “The Avengers” which was much more simplistic and aimed more to establish the crossover. “Age of Ultron” garners higher aspirations, constructing new story lines and setting up foreshadowing for future films. It also greatly raises the stakes for our team of flawed superheroes, all of whom are still learning to work as a unit. Set almost immediately after “Iron Man 3,” and “Winter Soldier,” we meet the Avengers, all of whom are back in combat fighting Hydra and taking on the elusive corporation’s hideout.
Thankfully, the follow up to 2011’s adaptation of Marvel’s “Thor” really seems to be intent on fixing the original film’s mistakes. While I really enjoyed the first installment, “Thor: The Dark World” is thankfully more fantasy based, and less a fish out of water action film, this time around. The writers have to work hard to bridge this tale in to the new “Avengers” movie, so we’re left experiencing the fall out from “The Avengers.” After Thor left to fight Loki, Thor has to face Jane who resents him never coming to ensure he was safe, and Loki is viciously angry toward Thor for imprisoning him.
I guess with the not so stellar ratings of the fantastic “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” Disney figured it’d be a good idea to lay the ground work for another “Avengers” vehicle. This time, “The Avengers” are much closer to their cinematic counterparts, taking off from the first movie, and including superhero The Falcon, who is slated to appear in the upcoming sequel. What’s sad is, when you think about it, “Avengers Assemble” is actually a spin off of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Marvel has laid the ground work for this new series with guest spots from the movie versions of the Avengers since the show started, with appearances from Iron Man, Thor, and the sun glasses donning Hawkeye.
What Joss Whedon has done is quite spectacular. He’s managed to take what could have been a complete clusterfuck of a movie and compacted every single hero and their mythos within two and a half hours, while also being able to introduce new heroes we can root for in the process. “The Avengers” is a true accomplishment of not only studio ambition but comic book cinema, a true masterpiece of the fantasy genre that piles together Marvel’s greatest heroes for a film many comic book fans have dreamed of having for decades. “The Avengers” incidentally is one of the many variations of Akira Kurosawa’s unparalleled masterpiece “Seven Samurai.” In “The Avengers” much like Kurosawa’s masterpiece, a thuggish villain rears his ugly head prepared to take down a land of innocent people for their own selfish purposes. Only when seven mismatched and unique heroes join forces and put aside their egos to defend the land does the villain meet his match. Ultimately while “The Avengers” is in fact an ambitious project that’s been planned from the get go, the film feels very meticulously crafted.
Never ones to be outdone by the big budget action spectacular that is “Thor,” The Asylum continues their tradition of finely timed mock busters releasing “Almighty Thor” for the masses and what a dilly of a pickle it is. As a production it’s quite a creative bit of wannabe big budget entertainment, but deep down it lacks all the basic necessities of filmmaking that include competent special effects and solid performances. The second best option to Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Nash for one, is hilarious as the father Odin, who can barely squeeze out a bit of dialogue without panting.
Marvel’s Thor has always skidded on the edge of mainstream entertainment and literary fare. As a comic book series it’s always been one of the most sophisticated of the pantheon of characters, so not every fan has subscribed to what tale the god of thunder has told fans for decades. And even with big names leading the pack like Natalie Portman and Kenneth Branagh, “Thor” is a hard sell for fans of the superhero cinema who want their entertainment and battles here and now and have to wait for their meals.