2017 is a loaded year for Marvel. You would think that 2018 is the year to look out for. It has Avengers: Infinity War in store for us, after all. But the remainder of this year is certainly no slouch. 2017 holds the sequel to the surprise smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. And after many years of hopes and dreams, the first Spider-Man movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Finally, the MCU wraps up 2017 with the under the radar 3rd Thor movie. Well, under the radar until now.
Early last week, Marvel dropped a “teaser” trailer for a little film entitled, Thor: Ragnarok. Up until then, we didn’t know a whole lot about it. Hell, we still don’t know a ton now. But what we do know is the tone it’s looking to set. And that tone has us very, very excited.
The film’s director, Taika Waititi, has an extensive history in comedy. As a drama student at Victoria University of Wellington, he joined a five man comedy troupe known as So You’re a Man. The group traveled throughout New Zealand and Australia to moderate success. Their success could be attributed to the high caliber of talent that was grouped with Waititi at the time. Two of the five members of So You’re a Man were Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement — a.k.a. Flight of the Conchords.
Before Flight of the Conchords became a thing though, Clement and Waititi were actually a duo group that carried the name of The Humourbeasts. As a team, Taika and Jemaine were awarded New Zealand’s Billy T. Award. The prestigious award honors “up and coming New Zealand comedians with outstanding potential.” So, the guy behind certainly has some comedic chops.
I bring all this up to illustrate that under Waititi’s control, Thor: Ragnarok, while hosting an ominous name, has the pedigree within it to be a hilariously good time. I think Marvel knew that Thor: The Dark World came off as too serious and brooding. To course correct, they needed a director to lighten the franchise up. Who better than Waititi?
But the question remains – can the next Thor really be better than Marvel’s other two 2017 offerings?
I think it’s safe to say that most people were underwhelmed with Thor: The Dark World. It wasn’t a bad movie. It was just… bland. Malekith was bland. The world was bland. Even the introduction of the Aether was bland. There just wasn’t much to be excited about within it.
So how do you spice up the franchise? Easy. Hire a comedically focused director and bring The Hulk along for the ride. That’s right, as you all likely know by now, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Bruce Banner combo are a core component of this movie. We’re finally poised to get answers as to where Hulk went after hanging up on Black Widow and riding off in the quinjet at the end of Age of Ultron.
The movie’s script adapts the classic Planet Hulk comic story and brings it into Thor: Ragnarok. Fans have been clamoring for this story arc to be implemented into the MCU for years, and Ragnarok is going to deliver. It appears to be a relatively small portion of the film though. Here’s the movie’s official synopsis:
“Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.”
Not a single mention of Banner, Hulk, or the Planet Hulk arc to be found. Although “imprisoned on the other side of the universe” likely points to the Planet Hulk portion of the story. It doesn’t matter though. The trailer did all of the heavy lifting. As the trailer climaxes, Thor is thrown into the fighting pits and the door opposite him opens. And it’s none other than the Hulk that emerges. Thor’s reaction in this single moment sells the entire movie for me.
“Yes!!” Thor screams with an enthusiastic boyish smile on his face. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster, Loki and the stunned crowd look on in silence and confusion. Thor continues, “We know each other! He’s a friend from work!” as he stands still smiling jubilantly. That’s it. Done. Pack it up. I’m sold. Of course Hulk goes madly charging towards Thor. And Thor, realizing the situation, goes running towards Hulk for their inevitable Thor: Ragnarok battle. But just seeing Thor’s reaction to his “friend from work” tells me that Taika Waititi was the right man for this job. Again – the tone.
Some members of the film’s creative team have said Ragnarok was going to be a “buddy” flick between the two. That sounds awesome. I glossed over Goldblum as playing Grandmaster. That too is awesome. Cate Blanchett being cast as Hera looks bad ass. Especially when you see her catch and destroy Mjolnir in one quick devastating moment. And that’s not even touching upon Karl Urban looking like a beast as Skurge. The ongoing plot of Loki posing as Odin. Oh, and Dr. Stephen Strange is floating around in this movie at some point as well. I’d say this flick almost sounds like there’s too much going on. But hey, this is a puff piece, I’m sure it will all work out just fine. Simply put – Thor: Ragnarok is looking fantastic.
So if Thor: Ragnarok is poised to rule the Marvel landscape this year, what exactly is it ruling over? Well, some pretty stiff competition actually…
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. Really, who didn’t? It was an amazing film that came out of Knowhere… see what I did there? The ensemble worked amazing well together and each had a satisfying arc of their own. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel and the film’s director James Gunn are hoping to replicate the success of their initial outing. My only hesitation is the worry that they may try to replicate it too much.
I have all the faith in the world that Gunn will deliver a good time on May 5th. But I’m skeptical that he can capture the same lightning in a bottle twice. No one had expectations for the initial entry in the series. And because Gunn and his team completely over delivered, the bar has been set pretty high. He’s saying all the right things. The film is apparently testing much better than the first and James Gunn personally feels it’s a better film. But a nagging feeling persists: Is this 2nd entry in the Guardians series going to feel fresh? Or just more of the same?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has the potential to be one of the best films the MCU has seen to date. We just have to hope the development team didn’t approach the project with “if i ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” mentality. We’ll know one way or another in just a couple of weeks.
Outside of perhaps Ant-Man and the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy, no project in the MCU has had more question marks surrounding it than the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. The unthinkable happened when Sony and Marvel decided to play nice and share the character of Spider-Man. And now, we’re just a few short months away from his first solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Few can argue that Tom Holland expertly played a teenage Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. His “aww shucks” vibe and continual need to please Tony Stark made the character adorable. But that was over the course of fifteen to twenty minutes of screentime. Can Holland carry that load for ninety minutes plus? It’s likely, Marvel tends to nail its casting decisions. But, we’ll have to see come July.
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Additionally, the trailers for the newest Spidey flick have been hit and miss. The first, which debuted in December seemed to a bit too generic. Just typical superhero one-liners and cliches. However, the more recent trailer that released in March had more focus to it, and thus generated more excitement. We know the plot essentially takes place as Peter is finding himself in this new world he’s been thrust into. And Tony Stark takes on the mentor role of sorts, trying to keep the new Spider-Man grounded. But hopefully the plot doesn’t rely too heavily on the “watch Peter grow-up” dynamic, and instead let’s this iconic character shine as only he can.
One thing is for certain though – Marvel knows what they’re doing. And they’re in full control of this one. Within Spider-Man: Homecoming, there’s little doubt that they’ll take special care of one of their biggest heroes, whom they fought so hard to bring into this world.
2017 has the potential to be the greatest year yet for the MCU. A title arguably held currently by 2014 with the release of Captain America: Winter Solider and, of course, Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t have any doubts that the three films of this year will be quality outings. Marvel’s reputation holds true film after film. The shocking part of this year’s slate is that the tide may have turned in favor of the most unlikely of the three.
Fans couldn’t be more excited to finally see Spider-Man host his own MCU outing. But prior to that, the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive to save the universe – again. But with those two blockbusters on the horizon, it’s crazy to think that I’m looking forward to November even more. Because neither of those films sounds more fun that what’s to come with Thor and Hulk’s excellent adventure.
For more on Marvel movies, check out our list of upcoming superhero movies.
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