ICYMI: Film critic Richard Crouse sat down with the director of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ to chat about the blockbuster film. Watch a portion of the interview here. The entire interview will air on Richard’s talk show “Pop Life” on November 18 at 8:30 pm on the CTV NewsChannel!
Welcome to the House of Crouse. Taika Waititi has remained true to the core of what fans will expect from the crown prince of Asgard as played by Chris Hemsworth, but this time around the Norse God is not exactly your father’s Thor. “Thor: Ragnarok” is a reinvention of the franchise and Waititi stops by the HoC to explain how he did it. Then “Dina” co-directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini stop by to talk about how they achieved the level of intimacy the present in their award winning documentary. It’s good stuff so c’mon in and sit a spell.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the clown prince of Asgard in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the grammatically incorrect “A Bad Moms Christmas,” and the strange “The Killing of the Sacred Deer.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nick Dixon have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Chris Hemsworth’s funny take on his most famous character in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the lump of coal that is “A Bad Moms Christmas” and the strangest movie of the year, “The Killing of the Sacred Deer.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Lois Lee to have a look at the clown prince of Asgard in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the grammatically incorrect “A Bad Moms Christmas, the strange “The Killing of the Sacred Deer” and the religious drama “Novitiate.”
Over the course of six movies, Thor has been portrayed as a muscle-bound sex symbol; a larger-than-life hero with Shakespearean tendencies, but New Zealander Taika Waititi thinks he has fully realized the character’s potential.
“How do you get the audience to relate to superheroes?” asks Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok. “If you take all of them individually from these Marvel or DC movies, they’re very hard to relate to. I can’t relate to the Incredible Hulk other than I get angry sometimes. Thor is essentially a rich kid from outer space. I can’t relate to that so how do you bring them down to our level and give them our kind of problems? That was something we focused on quite heavily in this film even to the point where we have Hulk and Thor sitting on a bed after an argument talking about feelings. We humanized them a bit more and put them in situations we’ve all been in.
“We also took away his hammer and banished him across the universe. He’s really just trying to get home. We’ve all tried to get home at four in the morning, lost, wandering the streets. That’s what this is. We’ve basically made After Hours in space.”
Thor: Ragnarok’s plot sounds like it could be from any generic Avengers film — a world is at stake — but there is no other superhero movie that would see their champions escape through an interdimensional portal named The Devil’s Anus. Yes, there is serious subtext about genocide and displaced persons but thanks to Waititi this is the first Marvel movie to really value comedy over spectacle.
“I had to be respectful of the source material and where the film fit in with all the other things they are doing,” Waititi said. “My whole thing was to give my take on this film and try and make the best film I could whilst letting Marvel keep me in my lane, making sure I didn’t veer off too far to the left or right with their precious character.”
Waititi has remained true to the core of what fans will expect from the crown prince of Asgard as played by Chris Hemsworth, but this time around the Norse God is not exactly your father’s Thor.
“This is a way more colourful and vibrant take on the character and the kind of adventures he has,” the director says. “We borrowed a lot of that design from the great artist Jack Kirby. So right from the start we pulled away from that desaturated, dark style from a lot of other superhero movies. We’re being unapologetic about wanting for this to be a fun adventure through the cosmos and filling it with incredible characters and monsters. It feels like this film was made by six-year-olds. I don’t know if there is any colour left that we haven’t either put into the poster or into the movie.”
Thor: Ragnarok is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker’s first Hollywood movie. He’s best known for oddball work like Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows, but says his Marvel film shares the same DNA as his smaller movies.
“I definitely feel like this is a Taika Waititi film,” he says. “It could live comfortably in the box set.”
Depending on which side of the interdimensional divide you sit on, superhero movies are either the best thing to happen to Hollywood since the invention of buttered popcorn or the worst thing to happen to film since Steven Seagal.
Before we decide if The Hulk et al are ruining Hollywood, let’s define what a superhero movie is.
This weekend’s Thor: Ragnarok is most definitely a superhero film. It features characters with godlike abilities dedicated to protecting the public from archenemies.
Most superhero flicks — a genre David Fincher refers to as “spandex, blockbuster tentpoles” — whether they are comedic outer-space operas like Guardians Of The Galaxy or heist flicks like Ant-Man, are bound by straightforward morality and the idea that good always prevails over evil.
“It’s a very delicate time right now on Earth,” said Man Of Steel’s Michael Shannon, “and there’s a lot going on that is pretty frightening. It would be nice to believe or think that there was somebody that could protect us from that.”
Director James Wan adds, “All the good superheroes have some kind of social commentary about why they are who they are. It teaches values and so it’s a very important thing.”
The studios — with Marvel leading the charge — have raked in billions of dollars peddling bigger-than-life movies to fan boys and girls but are they self-defeating? Are Batman and Wolverine really ruining the movie business?
Oscar winner William Friedkin thinks so. “Films used to be rooted in gravity. They were about real people doing real things. Today cinema in America is all about Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Avengers, Hunger Games: all kinds of stuff that I have no interest in seeing at all.”
Marvel Cinematic Universe architect Kevin Feige, the man largely responsible for the influx of cinematic superheroes, disagrees. “If you look through the decades of people who’ve been accused of that — Star Wars ruined Hollywood, Steven Spielberg ruined Hollywood —I’ll be in that company any day of the week.”
That’s a flippant answer to a hotly debated and complicated question. At the heart of the discussion is the notion that bigger is always better. Does Hollywood’s love of bombast come at the expense of new ideas? Has the sheer scale of Avengers and Company movies made studios greedy, interested only in brands that will gross hundreds of millions. Why spend $5 million to gross $25 million, the theory goes, when you can spend $180 million on an established brand and make $1 billion?
Others worry that the episodic, homogenous nature of continuing superhero storylines aren’t challenging.
The truth is Wonder Woman and Friends haven’t sucked all the oxygen out of the room. The superhero bubble exists but the commercial and artistic success of movies like Get Out and Colossal balances out the equation. Superheroes may provide bang for the buck but smaller, original films are coming back into vogue.
The world of cinema is a big place. There’s room for both Thor: Ragnarok and The Florida Project. The fact we’re seeing a renaissance of small films playing alongside their risky bigger budget cousins like Dunkirk, signals studios walking back on their commitment to only making astronomically priced superhero movies.
So superheroes haven’t ruined Hollywood. They may be popular now but as Feige says, “As soon as there are a bunch of them that are terrible, that’s when it will end.”
“Darling, you have no idea what is possible.” So says Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor’s Goddess of Death sister.
She’s a piece of work who thinks nothing of drowning a whole race of people in their own blood to get what she wants, but she has a point. Up until this point no one really knew what was possible with the Thor (Chris Hemsworth) character. Over the course of six movies we’ve seen the crown prince of Asgard as a larger-than-life hero with Shakespearean tendencies and a muscle-bound sex symbol but it took director New Zealand director Taika Waititi to fully realize the character’s potential. Thor has always been quick with a line, but this time around Waititi puts the comedy upfront.
The plot of “Thor Ragnarok” is less interesting than its tone. In a nutshell Thor’s sister, the hella-deadly Hela is back from exile and with Odin (Anthony Hopkins) out of the way, is first in line for the throne of Asgard. She, equipped with an impressive set of black antlers and ruthless nature, plans to go Ragnarok on the citizens of Asgard to fulfill her appetite for destruction.
After some tomfoolery with giant demon Surtur (Clancy Brown)—“Oh, that’s your crown,” Thor purrs. “I thought it was a big eyebrow.”—Thor returns to Asgard, reunites with mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) before literally locking horns with Hela and hurled through space and into the hands of the quirky Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), a colourfully dressed ruler who offs people with his dreaded Melt Stick and pits the Norse god against his old friend Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiatorial match. With Asgard at stake Thor recruits the giant green world breaker and a warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to save his planet.
That sounds like it could be the plot from any generic Avengers film—a world is at stake—but there is no other superhero movie that would see their champions escape through an interdimensional portal named The Devil’s Anus. Yes, there is serious subtext about genocide and displaced persons—we hear Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song” twice—but this is the first Marvel movie to value comedy over spectacle. The trademarked Marvel blockbuster action is still there but the gags carry the show.
Certainly “Thor: Ragnarok” is the polar opposite of rival DC’s dark universe but even in its own house, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s a breath of fresh air. Seventeen movies in Marvel has taken a chance, handing the reins over to an idiosyncratic helmer. Waititi’s (who also plays a talkative Groot-like gladiator named Korg) first big studio movie after whimsical indies the adventure comedy “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” feels as close to an auteur film as we’re likely to see in this genre. He brings a zippy sense of fun that showcases Hemsworth’s comedy chops.
Like the rest of the Avengers movies “Thor: Ragnarok” is a tad long and, near the end is overrun by creatures and CGI. Some will complain that the glib tone completely overrides the film’s serious side but the gags and the home-is-where-the-heart-is message make this one of the most human and humane MCU movies yet.