A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, June 8, 2018

Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017)

Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo in Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Chris Hemsworth
Loki: Tom Hiddleston
Hela: Cate Blanchett
Heimdall: Idris Elba
Grandmaster: Jeff Goldblum
Valkyrie: Tessa Thompson
Skurge: Karl Urban
Bruce Banner / Hulk: Mark Ruffalo
Odin: Anthony Hopkins
Doctor Strange: Benedict Cumberbatch
Korg (voice): Taika Waititi
Topaz: Rachel House
Actor Thor: Luke Hemsworth
Actor Odin: Sam Neill
Actor Loki: Matt Damon

Director: Taika Waititi
Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe
Production design: Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent
Film editing: Zene Baker, Joel Negron
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh

Much fun, thanks to director Taika Waititi's irreverence toward the material he was given to bring to the screen: yet another superhero comic book adventure. But the Marvel people have learned a lot about their audience, something it seems the DC people haven't fully apprised, given the failure of some of their Superman and Batman movies to capture audiences. (The blissful exception, of course, is Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman, which vies with Thor: Ragnarok as 2017's best comic book movie.) The trick is to take nothing too seriously and to load your films with the best performers you can find. From the start, Chris Hemsworth was an ideal Thor: a gorgeous god, to be sure, but also a bit of a goof, easily outwitted by his clever brother Loki but able to survive in the end through sheer affability. If there's a flaw to Thor: Ragnarok it's that the stakes don't really seem that high: Asgard is a nice place, but none of us is ever going to visit there, so its destruction doesn't feel so much like a threat as the ones to Earth in the other Marvel adventures. The compensation is that unlike a lot of films with prestigious actors of the caliber of Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hiddleston -- people who could be off doing Shakespeare somewhere -- nobody involved seems to be going through the paces just for the paycheck. Everyone seems to be having fun, thanks to Waititi and other cutups like Hemsworth and Jeff Goldblum. It's not Hamlet, to be sure, although there's a play within a play with Chris's brother Luke, Sam Neill, and Matt Damon spoofing the "real" Thor, Odin, and Loki. Marvel has gone the jokey road before with the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (James Gunn, 2014 and 2017), but those were exposition-heavy and overburdened with effects in comparison to Waititi's lighter, larkier approach.

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