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Non-Review Review: Thor – Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a pure pop superheroic pleasure.

Thor has always been the most archetypal member of the Avengers, the character cast in the most conventional superheroic mould. Captain America was a soldier; Tony Stark and Bruce Banner designed weapons; Black Widow was an assassin; Hawkeye was a cosplayer with a bow and arrows. In contrast, Thor was a literal demigod. He looked the part of a conventional superhero, with his billowing red cape and his awesome power.

To Hela back.

Part of the joy of superhero stories is the way in which they form a strange oral history tradition; the stock comparison is to modern mythology, and there are certain shades of that. Superhero stories provide a lens through which classic and archetypal stories might be reimagined and reconstructed. Building on Chris Claremont’s characterisation of Wolverine, James Mangold pitched the superhero as the spiritual descendant of the samurai in The Wolverine and of the cowboy in Logan.

Thor: Ragnarok understands the potential of the comic book superhero as a framework for remixing and reimagining classic tales, as a weird cultural cocktail that effortlessly blends countless different flavours. In this respect, director Taika Waititi is being faithful to the source material. The appeal of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s work on Thor was the synthesis of classic mythology and retro science-fiction to construct something that was utterly unique. Thor was both a Norse god and a cosmic champion, a superhero and a mythic figure.

Wave after wave.

Thor: Ragnarok is perhaps a little over-stuffed, particularly in its opening act. Ragnarok races to hit plot points and fill in details, with an ensemble that feels far too deep for a two-hour-and-ten-minute romp. The biggest problem with Ragnarok is that the movie is practically overflowing with delight and joy. This not a serious problem by any measure. The movie never drags, and its goofy charm is never anything but infectious. Ragnarok could be structured and paced better, but the chaotic nature of the movie is part of its appeal. Ragnarok constantly threatens to burst.

The result is a movie that lacks the finesse and efficiency that define the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one that is overflowing with an energy and an eagerness that are endearing.

The ties that bind.

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Greg Pak’s Run on The Incredible Hulk (With Jeff Parker) – Fall of the Hulks (Review)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Today, I’m focusing on one in particular, the Incredible Hulk.

I have to confess, it’s quite difficult to find nice hardcover collections featuring The Incredible Hulk that you can recommend to non-comic-book fans. Given the character’s fairly massive impact on popular culture, you’d imagine that Marvel would produce any number of easily accessible collected editions featuring the not-so-jolly green giant. He has, after all, featured in two movies in the space of ten years, an iconic television show and a whole host of other media. Unfortunately, Fall of the Hulks is unlikely to be that collection, and is unlikely to prove accessible to new readers looking to pick up a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. While it undoubtedly has quite a few qualities to recommend it, it is certainly not for those unfamiliar with the character.

Men of action...

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Hulk: Grey (Review)

So far the final book in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s superhero “colour” series (although there was a planned Captain America: White and a rumoured Iron Man: Gold which never got off the ground), Hulk: Grey is perhaps the most fascinating of the three novels. Loeb would go on to writing the on-going Hulk series (to near universal damnation, it should be conceded), suggesting perhaps a closer tie between the author and the character here than in Daredevil: Yellow or Spider-Man: Blue. As opposed to those two novels which covered a relatively large portion of the central character’s life, the flashbacks which provide the core of this particular tale cover a single night – the first night. Perhaps befitting the nature of the Hulk, the narration isn’t provided in monologue here, as it was in the other two titles, instead offering a dialogue between Bruce Banner and Doctor Leonard Sampson, his psycho-therapist. It’s a lovely little story that perhaps isn’t as strong as Daredevil: Yellow, but is still a fascinating read.

It took the Hulk a while to figure out the whole "door" concept...

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Non-Review Review: Hulk

Ang Lee directing a superhero movie? He’s certainly a strange choice to handle the first big screen adaptation of Marvel’s iconic green monster to the big screen, but arguably a smart one. Hulk is at its best when it hints at the psychological melodrama playing out behind its lead character, but suffers greatly from the fact that it is apparently really uncertain about its source material or what it wants to be. It’s weird to see a movie so wonderfully risky in one sense, but so utterly bland in others. Hulk is an experiment, but sadly isn’t consistent enough to be a successful one.

"Hulk Splash!"

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In Defense of Edward Norton as the Hulk…

News broke over the weekend that Edward Norton will not be returning as the not-so-jolly green giant for Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. This is after Whedon and Norton had a meeting, and Whedon reportedly blew Norton’s mind so badly that Norton (who had been iffy) cleared his schedule to work on the project – and Whedon seemed pretty cool about it as well. And then Marvel announced from on high that Edward Norton would not be returning as Bruce Banner for the big crossover superhero epic that is going to be the tentpole of 2012. And, with due respect to Marvel, that is pants. Purple, stretchy, non-ripping-when-I-turn-into-a-green-goliath pants.

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

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