Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) join to save the world in Thor: Ragnarok. (Source: Crave Online)

I enjoy Thor a lot as a character in the MCU. His first outing in 2011, directed by Kenneth Branagh (known for adapting some of William Shakespeare’s plays), had the right amount of fish-out-of-water humor, mythology, and action. While not perfect in any way, there is no doubt Chris Hemsworth was the perfect choice for Thor. The sequel, Thor: The Dark World, was quite underwhelming and, in my opinion, the weakest entry in the MCU. This time, there is no Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgård. New Zealand director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) is the perfect choice to direct Thor: Ragnarok, in which it never takes itself seriously.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back with a new haircut, new group, and a new motivation.. He finds himself on the planet Sakaar, ruled by the deadpan Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Without his trusty hammer Mjolnir, he must fight to the death against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a duel, which excites him (“We know each other! He’s a friend from work!”). Why does he do it? It’s the only way for him to return to his homeland to prevent Ragnarok, destroying Asgardian civilization. Thor and Bruce Banner join Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Korg (Taika Waititi) to stop the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett) and save Asgard.

Thor: Ragnarok has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe. Not only is it visually stunning and action-packed (how can you not smile when Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” is playing during the opening scene?), it’s also really funny (probably just as funny as Guardians). Waititi also does a great job expanding Norse mythology. Hemsworth proves he still has it; succeeding the physicality and emotional gravity of the story. The supporting cast is memorable. Waititi is known for starring in his own movies. Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. He provides some really funny lines as Korg, a rock warrior imprisoned on Sakaar. Blanchett is downright awesome as Hela, who plans on taking over Asgard. Great stuff!

4/4

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Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

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Kong is still king in the latest entry in the MonsterVerse. (Source: IMDb)

It’s been over eighty years since “The Eighth Wonder of the World” made his first appearance. In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, no one had ever seen a movie as ambitious as King Kong. Created through stop-motion effects (by special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien) and giant models, this giant ape became one of the first memorable movie monsters. The classic is still loved by generations of film buffs and filmmakers.

Kong travelled to Japan to fight monsters including Godzilla until settling in America to prove he’s the king. This aspired two remakes featuring Kong. The silly yet decent 1976 Dino De Laurentiis production saw him fall for our female protagonist on the island, but the big difference is he fights on top of the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building in both the original and the 2005 remake. The overlong yet marvelous 2005 version, directed by Peter Jackson, became a dream come true for the filmmaker. The 1933 original is what inspired him to make movies in the first place. If the world didn’t have Peter Jackson, we wouldn’t have another movie featuring King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts marks the return for the monster in Kong: Skull Island. This reboots screams the 1970s. The Vietnam War. The Nixon administration. The Peace Corps. Creedence Clearwater Revival. And, most importantly, it pays tribute to Apocalypse Now.

The year is 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) hires a diverse team of experts including British Special Forces Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to map out Skull Island. Once they arrive, they encounter various creatures as well as Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island since the end of World War II. He is the perfect guy to ask about the island as a whole. As the team help each other off the island, they encounter the king himself.

As someone who enjoys monster movies, I couldn’t imagine if there would ever be a franchise featuring two of the most memorable monsters in cinema: King Kong and Godzilla. After seeing the 2014 version of Godzilla, I got the feeling of anxiety about the fact of another movie universe. With the MonsterVerse being a thing, it’s an awesome feeling to see a wonderful monster grace the silver screen once again in this day and age. The creatures in Kong: Skull Island easily overshadow the human characters. It’s not to say they are all forgettable.

The movie proves Hiddleston needs to be the next James Bond; he’s got the charisma and the badass fight choreography to pull it all off. Fresh from winning an Oscar for her performance in Room, Brie Larson is becoming one of the best actresses of this generation. She provides the bravery in her role as the photojournalist pushing the gender boundaries of the time. John C. Reilly steals every scene he’s in providing just enough laughs to even out the visually stunning and heart-pumping action.

The 2014 version of Godzilla and the 2005 version of King Kong both follow the roots of Jaws, where it takes an awfully long time to know the main characters before seeing the monster that the audience has been anticipating to see. With Kong: Skull Island, it doesn’t take long at all. The audience is introduced to the team and they are put on a wild ride. Once Kong makes him introduction, he is the biggest ape of them all—ranging about 100 feet tall. He’s aggressive yet defensive about his territory.

While the first act can be a bit rushed and some of the dialogue can be cheesy, there is enough visual beauty to feast the eyes. I can’t wait for Kong and Godzilla go at it in 2020.

3/4