by Taylor Anderson and Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: Midway through the extra large, special 700th issue of Mighty Thor, Karnilla, Queen of the Norns, asks which ingredient is the most essential in the makeup of a Thor. It’s a good question, and one that writer Jason Aaron has been exploring ever since he took over the reigns of Thor some 60 issues ago. While Aaron has posed various answers to this question multiple times, he’s never come outright and revealed to readers what exactly makes a Thor Thor. That is, he’s never done that until now. Using the 700th issue as his podium, Aaron waxes poetic on the nature of Thor, presenting us with not so much a new Thor narrative, but a grand tapestry that relishes in pondering what Thor has been, currently is, and what it will always be.
Issue 700 is 50 pages long and juggles multiple narratives that aren’t so much connected by a singular story, but by a singular question: what makes a Thor? Aaron explores this idea by following the exploits of the Odinson as he tries to save the Norns from Malekith’s army, Jane Foster as she battles She-Hulk, Volstagg in his attempts to resist the call of the War-Thor, Thor both young and old, and perhaps most surprisingly, Throg — the Frog of Thunder.
This last character is such a surprise (and frankly so very goofy) that his story can’t help but charm its way into being a highlight of the issue. Once a human, Throg one day came across a chipped off piece of Mjolnir and was found worthy to wield its powers — just on a smaller scale.
He now spends his days fighting evil rats and forcing murderers to confess their evil deeds with constant rain clouds. In this issue, Throg also finds himself saving Jane Foster just as she is about to de-Thor (and be crushed by rubble) after her battle with She-Hulk. Throg’s actions, both big and small, reveal one thing that makes a Thor worthy in Aaron’s eyes: all Thors, whether they be Frog or God, strive to help others and work tirelessly to protect their realms. Throg’s small stature exemplifies this characteristic, given that he doesn’t let his amphibious body prevent him from keeping Central Park safe or rescuing Jane Foster when she needs it most.
Elsewhere in the issue, Aaron is more straightforward in answering his own question. In looking at the history of Thor, Aaron takes us all the way back to when Thor had yet to pick up his mighty hammer — to a time when Thor was just a young pup. As Aaron details adventures from the Odinson’s youth, Karnilla continues to pontificate upon what makes someone a Thor. It is here that she finally reveals the “ingredient” she believes is most essential to anyone who bares the Thor moniker.
Karnilla believes that Thors, above all, strive to be worthy. That answer in and of itself isn’t revelatory, but when you ask the questions “worthy of what?” things get more interesting. It’s reasonable to assume that perhaps all Thor’s strive to be worthy of something different. For example, the Odinson strives to be worthy of his father and of the vikings who worship his name. On the other hand, Jane Foster strives to be worthy of all the people that she protects and perhaps all the gods that doubt her worth. The point is, while all Thors might strive to be worthy of something different, they all seem to act with with a chip on their shoulder that motivates them to be the very best god of thunder they can be. So, while some Thors are frogs, some gods, and some humans, they’re all the same in that they have something to prove.
As Aaron weaves this grand tapestry that defines who and what Thor is, he’s assisted by a plethora of artists who bring his story in an amazing array of styles. While merits and praises can be heaped upon any of these artists, I find it hard to not, once again, praise Russell Dauterman for his artistic vision. One has only to glimpse the opening pages of this issue to understand why his artwork had become synonymous with Aaron’s quality run on Thor.
When you look at Dauterman’s artwork, you get the idea that he’s playing at a different game than other comic book artists. Here, Thor talks with Karnilla about the upcoming attack on the Nornkeep at the roots of the Worldtree. As they walk, they discuss the fates and the twine foretells all beings fates. Dauterman enlivens this exposition by framing the panels with a swirling border made up of the same fates being discussed. Their billowing and starry cloaks hint at universal nature of their reach and the strings with which they dictate someone’s story make up the gutters of the very story being told to us on the page. Not only is this beautiful, but it conveys the sense that readers themselves are entwined in the fates’ story in just the same way the Odinson and other characters on these pages are. Characteristically amazing work from Dauterman here.
Patrick, this is huge issue and I had the chance to only talk about a few of things that really enjoyed about it. What about you? What are your favorite parts? I took the cheap way out and once again praised Dauterman’s artwork, but there’s a ton of other artwork to like in this issue. What was your favorite? Lastly, what other ways is Thor defined for us in the issue?
Patrick: Interestingly, I think we need to look outside Thor(s) to recognize one of the must crucial things that defines the god of thunder. The question, as provided by the text, isn’t exactly “what makes Thor?” but “what makes a Thor story?” And Aaron gives us an answer almost immediately after articulating that question: all Thor stories are epic.
But big deal, right? Epic is a word that has been so warped by popular usage that a kid flipping a water bottle at a school talent show receives the honorific. Aaron and his artistic cohort set out to establish a more specific definition here, as the concentric rings of story ripple out into the wider world around Thor. What makes the character may just be the supporting cast. We do spend an awful lot of time with Loki murdering frost giants for his father or the Jennifer Walters Hulk or even Ego the Living Planet. Aaron is able to demonstrate the breadth of Thor’s impact on the Marvel Universe by selecting characters from vastly different corners of that Universe to play a part in this story. The three I mentioned above are from Thor’s own mythology, the boots-on-the-ground Avenger’s style stories, and the cosmic books respectively. What makes a Thor story is the complete obliteration of the boundaries between fantasy and science fiction, between the divine and the mundane.
Hell, Jane Foster is the perfect embodiment of this idea. One minute she is a cancer patient, weakened by the very drugs that are fighting her illness, and the next a near-invincible god of thunder. We don’t spend a ton of time lingering on the vulnerability of Jane, but I always like seeing her in her civilian clothes — it just grounds her so much.
I can’t be 100% sure whose drawing this is, but it looks like an Daniel Acuña joint to me — complete with his skill for understated acting built right into his character’s postures. The doctor’s tentative step forward, the arm folded behind his back, even the slightly tilted head communicate a kind of optimistic, familiar weariness. Jane’s legs, by comparison, are together, feet awkwardly overlapping. Her shoulders are crooked, half up in a crutch-related shrug and half down in weathered slump. There’s nothing “happening” in this panel — certainly not in the ‘epic’ sense — but Acuña communicates so much about the character’s routine before Aaron smashes it to bits with a Hulk brawl.
That is an example of Aaron and company exploring the granular side of the scale equation, but this story issue also swings wide. I already mentioned Ego the Living Planet, but it’s sort of staggering to consider just how many pieces of universe-altering mythology are built into his mini-story. The set-up is that Odinson has already defeated Galactus with Gorr’s Godkiller blade, thus transforming Galactus into some kind of Planet Butcher. These mythological shifts come fast, and wordy titles are changing every couple panels. It’s a bit of absurdism for sure, a battle between a living planet and a planet killer ending in the birth of a whole new kind of killer-planet-god-eater… thing.
Not only does Ego take on the coloring of Galactus (and, by extension, Goor), but his speech balloons also take on that God Butcher coloring (though, not the Asgardian font). This may be drama that’s simply too high and too big to fully comprehend: we’re never going to be as sympathetic to this relationship as were were to even the one-panel exchange between Jane and her doctor. But, y’know, the fact that we get both in a matter of pages illustrates what’s so jaw-dropping about Thor.
Oh and speaking of jaw dropping: is it time to talk about that prophecy?
This is another one of those dynamite spreads from Dauterman that proves he’s one of the best in the business. A lot of these images would be intriguing on their own (Jane in a hospital gown unconscious on the moon!), but the way it plays off the teases elsewhere in the book is downright genius. We saw Thanos hanging out with Hela earlier and Loki looking for something to prove, so the missing piece of Loki wielding the Infinity Gauntlet excites me to no end. I’m not really one for speculation, but this kind of image is enough to make me sing a different tune.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?
Most compilation/celebrations of this type tend to be boring, with the value being that we get to see all of these great artists and writers working together, but nothing really happens.
On the other hand – this is absurdly rich and full of wonderfulness. Another candidate for my favorite issue of the year. Ego the Necroworld, Throgg, Thor vs She-Hulk… thrown in an image of Loki with the Infinity Gauntlet (which can’t be anything but great)….
This was something great.
Between Marvel Legacy and this, Aaron has not done a great job at proving his ability to handle vignette narratives of such large scope, has he? THis issue is large and epic and all those sorts of words, but it is also, most frustratingly, unwieldy.
There is a lot to praise here. I like how Aaron, having focused so much on the War of Realms lately, uses this issue to remind us just how big his Thor epic truly is. Remind us that at the very end, we have Black Galactus, the Butcher of Worlds to look forward to as the epic climax (well, I guess it is now Ego the Necroworld or possibly, according to the vision, a corrupted King Loki. Probably fitting that the finale will involve the newest Thor villain infecting a classic Thor villain like Loki or Ego, instead of Galactus). It has been so long since the days of The God Butcher storyline, it is nice to remember the three stories and three timelines that we have in this story (I am more certain than ever that a key part of the climax of this story is seeing Young Odinson lift Mjolnir for the first time.)
But it becomes a bit of an unwieldy mess. The basic idea of looking at every single Thor is a good one (important thing: I’d state that Loki is one of the Thors being explored. Post Gillen, I think he counts as a Thor. He’s kind of a Counter Thor or Reverse THor. A similarly placed protagonist in the Thor mythos, yet a complete mirror image in how he goes about being a protagonist). BUt there are some flaws. Part of it is just how Aaron consistently messes up basic structural demands while attempting to appeal tradition. Just like how the Legacy vignettes begun with Captain America, Thor and Iron Man because of tradition, despite messing up the structure of the issue and especially the Deadpool vignette, Aaron does something very similar here.
In an attempt to end (with the exception of the epilogue) with Jane, Aaron ignores the fact that he has three epilogues. And the Maliketh and Thanos/Hela sections are unnaturally placed in the narrative. THey should be after the main story with Jane, Throg and Jenn, because they are after the main story. There sections aren’t stories in and of themselves, but very specifically about the stories that take place afterwards and having the epilogue interrupted by the end of the main story creates a messy ending.
BUt there are bigger problems. LArgely by the fact that Aaron can’t exactly connect the idea of the Norns to the vignettes themselves. Aaron wants to play into the recent metafictional ideas that have defined the Thor books of late, but there is a missing link between ‘Norns bleed stories’ and the vignettes. Largely, if these vignettes and the Norn’s fight are supposed to be connected, why is there a singular narration? Aren’t battles generally defined by repetitive action? Shouldn’t each story feel more distinct, more disconnected from each other, as they each represent a wound, or an attack? THe fact that the cause and effect is missing here means that instead of seeing these vignettes as a manifestation of the battle, they act as a distraction from the battle. It doesn’t read as a result of ‘we bleed stories’ so the main plot of the issue is seemingly ignored. A real tragedy when Aaron could so easily have leveraged structure here.
But it also comes down to how things are structured. Many parts are singular. We only have a single Loki section, a single Young Odinson section. Yet the Jane and Throg sections aren’t. Not only that, but they even crossover. If the framing device is the battle of the Norns, why is that how the story works?
In truth, what happens is the Norn plotline and the Jane plotline are wrestling for control over the A-plot. And because the Norn plotline requires such very specific needs that this cannot be reconciled and turns the massive story into something unwieldy. Which is Marvel Legacy again. Aaron crowds out his story with too many many A-Plot stuff that wrecks the structure and leaves things feeling directionless. Hell, the narration’s aimlessness is a pretty similar to Valeria’s similarly aimless and incoherent speech about legacy.
I’m glad on the reminder of how big Aaron’s THor is and many many different stories are going on at once. But I really wouldn’t mind if, after Marvel Legacy and Thor 700, Aaron would stop trying to write issues that go in this many different directions. It isn’t his strenght.
I’d like to take my Aaron epics in issues that only address one or two plotlines at a time, please.
Wait, couple of other stuff to say, outside structural concerns.
I’m a bit disappointed that the hammer returned to Volstagg so quickly. It feels like erasing the previous issue’s actions. I think the last arc was meaningless spinning of the wheels largely because they wanted to make sure they started the Death of Thor and Marvel Legacy with issue 700. And the fact that the arc’s climax was essentially eradicated by the issue after is disappointing. Not the strongest storytellign from Aaron there.
Also, the art. Dauterman’s art is always so praiseworthy that I’m actually going to ignore his art so I don’t repeat myself. Quite simply, I will have more than enough opportunities to praise his art.
Instead, I want to praise Becky Cloonan’s art for the Young Thor sequence. Never has Thor looked more beautiful, and Becky Cloonan drawing an entire book of sexy young Thor adventures is the book I never knew I wanted
I agree on the Dauterman stuff. When I get past the colors (which I have also commented on plenty), it gets redundant saying, “He killed it agian.”
I am at work and don’t have Thor in front of me, but I didn’t recall the Young Thor art. I’ll have to take another loook.
You know, I wasn’t worried about the structure of the story here. I viewed it as a kaleidoscope of epic, which worked for me. I agree that some pieces didn’t fit the same way as other pieces, but that wasn’t a distractor or drawback for how I was reading it, I just rode the waves of awesomeness. I’ll reread it and probably agree that there are structural issues, but I’m so used to these mega issues with several writers that I expect it to be a jumbled mess, and this, while definitely jumbled, didn’t feel a mess.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement (“Most of the time things like this COMPLETELY suck”), but I wasn’t overly excited about this issue going in and left very, very excited about future Thor stories.
There are ways of structuring this comic so that it didn’t feel so messy. If you give each story on a single section, get rid of the narration and maybe have Dauterman do a single panel of fighting before each one, I think it would be well structured. And I don’t even think the Dauterman panels would be necessary. Just make sure everything connects back to the did a that Norns bleed stories.
It is hard to think of a good example of an issue like this, because they are so very rare. Though honestly, I think DC Rebirth counts, if we only look at structure. DC Rebirth is one of the worst issues in recent memory, a failure in nearly every way. Character, theme etc are all atrocious and the story fails on nearly level. And certain scenes are such irredeemable trash that they are examples of what not to do. Nothing ever adds up, and set ups and payoffs only work if you ignore characterisation, theme and all the stuff that makes up storytelling.
But, it did succeed structurally. In every other way, it was a vile piece of work. But structurally, it did work. It had a clear central throughline, with Minstrel Flash, that acted as a spine, while each section was clearly delineated so that similar ideas were placed together, instead of scattered around chaotically. The use of Watchmen and Batman at the beginning and ending to bookend the story then tied it all together, giving a beginning and ending. It structurally did what Marvel Legacy and Thor 700 failed to do. The fact that it failed in literally every other way is beside the point.
For a smaller scale example, but of an issue that is actually decent, Marvel used to do this a lot with Marvel Now, All New All Different Marvel, Avengers 0 and a bunch of other similar books. They’d only look at four or five books, but one book would act as a framing device, and vignettes would begin as the topic was brought up. For example, the Secret Avengers interrogating a man from the future would reference things about to happen that gave an excuse to justify vignettes of Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Young Avengers, FF and X-force. Or Squadron Supreme investigating every other Avengers team and making risk assessments, which provided the excuse to look at them. These issues worked structurally. Even, unlike DC Rebirth, had basic competency in storytelling (though individual vignettes quality depended on the writer. Gillen writing Young Avengers will be better than Bendis writing Guardians or Waid writing anything)
Ultimately, it comes down to working out the spine of the story, and connecting everything to that spine. Marvel Legacy had a spine, but no way to connect anything to that spine. Thor 700 has too many spines, and it’s attempts to connect things get caught up and confused.
Thor 700 is certainly epic, and there is a lot to love about the epicness (love the phrasing of ‘kaleidoscope of epic’). But would have been stronger if it wasn’t so unwieldy. Because it actually hurts sections so we don’t fully understand the grandeur of what we are reading.
Ultimately, I have a problem with the structure because this issue should be more epic than it actually is
So, for some reason, I always get Marvel movies a week before the US. So I’ve saw Thor Ragnarok last night. Don’t know why we get them early, but this time, we deserve it. We made this movie (you would not believe the sort on news that is being bombarded here about this movie. The entire nation is in love with the fact that a New Zealand director made Thor Ragnarok)
I’ll do a non spoiler piece first, before I go into deep analysis.
And it is pretty great. As this year’s crop of superhero movies go, it isn’t as great as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (still the undisputable champion) or Logan, but much better than Spiderman Homecoming or Wonder Woman.
The movie unlocks Chris Hemsworth natural comedic strengths, creates a great cast of hilarious characters and because Cate Blanchett and Jeff GOldblum chew the scenery so well. The movie is comparable to Iron Man Three and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in just how strong the director stamp is, but it doesn’t quite reach that level of personal signature. It certainly feels like a Taika Waititi movie, but one compromised by the Marvel machine slightly.
But it is riotously entertaining, and a great time. The storytelling is strong, and this movie makes a mockery of any idea that Marvel movies never move forward. That famous shot in the trailers is just the beginning of what the movie does.
Also, the Cold Open has a massive shout out to Aaron’s Thor, which is cool.
Thor movies are finally good.
The Thor movies have always been about one thing. Rulership. The Thor mythos, somewhat counter-intuitively, has always been Marvel’s take on King Arthur (Norse mythology is superficial set dressing, but ultimately Mjolnir is the Sword in the Stone). And the movies have followed suit, being all about Thor’s struggles with the kingship he is destined to gain.
The first movie was all about how Thor needing to learn how to grow to be worthy of the Sword in the Stone/the throne of Asgard, while the second movie was about… nothing in particular, changing its mind every five seconds. But the climax was supposed to be about Thor’s changing relationship with the idea of the throne. His growth as a ruler, by learning not to value the throne over his own morals. With Ragnarok, the trilogy ends as Thor has to face the greatest threat he could face. Becoming king.
The start is messy. After a fantastic cold open, Waititi finds himself a bit rushed trying to quickly resolve the ending of the Dark World (Unsurprisingly, Loki being King of Asgard goes nowhere. Quite simply, with Hela around, that story has to be quickly resolved). But the messy start is great fun, complete with a fantastic cameo by Doctor Strange, feeling more mystical and weird than his own movie. But all of this is to get us to Odin, and, more importantly, Odin’s death. Thor and Loki get one last, heartwarming moment with their father before he dies. And that means it is time to seriously confront the Throne of Asgard. Thor can’t hide behind things like ‘I’d rather be a good person than a great king’. Someone has to be king, and Loki just proved why he was incapable. Of course, it is here that Hela suddenly shows up, reveals that she is actually the firstborn heir of the Throne, destroys Thor’s hammer, successfully defeats THor and Loki to the point where they find themselves lost in the junkyard world of Sakarr.
THe loss of Mjolnir acts as a loss of safety. Before, Mjolnir was a test that Thor struggled to confront. But it now coddled him. Thor could pick up Mjolnir, and so he was safe in the knowledge that he was good enough. Just as being able to say ‘I don’t want to be king, I want to be a good person’ was a way to weasel out of responsibility. Losing Mjolnir and losing Odin is one and the same (made explicit by the conversation where Mjolnir is explicitly compared to a loved one). He is no longer the prince, and so Worthiness is no logner a question of Good Enough. To be Worthy of the Throne means being even more Worthy than Mjolnir, and losing the safety of Mjolnir is the only way that Thor can confront the way he is fundamentally lacking. Mjolnir is Thor’s training wheels, and only by losing Mjolnir can Thor truly look inside himself and see the ways he is lacking, the ways he is unworthy and grow (in fact, the ending makes clear that Mjolnir never gave Thor his powers, merely the means to control it). To find a greater power/worthiness inside him. And it is in Sakarr that he is confronted with reflections of himself, to truly grow and become the God of Thunder.
But before we focus too much on that, let’s look at Hela and Asgard. Though we have to start with Odin, because that is where a lot of the thematics with Hela come from.
If Odin is a great king, it is because he has buried everything that proves otherwise. Every movie is because of a secret he kept. And Ragnarok reveals the darkest secret yet. The Nine Realms was built on Odin’s bloodthirsty warmongering. He used to be the villain, the worst sort of ruler. And then he had Thor, decided to change and trapped his firstborne daughter away, because Hela was Odin’s daughter through and through, the exact sort of villain Odin no longer wanted to be.
And so, Hela is the anti-Thor. Thor doesn’t want to be king, so Hela is proof of why Thor needs to be king. Because someone has to rule. Someone has to be in charge. And if Thor abdicates, he opens the throne up to someone worse. Someone like Hela. ‘I’d rather be a good man than a great king’ is a fine line, but an immature perspective when you ignore the fact that someone has to be king. And Hela is the exact force that makes Thor realise he actually needs to step up. All she wants to do is build an army and go to war, and she’ll attack her own people to do so.
Yeah, Hela isn’t the deepest villain. And yet, she is most certianly part of Marvel’s year of actually memorable villains. I said before that a great villain should be thematically appropriate, have a great performance, well plotted and have a strong emotional connection. Ego had all four. The Vulture was 3.5 (they tried for emotional connection, but the fact that they ignored Liz and the school stuff too much meant it didn’t fully hit home). Hela only has the first two (by virtue of Thor being on Sakarr, Hela has very little influence on the plot. Just mucks around on Asgard, proving she’s a bad guy). But Hela is great solely because of that second element, performance. The combination of costume and acting makes Hela instantly memorable. Every element of her is about hamming things up as much as possible. Chewing the scenery with the over the top nature of Hela. And it works amazingly. Casting a sensational actress like Cate Blanchett truly works, as she gives Hela such presence to steal every scene she’s in She seizes control of the movie and is so compulsively watchable. Marvel has had better villains, but not more charismatic ones. The camera can’t avoid loving her.
The other key part of the Hela side of the movie is the focus on people. There is a real focus on the idea of Asgard having people in it, and not just a castle and a throne. It was honestly a real missing part of the previous movies. How can you tell a story about ruling without people to rule? And Taika creates a textured look into Asgardian people. From the beginning, with them watching a play, we get the idea of them being ordinary and normal. And when Hela turns up, the key dynamic is what does Hela do TO people. Ragnarok cares less about building destruction than it does about Hela’s assault on the populace. What it means to people. In fact, Waititi cleverly uses two different characters to represent the populace, each representing different sides. Heimdall and Skurge, representing the rebellious and subjugated populace respectively.
I don’t think Idris Elba was too happy to be there. The first THor movie was probably key in showing the world the awesomeness of Idris ELba, but he has long outgrown such a role. He is a superstar trapped in that role, and I can’t say I liked Heimdall as much as I did in, say, the first movie. On the other hand, I think Heimdall was given an active, badass role to make up for that fact. Leading the rebellion is a good fit. Especially as that rebellion manifests as smuggling Asgardians out of the city so they can escape Hela’s wrath. Again, it all comes back to the people.
Skurge, meanwhile, shows the position of Asgardians under Hela. I’ve seen people say he was wasted, which seems odd to me. He has a complete arc. He’s a nobody, the lowest of the low, who by chance gets to be Hela’s executioner. But despite have the power and status he wants, he is instead fearful, scared to be under Hela’s rule. Being second in command is not seen as glorious, and every action he takes is for survival. In the end, he finds heroism to redeem the actions he commits because of Hela. But his villainy came from circumstance, the only survival mechanism under such a brutal rule.
And then there is Sakarr. You would think that Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster would be used as a comparison to Hela. He, like Hela, is another oppressive, villainous ruler that runs counter to Thor. THough he isn’t that, really. Instead, he walks around, being Jeff Goldblum (he is so entertainly funny. I love how, between del Toro and Goldblum, the MCU has made the Elders of the Universe so weird). I would say that he steals every scene he is in, but he shares most of his scenes with Rachel House’s Topaz. And Rachel House is just as fantastic as she was in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and proves able to steal a scene from even Jeff Goldblum.
Still, the Grandmaster’s role is to be more of a vague antagonist to create obstacles in Sakarr. He has little value thematically, because Sakarr ultimately isn’t about the Grandmaster. It is about everyone else there. Sakarr is about Thor meeting his mirrors. Every aspect that is holding him back from what he needs to be. Through recruiting a band of heroes who all want nothing to do with saving Asgard, Thor confronts the problems within him.
Loki is the most obvious. Loki is the fear of change. The comfort of how things already are. Loki doesn’t want to shape of the board to change. Sakarr is merely a superficial change, and Loki refuses to escape old habits. His reaction to Odin’s death is to, essentially, ignore it. Transpose their game to Sakarr, because who cares. Loki will be Loki. Thor, meanwhile, has had to realise that he can’t be THor anymore. At least, not Thor as he used to be.
Valkyrie, meanwhile, is the part of Thor that is disgusted by the throne. By Odin’s secrets, and sins. THe part of THor that wants to say things like ‘I’d rather be a good man than a great king’. Valkyrie has had enough, and just wants to get away. I was a bit worried about Valkyrie. Really worried she was just going to be a generic supporting hero that didn’t truly come into her own. Really worried that it was going to waste the treasure that is Tessa THompson. But she is amazing. I’ve seen her compared to Han SOlo a lot, and that sort of space opera rogue is a really great description. The combination of space rogue and Asgardian warrior comes together really fantastically, creating a character you really want to see get her own movie. She is a character that just wants to escape Odin’s bullshit and drink, and Thor feels those same frustrations. He agrees with her completely, and yet knows that this is not an excuse for not fighting to save Asgard.
And then there is Hulk and Banner. Waititi mines nearly everything for comedy, but he does a truly fantastic job here. Especially how he mines the Avengers movies for jokes. Thor’s attempts at using the lullaby from Age of Ultron, especially, is hilarious. Hulk and THor have always had a fantastic dynamic together, and it is fantastic to see them together. Especially with how well both sides are used.
Hulk represents Thor’s hotheaded side. The foolish side, the sort that is now dangerous to a Thor that has to think of a kingdom. While Banner represents THor’s fear of losing himself in the throne.
THe best thing is how subtextual all of this is. Time isn’t spent making a big deal about Thor’s struggles, but it provides the subtext of every scene. We know that Thor is worried about the throne, and we know he feels those same fears. But instead of getting lost in the drama, we see Thor deal with those issues through his struggles to recruit his mirrors. The fact that this is shown instead through recruited his own mirrors is a fantastic way of dealing with those issues. Combine all that with great, entertaining comedy throughout and you have a fantastic way of combining drama with comedy.
In fact, that is the problem with the climax. People often accuse the Marvel Machine of adding jokes and ruining the drama, but as the climax happens, the comedy gets lost. It is still funny, but never gets to the heights of the rest of the movie. In the Thor/Hulk fight was so funny, why not the climax? Hunt for the Wilderpeople was proof that Waititi could make a climax both breathtakingly hilarious and emotionally powerful. The climax just feels lacking.
That isn’t to say the climax is bad. It does some great things, like how to pays off the Ragnarok elements. I was a bit disappointed with Surtr’s voice, which felt wrong. But the best part of the Surtr stuff is that he is treated like prophecy. Like worldbuilding. Few things have made the Thor movies feel more mythic than this idea of the Ragnarok prophecies just being a fact. Just an intrinsic part of the makeup of the world.
And the climax pays off everyone’s arcs, and the stuff it does with THor is amazing. Destroying Mjolnir at the start is just the beginning of what is a movie that wants to do. THor is completely changed, ending in a completely new place. So new, that there is no comics equivalent. There are some storylines to compare, but only barely. With Odin gone, Thor is king. He loses his eye, just like Odin. And his powerset completely changes. The hammer is gone, for a massive power upgrade given to his lightning powers. As he finally learns what he needs to be truly worthy, he learns to truly control his powers. The storm flows through him like never before. A visual spectacle, and a true sign of just how much things have changed.
THor makes choice after choice that fundamentally changes everything. In the end, sitting at the head of a spaceship as the king of Asgard, looking at the destroyed ruins of his home after making the choice that the people meant more than the palace with a haircyut and a brand new, entirely different powerset is such an incredible change. A true transformation has taken place, the sort of transformation that is so rarely seen in anything other than origin stories. And it is so strongly justified by the narrative. No movie does more to spit on the face of ‘nothing ever changes in Marvel Movies’ than this one.
It is just a shame that without Taika Waititi’s weapon of choice, comedy, the climax just doesn’t sing as much a sing should. It should be stronger. The movie is at its best when it is truly Taika. SO the fact that the climax isn’t Taika enough is disappointing. Perfectly competent, and full of the choices that would lead to something sensational. Just missing Waititi’s signature.
Between that, and the messy start, Thor Ragnarok feels like it is very nearly positioned to be one of Marvel’s best, but just doesn’t cross the line. It doesn’t reach that holy level, but it is so great to see Marvel make such an attempt. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 had already reached that holy level this year, but to see Thor Ragnarok almost make it is so great to see. A truly entertaining movie, and it would be a strong superhero movie in any year. Just because it has strong competition this year doesn’t change the fact that it deserves praise after praise.
And oh, how I would love it if other Marvel movies could be as brave as this one. When I realised exactly how brave that final shot was, exactly how much had happened and how much they had transformed Thor, I was amazed. A true Marvel.
Be warned, though. The first post credit scene is truly terrible. Worst one yet
I guess I’m the only person on earth who didn’t like Logan, huh?
Honestly, I think Logan is a great movie BUT I also think it is overrated. I think it is a movie that gets a lot of praise because it looks like a ‘great’ movie. It looks like the sort of movie that wins Oscars, and therefore it has to be the best movie ever. As opposed to something like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, which looks like another disposable superhero movie despite being the most emotionally affecting superhero movie in over a decade. No Country for Old Wolverines, therefore has to be the best thing ever.
However, despite thinking it is overrated, I also think it is a great movie. I do like Westerns, so a Western does appeal. As does the strong focus on getting old/legacy/what you leave behind. A story where Logan has to face the world he has created, see the results of his violence. Confront the fact that he has failed. That the world he was supposed to build (as seen in the comics) was never made, and that his legacy is one of destruction and failure. Confronting that legacy in X-24, while being given one last chance to find the right track in Laura. The chance to finally be the X-Man he was always supposed to be.
THis idea of heroes truly growing old, of heroes failing is so rare, and I thought Logan ended up creating such a well realised vision of that idea.
And to do that movie now was so perfect. Partly because Logan’s reliance on violence has always been a problem with the character that should be confronted, and because it is the perfect finale to Hugh Jackman’s performance. A legendary combination of character and actor, sentenced to a series of bad, bad movies. The horrific reality v the idealised comics is the perfect metaphor for the horrid movies v the iconic performance.
I certainly agree that it is overrated, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is clearly the strongest of the year. And I think Ragnarok isn’t too far from exceeding Logan. If it could clean up the beginning and ending a little more, if it felt a little more Waititi, Ragnarok could easily be the better movie. Still love Logan, though
I guess, having skipped and/or disliked most of the previous movies Wolverine was in (I liked X-Men and the first sequel just fine, but that leaves the bulk of the movies featuring Wolverine as things I either thought were bad or skipped entirely), I could have used more of that “seeing the world he created” stuff. Like, the hints at the backstory actually given in the movie were so vague, I had no sense of what his emotional investment was. I didn’t need a blow by blow of what happened to the X-Men, but a few specifics about Logan’s role in their deaths (or at least what he felt his role was) would have gone a long way to establishing where he was coming from.
Mostly, I found myself preoccupied by the similarities to Children of Men, but that made for a rather unflattering comparison. That movie establishes why Clive Owen’s character is so apathetic very clearly, which gives his journey (and sacrifice) so much more meaning than Logan’s ever does. The movie as written took my investment in Logan’s journey for granted, but having relatively little investment in his journey prior to sitting down to that movie, I was very much not along for the ride.
I also found myself thinking a great deal about Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, and how much stronger pacifism is as a character choice than apathy. Even if they decided to go with a different motivation, a Wolverine that refuses to pop his claws until that final rampage would have made for a stronger arc. And I think might have better reflected that kind of legacy of violence theme you’re talking about. Instead, the movie seems so desperate to earn its R rating that it has Logan sticking his claws through dudes heads within seconds of the start of the film. This established a man who was willing to fight and kill for a car, but when a little girl needs help, he has to go through a whole hemming and hawing thing before he ultimately does what we knew he would anyway because he never had any convictions in the first place.
But the biggest flaw for me was just how much fat there was. This movie could have been so much tighter if it didn’t insist on having utterly pointless characters. Laura’s nurse, Caliban, and the two boss bad guys (either the scientist or the mercenary dude would have sufficed, but both was totally unnecessary) all could have been eliminated with little to no tweaks in the plot, leaving more room for the characters we’re actually supposed to care about. Here again, it felt like the movie was more concerned in beefing up the death count than it was in telling any kind of substantive story. The nurse lady exists so her death can feel meaningful, but she really doesn’t need to be there. Caliban exists so he can die (and spout exposition, I guess), but adds nothing to the plot. I’m honestly not even sure why they split the boss villain into two characters — I guess so they could get two deaths out of it? Just getting rid of some of those extraneous characters would have gone a long way to making me enjoy the movie (my other problems would stand, though I get that they’re also a little bit in the “I wish this movie was a different movie” category of criticism. I also think they should have killed off Xavier sooner and maybe shaved a half hour off of the runtime, but I really would have just settled for fewer pointless characters).
Maybe people are just so starved for a superhero movie that takes itself seriously, but I think the thought that this movie is an Oscar contender is absurd. Maybe maybe it’s in the top half of superhero movies ever made, but it’s far from a great movie. Superhero fans deserve better movies than this. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction — again, I skipped all of the other solo Wolverine movies — but this doesn’t even come close to the cinematic heights of The Dark Knight (which is a flawed movie, too, but no other superhero movie has come close to the density and complexity of its themes).
You don’t need to watch any of the other X-Men movies (though the second Wolverine movie is a decent Japanese noir story until the final act). It isn’t about the events of any previous X-Men movie, though there is a slightly meta aspect where it admits that every mainline X-Men movie has been uniformly awful.
The world that Wolverine created is the world of the movie. We see it in every frame. It isn’t about the precise nature of how the X-Men died. I think we learn everything we need to about that during Xavier’s death. But the world Logan created is the dystopian world around them. The fact that the mutants are extinct. The fact that the underprivileged are exploited by the ultra rich. That the X-Men’s legacy has been turned into a weapon by Zander Rice and the Facility. Logan’s legacy, Logan’s failure is that he was a superhero, and he didn’t save us. The backstory doesn’t matter, because it wasn’t about a single pivotal event. Even the death of the X-Men wasn’t the problem. It was the fact that Logan and the X-Men consistently failed to save the world. That instead, they grew old and fell apart, and let the world that they were pledged to protect fall apart. The dystopian world around them IS Logan’s legacy.
And I really disagree that making Logan a pacifist until the end would have made a better movie. But then, I disagree that Logan was initially motivated by apathy (which is a truly terrible motivation, you are correct). Pacifism is completely wrong for this movie because the important idea is that Logan is still the same violent person that created this mess. That the flawed man that fucked everything up is the same man trying to save the day to day. The violence that he has passed on to Laura is still there. The violence he sees in X-24 is him. And if he wants to save Laura. If he really wants to teach Laura that she doesn’t have to be what they made her, he needs to fix himself. The fact that he is still the violent man that he sees in Laura and X-24 is exactly the flaw that he needs to overcome. And that is why the climax is about him fighting X-24. And that’s why killing X-24 kills Logan. Because they are the same. Logan hasn’t changed. That’s the whole point of the use of the movie Shane
The action scenes did rely on the same trick a bit too much, and I would happily argue that the first fight with the car could easily be changed so that the first real explosion of violence was Laura’s rampage. But he needed to be violent. Making the rampage at the end the only instance of violence would send the complete wrong message. Because the violence was always the problem. That’s why the climax is stronger as it is. Where,a fter all the violence he has inflicted, he turns that violence in on himself. Overdosing on berserker serum and fighting X-24. Destroying himself, so Laura can live free of his legacy.
Logan’s true initial motivation is despair. He has given up on the idea that he can save the world. That he can be a superhero. That’s why he doesn’t initially want to help Laura. Because he’s seen that path before, and it ended badly. And that’s why he defends his limo with such ferocity. Because the important thing is that it isn’t just a car. It is his livelihood, his income. And more importantly, his goals are completely reliant on having that income. He isn’t apathetic, he is quite committed in his goal of finally ending the X-Men. He sees the X-Men, sees superheroes as harmful and wishes to protect others by buying a boat. Escaping out to sea, so that Xavier never hurts another man. Then shoot himself in the head when Xavier finally dies. That is his conviction, and helping Laura goes against every conviction he has. To him, helping Laura falls into the exact set of mistakes he already made. To help Laura would be to be a superhero, and that is exactly what he is trying to end with a boat and an adamantium bullet.
I’d need to do a rewatch to truly speak about the characters, but I don’t think there is a lot of fat. Laura’s nurse plays an important role as the inciting incident. And the contrast between her and Logan initially is important. And, her death helps reveal the lie of Logan’s despair. The fact that someone died because he wouldn’t act is the counter to Logan’s belief that being a superhero ruins everything. It is the proof that it is better for Logan to try and fix his legacy than escape it. Because at least then, Laura’s nurse would still be alive.
Pierce, the mercenary, and Zander, the scientist, are, I think, distinct enough. Pierce is a Wolverine fanboy. Another example of legacy. It isn’t just that the dystopia is Logan’s legacy, but that those who follow his example are the bad guys. And Zander is the villain who Logan’s failure led to gain power. They are the two sides of the dystopia. The violent brute, and the powerful man exploiting the weak. They are the two parts that come together to make up the world of Logan, and the fact that both exist as villains are important (and I’ll make clear, Pierce and X-24 are distinct, because I wouldn’t call X-24 Logan’s legacy. X-24 is Logan).
I’m trying to remember exactly Caliban’s arc, but I think he played an important part in the stakes. I like how it created a textured world outside of the trip. That the threats of the world didn’t just exist to those in the roadtrip to Canada. I spend a lot of time discussing the idea of consequential narrative, and I like that that is explored with Caliban. He is not just left behind, and what happens to him is an important part of showing the hellscape that Logan is fighting. The problems of the world affect more people than just the main characters in their car.
I think Logan is an excellently done movie. I’d put it above a good portion of Marvel Studio’s work, though not above any of their best. It is easy to look at movies like Children of Men and judge the movie harshly against that – especially when Logan’s genre invites easy comparison to actual masterpieces. But I do think that Logan is an excellent movie in its own right. I don’t know exactly where I would rank it as a superhero movie, but I’d rank it high. And I wouldn’t be disappointed if it picked up some nominations in the Oscars in the acting categories, even if greater discussions about Logan and Wonder Woman deserving a real Oscar push is laughable to me.
And I think saying that the Dark Knight is the only superhero movie that legitimately deserves Oscar discussion/only legitimately great superhero movie is falling into a similar trap that has led Logan to being overrated. I love the Dark Knight, and think it is still the best, deepest and most thematic superhero movies there are (and in fact, I think many of the things brought up as flaws these days are quite unfairly made for easy political points. Any criticism around the War on Terror or it being a right wing fantasy seem to ignore the fact that the Joker is an explicit reaction to those elements. And that the ending is all about acknowledging understanding and addressing those criticisms). The Dark Knight deserved to be a legitimate Oscar contender, as opposed to the snub it got. But to say only the Dark Knight deserves it and only the Dark Knight is a legitimately great movie is to fall into the serious movie trap that leads people to call overrate Logan.
Remember it was only last year where the Oscars robbed a legitimate instant classic and masterpiece so that it could hand the awards to a pretty good journalism movie and an honestly horrible western, because that masterpiece was a heavy metal action movie. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is still at the top of my best movies list, standing strong alongside other great, ‘serious’ movies. There is no reason why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is less deserving of an Oscar nomination than some movies that get nominated (again, the Revenant got a nomination, and that is atrociously incompetent. As are several other recent nominees. But ignoring that, there are many movies like The Theory of Everything, Brooklyn, Lion, American Hustle which are decent at worst, good at best, but much less deserving of an Oscar nomination than a silly superhero movie like GOTGv2).
I need way more specificity to really understand where Logan is coming from, because it really isn’t clear how or if superheroing led to the dystopian world it’s set in. If he had given up earlier, would the world look different? What if he had given up later? If there isn’t an answer to those questions (which there fairly might not be — the movie certainly never suggests as much), then Logan ultimately bears no responsibility for the way the world looks — I would look the same whether or not he existed or fought int he first place. I guess that puts him in the same position as every non-superhero person in that dystopia, which I think justifies bitterness and dissatisfaction, but there’s something more that makes Logan reluctant to help when a discrete opportunity to improve the world (however modestly) presents itself. He’s broken in some deeper way than “the world went to shit, and all I could do was watch,” but those motivations are only ever vaguely hinted at.
And it’s hard for me to buy that this movie bears any kind of “violence is bad” moral, when violence proves so damn useful to the characters throughout the movie. Violence is what Logan uses to rescue the kids at the end of the film, but it’s also what he uses to protect his car at the beginning, and pretty much any time anything else needs to be done throughout the rest of the movie. I certainly can’t believe that Logan personally blames violence for the shape of his life — he slices and stabs people throughout the movie without a second thought.
Which is why pacifism — or at least a hint of reluctance to resorting to violence — would have been a stronger choice. Logan’s violence doesn’t cost him anything, and is almost always useful, so why would he ever view it as a bad thing? This movie lacked the imagination to make the violence not useful, so it could have at least bothered to make it cost him something (besides, you know, wounds that heal slightly slower than they used to). If he felt like his violence had made the world a worse place, and that was tied up in his despair, such that he only used his claws in dire circumstances and at great emotional expense, I think the violence would have had much more impact than the slice’n’dice approach the movie actually has.
Reserving the violence would have also helped give those violent moments much more visceral oomph. Xavier’s death should be shocking in its horror, but by the time it happens, we’ve seen so many decapitations and faces impaled on claws, a few chest wounds feel pretty tame. Mangold pulled out all of the stops to make that scene horrifying anyway, but imagine if the violence itself (and not just our emotional investment in the character and the way the camera lingered on his pain) had contributed to that effect. Imagine this movie had the courage to not make violence seem awesome and helpful up to that moment.
I dunno, there’s a lot I’m probably forgetting or misremembering about the movie, but I felt like it was always taking the cheapest route to the next scene, the next emotion, the next payoff. It’s the kind of movie I think none of us would be talking about now if it weren’t for the fact that it was a superhero movie (I’m only realizing now how much it resembles Waterworld), which is the kind of thing I hate about superhero movies. It should meet the same standards of non-superhero movies, and I’m afraid I just want my dystopian, reluctant hero protects young woman from forces of evil movies to have a bit more depth than this.
Superheroing led to this world, because the superhero weren’t good enough. Because superheroes are supposed to save us from all of this. That is why Logan is responsible.
A key part of the movie is the fact that it is intentionally anticlimactic. It isn’t about Logan making a massive mistake. Mutants didn’t die out because Logan failed to stop Wanda Maximoff saying three words, but because a businessman drugged food. The X-men didn’t die in a massive last stand, just a horrific tragedy. In the end, these things just happened. Time went on, and things got worse. Nothing ‘happened’, just a fatalistic arc of history bending towards despair
That is the great failure. Logan didn’t save the day. He became a superhero, and in the end, what is the world like? It is a world where evil men replicate Logan’s worst qualities, while Logan’s best qualities are literal fiction, myths in comics. A world where the very people Logan dedicated himself to protect are almost extinct, and the exact people he dedicated his life to fighting are in control. The problem wasn’t that all he did was watch. It was that he invested everything into saving the world, and this is what happened.
And that is why pacifism is the wrong choice in this movie. In Old Man Logan, it works because Logan’s flaw in an unwillingness to take action after the mistake he made. The problem here is different. The problem is that Logan fundamentally hasn’t changed. He is still the violent person he was before. Old Man Logan needed to learn the evils of inaction. Old Man Logan had to learn to be himself. Logan needed to learn that he could change his legacy. That there could be more to what he leaves behind than the violence he can never escape.
To have Logan be a pacifist would be to say that he had changed, and that is against the idea of the movie. The Shane quote is essential. Logan is forever marked by what he has done, and he has been fundamentally changed. It is too late for him, and he cannot escape it. He can’t be a better man. The only hope he has is to find a way to save the next generation. Ensure Laura isn’t changed like Logan was.
Because yeah, violence is useful. The world is built on violence. And that’s the problem. It is a world where there is no choice not to brutally fight. And it does cost Logan plenty. And I’m not talking about wounds. I’m talking about all those people you mentioned that died. Everyone close to Logan suffers and dies because of the violence of the world of the film. If he chose not to be violent, just turned away, he could have minimised casualties. Instead, he chooses to be the hero and Logan can’t be the hero without being violent. He is incapable of it, And the violence always comes at great emotional expense, as everyone in his world dies because of him. Because of his choices. Xavier. Caliban. The farmers. The whole point of the ending is that he turns that expense on himself. He finally pays. Instead of letting others pay the cost, he takes a serum that will kill him. He chooses to let the violence claim him instead, so that he can save Laura. And then he also faces X-24, Logan’s violent self. A violent self so alike that Logan literally can’t survive slaying it.
Violence is useful, because that is the way the world works. But the fact that the world works like that is the horror. And the whole point is that by saving Laura, there may finally be hope. There may be the actual chance of a better world. Will it work? It is left ambiguous. But at the very least, Logan did the one thing he hadn’t done. Confronted his own violence and overcome it. He could never survive overcoming it, but that was never the point. The point was that by doing that, he may actually leave the world a better place.
Also, I think the clinical nature of Xavier’s death is what makes it impactful. The understated nature, in contrast to the gore. It isn’t visceral. It is just a big nothingness. Empty. Xavier goes from person to nothingness in an instant. I think a focus on gore and viscerality would have hurt the suddeness. The fact that it is so ‘tame’ is what gives it impact. Especially considering the rest of the scene. The sheer nothingness of the kill is much stronger than any attempt to make it more visceral.
I think saying that it takes the easiest or cheapest route from scene to scene is terribly unfair, for a movie that is so restrained and avoids easy payoffs for something more uncomfortable. If it wanted easy payoffs, it would have flashed back to Westchester, or done a million other things designed to be easy. Instead, it is a movie that is constantly holding back, restraining itself to avoid doing anything so easy, and intentionally using anticlimax to make closure more complex than you’d expect from a superhero movie.
It isn’t Children of Men, and it is unfair to judge it for not living up to that. Logan belongs to a similar genre, but the fact that the genre is so small that Children of Men is so dominant does not mean other movies aren’t good for not living up to one of the best movies of the century. Logan still works as a strong example of its genre.