MCU Phase 4 Discussion

So, Thor: Love and Thunder… (now it’s on Disney+ so I can watch it)… is not as good as Ragnarok, but I think part of that is possibly just that we know what to expect from Taika Waititi’s take on Thor now, so it’s not as much of a surprise.
There’s definite missteps - the whole “Stormbreaker is jealous” throughline doesn’t really add anything, although you might also see that as Taika messing with the silly axe that they gave Thor after Ragnarok made the point that Thor isn’t “his weapon” anyway - but I think they actually handle the Jane / Mighty Thor plotline pretty well (obviously Portman also helps here), and Christian Bale is not only enjoying himself but also really good as Gorr. And we’ve not talked about the more interesting bits of actual cinematic flourish - the colour and lack of it, except where illuminated by godly power, in the Shadow Realm.
Not sold on Crowe doing “Greek person who speaks English not perfectly” as Zeus though, feels a little like a joke that stopped being great in about 1980 or so…

I think it also helps that the entire thing is also framed as Korg telling a story to a bunch of kids - both it being a kids story, and a story being told by the somewhat-off-kilter Korg, help to explain the general tone.

(I would love to know what was in all the hour or so of footage that apparently Waititi was made to cut to get it under 2 hrs though…)

Wait, if he was forced to get it under two hours, that would explain a lot

Well, that’s the rumour - we know that there were a lot of cut scenes (including all of the cameos by other MCU actors like Peter Dinklage and Jeff Goldblum, plus some scenes with Lena Headey, as well as a bunch more scenes in Omnipotence City), but the “they were told to get it under 2 hrs” thing is mostly supposition given that it comes in at almost exactly that length.

They cut LENA HEADEY?! We could have seen Lena Headey in a Waititi movie and they cut it? Whoever was responsible for that decision should be fired.

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So I saw Love and Thunder when it came out, so I’m relying mostly on more distant memory, but I really didn’t enjoy it. Where Ragnarok felt like a breath of fresh air and good mix of comedy and ‘drama’, I feel like Love and Thunder couldn’t help but try to do too many jokes. Framing it as Korg telling a story to the kids maybe helps explain that, but it doesn’t really make it any less irritating while you’re watching the film.

I did enjoy Bale as Gorr, even if it felt like was doing a “Skarsgard Pennywise” impersonation half the time.

As for the Crowe “Greek accent” thing, I saw a video that said it’s likely he’s doing a “Con the Fruiterer” impression, which was a Greek immigrant character created by an Australian comedian in the late 80s. Seems likely to be a specific choice by Waititi and Crowe, but is bizarre in 2022.

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Love and Thunder fell pretty flat for me, and I loved Ragnarok. The parts where it tries to be funny, 90% just made me roll my eyes. It felt a lot like a friend telling the same joke again and again, despite it not working the last three times.

I just couldn’t with the Zeus and the city of the gods arc, but at the same time the “let me turn these children into an arm that will commit acts of gory brutality bit” was horrifying in a way the movie never acknowledges.

It’s a pity: Gorr’s storyline is pretty good, and most of the time Bale is onscreen he carries it well. The Mighty Thor arc is excellent too. It’s just that all these things felt secondary to trying to be wacky and amusing. There’s a part of me that wonders if just a little better editing, or a few more takes on the comedic bits could have made this work better.

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I too watched Thor: Love and Thunder now that it’s on Disney Plus, and I’ll say that I’m higher on it than most folks here. Part of that is because I’m currently knee deep in AC Valhalla and am in a mood for Norse mythology, but also because I do think it executes perfectly on where Thor is in life, and where the MCU is as well.

In the first episode of She-Hulk, Jen rips into Bruce about how being an Avenger has left him with nothing. He’s alone on an island and his friends are either dead or simply not around anymore. All that’s left to do is to wait for a Sakaarian spaceship to ferry him away to the next world ending catastrophe. Thor is in a similar state. Left with no family, he tries to forge a new one with the Guardians, but it’s not a great fit. He could go back to Asgard, but there lies monuments to his failure everywhere he turns. He’s simply lost and alone, even after saving the universe for the millionth time.

A lot of criticism I see is that Thunder is no Ragnarok, both in terms of the level of humor and the level of pathos for our hero. And I do agree with those criticisms. But Thunder I don’t think aims to top its predecessor in that regard. Ragnarok is set after the Avengers have saved the world twice over and are a full familial unit. Though separated by the vastness of space, Thor has his family back on Earth. He even finds that one missing family member out in the far edge of the universe! It’s a joyous movie about the childish prince becoming the leader he was destined to be. And while Asgard got destroyed, its people are safe and can look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

And then we know what happens. Thanos comes and immediately destroys what’s left of Asgard’s army. From there, he wipes out half the universe, all because the mighty god did not aim for the head. And while Thor manages to undo most of this damage, it costs him his family and his identity as King of Asgard. He’s a better man now, a better hero. But that’s all he is, and that’s where Thunder begins. A recurring motif in the movie is Korg rehashing Thor’s exploits in the past tense, and I think that’s deliberate. All Thor is now is a book of tales to be shared to the next generation. And that in and of itself isn’t too bad. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are now legends as well, but the difference is that their stories definitively ended with their deaths. They don’t have to live up to their legends anymore. Thor, being effectively immortal, has no such luxury.

Thunder, to me, is all about Thor grappling with the fact that there will always be a next chapter for him. How does he go on when there’s no realm of Asgard, no Avengers, no Jane? Even the ending to the movie only partially answers that. I guess he’s going to be an adventuring dad for a while, but what then? Obviously, at some point Chris Hemsworth is going to exit the MCU, and so there will be an end for Thor, but for now it’s clear that he’s going to outlast the mortals around him, and this movie asks him to sit with that knowledge for a bit.

Also, I just have to gush over Christian Bale’s performance, and the makeup and wardrobe that completes his look. Dude’s straight up a Dark Souls protagonist, looking like a skinny zombie with a fuck-off sword slaying all manner of gods. If he doesn’t inspire some fashion souls looks imma be disappointed.

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It’s your regular thread bump because another episode of what everyone is calling “the most 30 minutes long episodic MCU production”, She-Hulk is out.

Other than the fact that we’re fascinatingly still on very short episodes relative to most of the other MCU D+ shows, it does look like this one is both “another lawyer show episode” and also where things start to kick off into whatever they’re planning for the arc plot. What with Jen getting her “superhero” suit and Daredevil being trailed for the next episode both in the final scene, along with Titania becoming a more obviously recurring antagonist.

I continue to enjoy the fact that She-Hulk is happy to be “that witty lawyer show with 4th wall breaks, which happens to have a protagonist who can turn green and benchpress several cars”, but I’m simultaneously concerned that it might not be able to sustain that, and also concerned that it’s going to ruin what it has if it does try to go all “serious superheros”. (After all, most of the other MCU D+ shows also fell flat when they tried the latter…)

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Reiterating my “this is gently amusing, but I don’t know what the show is doing” take. Increasingly I don’t think the show knows either, and I think back to that wave of interviews literally two days before it first aired where every headline was about how they realised they didn’t know how to write a legal drama. Like the charitable read there is “so we made a legal comedy instead!” but it feels more like they took what was on the cutting room floor and “made a legal comedy instead… question mark?”

But, obviously I’m hyped about the contents of that hat box.

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Count me in as being hyped for the return of Matt Murdock though i am a little frustrated with the constant teases, including D23 last weekend. I’m also in the same boat of being confused about what this show is even doing. It continues to be mildly entertaining, but that’s about it. I want to say that the show’s identity crisis is supposed to be read in parallel with Jen’s identity crisis, but, while kind of clever, that doesn’t really make the show good imo. But hey it continues to be entertaining and I guess that’s enough. Kind of surprised the wrecking crew hasn’t shown back up at all, though my guess is that it’s coming.

Also, I hate to make this critique but it really does feel like every single episode of this show has had an extended “men, am i right?” moment that feels like it was written 10 years ago and every time it comes up, my partner and I both groan at it.

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My favorite of my local pizza places in my hometown does a very small square-cut pizza for anything larger than their medium. I like their pizza very much, but if I were offered one piece of their square-cut pizza for a meal, I would probably go get something else to eat shortly thereafter.

This is a long-winded and pizza-minded analogy to how I feel about She-Hulk. It’s a good show! I have thus far enjoyed the relatively low stakes and the very light tone. I think they can start nudging things up a tad. They’re obviously beside themselves with excitement about the return of Matt Murdock. I think they’re going somewhere storywise. It just feels like the writers’ room said “We’re going to make a cool low-stakes superhero hangout show” and when asked “What’s going to happen” there was a very long “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” I don’t hate the show (I think it’s one of the best things the MCU has done in a while) but I’m ready for a slightly bigger piece of pizza.

Finally got to this week’s episode. They kinda sorta addressed my criticism a little bit. I admit I thought the B plot was a snooze and lost the thread. If this is Episode 6 and they’re planning on bringing this all home in 3 episodes, they’re going to have to hustle.

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Yeah, I’m more worried about She-Hulk packing “the slow-burn arc plot” into the time it has available than anything else right now. (I did like the B-plot, but I did find myself wondering what other C-List superheroes they can bring in (Okay, so the Great Lakes Avengers did have an actual comic book run once, kinda, but…). Can it be long until we get a Squirrel-girl cameo?)

So, whilst this is also an excellent episode of She-Hulk (once again making my point that the best episodes of every MCU D+ show have been ones with… very little fighty stuff)… we now have 2 episodes left to bring things to a reasonable conclusion, and it seems almost certain that we’re once again going to have the traditional MCU D+ “big fight in the last episode because it’s a tradition even though it usually isn’t actually that awesome”.

(That said, somewhat smug that my note back in Episode 4 that I’d expected the people trying to get Jen’s blood to have been using the dating site to get to her that way… was basically right, just a few episodes early… )

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We finally got there lol