Look, I hypothetically like the idea of Batman. You’ve seen the title. Over the past decade, Batman has become the patron saint of white male internet geekiness. That’s why I feel I have to jump on the defensive. I like Batman, I do. Just, he’s boring right now. Batman has stagnated since he was re-invigorated for the mass audience by Burton. The Batman of Keaton is only marginally different from the Batman of Affleck, or even the Batman of Bale. For twenty-nine years, Batman has remained a brooding, black-clad, boring bastion of a male power fantasy.
You might have been following the news recently when there was talk of Valkyrie in Thor Ragnarok being bisexual. You, like me, might have seen the movie and thought ‘well, when it comes to representation, that was a whole lot of nothing’. Later interviews revealed that the scene had been cut for timing, or pacing, or such. However, it might have struck you about how often that we might hear about a character potentially being LGBT or such in a major blockbuster and then nothing comes of it. And why you may ask?
[Spoilers for Thor Ragnarok]
So, some weeks ago I was watching the latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about a superhero whose mythos and supporting cast are drawn from Norse mythology. Here’s the thing. I know most of the work of director Taika Waititi and eagerly awaited Thor Ragnarok purely because of the comedy stylings of its director meeting the solid structure powerhouse that is Marvel Studios. The film was loved for its humour and action. For my money, it’s not my favourite Taika Waititi film (What We Do in the Shadows) or my favourite Marvel movie (Captain America The First Avenger), but that’s a matter of personal taste and there’s certainly lots to love about the film. The thing I want to discuss in regards to Thor Ragnarok is a couple of scenes in particular. However, first, I have to talk about Hela.
So, at this point in history, we’re nine years in and sixteen films deep (seventeen as of Thor Ragnarok) with this Marvel Cinematic Universe thing. Next year will mark the ten-year anniversary of the MCU and the culmination of an arc that started in the first Avengers film. With the MCU officially being the biggest grossing film franchise of all time, the question might arise: how did they do it? It might seem obvious in retrospect that the MCU is the biggest franchise in the world but this has only been the state of the world for about five years. There are a few things I want to look at with this piece, all tying back to the central idea: The Marvel Experiment. What were the risks? How did they pay off? How did they not? Finally, what makes the whole universe tick? How does this monolith shake off the legitimate critiques of its world, i.e. lacklustre villains, same-y plots, and the like?
So, we’re about nine years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with sixteen films under their belts. We’re about five years in from the Hollywood-shattering movie that was The Avengers. This will be the first year that three MCU films will be released in the same year. With Thor Ragnarok coming out later this year, and being directed by one of my favourite contemporary directors, I thought I’d look back at the first Thor film and uncover the thinking behind the film; how it works to its own goals and to the wider goals of the MCU.
The first Thor film was notably directed by Kenneth Branagh, which might seem like an odd choice. The dude known for mostly doing Shakespearean films decides to do a superhero film about Norse Gods. On the surface of it, it doesn’t make sense. However, there is method to Marvel’s madness.
This is not a piece I thought I’d be writing. Last year, following the festering pile of unmentionables that was Batman v Superman, I swore off DC films. I was convinced nothing was going to change that. If Warner Bros kept following BvS down the shithole, then there was nothing for me in the DCCU. However, a lot of people whose opinions I respect were praising Wonder Woman, and WW’s place as the first female superhero meant that her movie had an important place in the pantheon of superhero films. Also, tugging at the back of my mind was the thought that if this movie failed hard, studio execs would blame it on the female lead rather than the fact that it’s the fourth instalment in a franchise that occupies the same collective mental space as a tired horror franchise.
Since I’m writing this you probably gathered that I’ve now seen Wonder Woman. After seeing it, I figured my thoughts could be summed up in a single tweet. However, as I mulled over it during the night, I realised I have a little more to say than that. Not much more, but a little more. So, my initial tweet’s worth of comments would have been.
Wonder Woman was enjoyable. A good movie, not a great one. Amazing what happens when you have a director directing, and a screenwriter writing.
That title feels a little clickbait-y, doesn’t it? If it were more clickbait-y, it’d be called ‘The REAL Reason …’. I’ve been meaning to do this topic for a while. Some time ago, I heard this idea about the reason why there’s not much crossover between the Marvel TV universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a few reasons and that could be given but I reckon there’s one big one. Though, before I get to it, let’s go on a journey first.