Thor: Reconstructing empire

So here’s a weird thing. I was really sick and high on cough medicine a few weekends ago and I happened to finally watch Thor: The Dark World (hereafter Thor 2 or The Dark World). Obviously, I was watching this movie well after having seen the glory that was Thor: Ragnarok, and it gave me some perspective.

First, let me disclaim. I did actually like Thor 2. This does not mean that I was blind to its flaws. We’re actually going to dive into some of those, sort of sideways. I was, however, pretty strung out sick, so if you are looking for a low-brain-power sick movie and like staring at Thor, this may be a good pick. If not, well, your miles may vary. But while Thor 2 may indeed be higher on my Marvel ranking list than Dr. Strange (let’s be honest, what isn’t) I’m not actually intending to talk about that today. I’m more interested in talking about Thor 2 within the context of the primary theme of Thor: Ragnarok – the critique of empire. Specifically, Asgard.

asgard

What is that you say? Ragnarok had a theme that was that political? Far be it from me to point this out to you so many months later, but yes, it did. Taika Waititi is a brilliant maniac, and he very clearly constructed a story that dealt with some major issues that don’t often get taken up in big budget superhero films in a critical way. I would argue that his work paved the way for Black Panther to be as political as it was, actually. If watched in a continuum, Ragnarok becomes the swing towards self-awareness of what empire means and its bloody history, while Black Panther deals with the equally destructive issue of isolation. These are two sides to the same technologically-advanced coin. Add to that Black Panther‘s own complicated relationship with colonialism, and you get a profoundly politically charged shift in these two films.

But how do previous Marvel films play into that? Specifically, how do previous Thor films play into that?

Thor: Ragnarok makes clear that no empire rules cleanly, because empire requires conquest. This is the dirty secret of Asgard, the secret that assures its eventual downfall from a technologically advanced civilization to a society of refugees. Except it’s not really such a secret, is it? In The Dark World, and in the original Thor, we saw our share of violence, often of the genocidal kind. The Asgardian’s history with the Dark Elves, with the Ice Giants – it’s an open book. Once, a people lived here. Once, there was a world. Then the Asgardians came, for one reason or another, and wiped it out. In these stories, we are led to believe that these other people were inherently evil. In The Dark World, the Dark Elves are specifically trying to wipe out the whole universe of stars because they apparently don’t like light or something. They’re not good people, or at least we’re told they’re not.

thor dark evles

But what led them here? What led to this? Was it merely the inevitable result of one empire’s clash with another? Is that an excuse?

The movie The Dark World was constructed to appeal to our narratives of good and evil, and of whiteness, a certain Western European cultural nostalgia. The soundtrack evoked the Lord of the Rings to the point where it could have honestly been stolen. The characters on screen were, for the most part, white  (with the notable exception of Heimdall and Hogun, who unfortunately had little screen time) and human-looking. Scenes in Asgard were golden and clean, evoking righteousness. The Asgardians were being attacked. The last conflict was ages ago, and really none of their concern. Why couldn’t they be left to subjugate the orc-looking dudes on their planets (I really have to question that director choice, by the by) in peace? They were the good guys.

golden thor

Then the Dark Elves had to revive their centuries-old vendetta and try to wipe out the universe.

Perhaps what was most interesting to me about this movie was the way that it continues to reflect the empire’s fascination with being attacked on its own soil. By their nature, empires are sprawling. We see that the Asgardians conquer several worlds, and control those territories. Yet the Dark Elves do not attack them on those worlds. They attack them at the heart – killing their queen, destroying their throne, the symbol of Asgardian power. They are unstoppable – just as the Asgardians have been unstoppable on so many other worlds, with their relative might and skill.

Taken within this context, Thor: Ragnarok is an even more subversive movie than first supposed. Not only does Ragnarok deal directly with the evils of empire – it does so in the quintessential empire, in the home of what, in The Dark World, has been structured off of our own ideas of the golden (white/Western/patriarchal) society.

Impressed Loki

Honestly, having that context made me love the Thor oeuvre even more.


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Upcoming movies and some guest posts

We are so close to Wedding Day! And given that, my general ability to think thoughts is pretty depleted. Please instead enjoy this pulpy post.

But first, some housekeeping for all you lovely readers. I’m featuring a few guest bloggers over the next few weeks while I’m away getting married and traveling and such. I’m super excited to introduce you to these lovely ladies, who are going to be talking about a wide range of fantasy/science fiction topics. Please check in over the next three weeks and check them out!

Now, on to the matter at hand. What movies am I looking forward to in 2017?

Annihilation – Released ???

For those who haven’t read Jeff VanderMeer’s book by the same name, you probably should. An eerie, atmospheric tale where the horror is mostly in the mind, but not entirely, this story tells the tale of a scientist (unnamed) who goes into Area X, equal parts Area 51 and alternate dimension, to search for answers regarding her husband’s disappearance and death. They’ve kept the release date and any set pictures mostly under wraps, though there have been some very restricted showings of a teaser trailer or other footage.

The director is the same guy who did Ex Machina. That actually gives me some pause. His aesthetics are solid, but VanderMeer’s book has zero men in it for the vast majority of the text, and I’ve seen the casting list. It is not lacking in men. I’m assuming they are expanding on the timeline prior to the scientist entering Area X, which could be good or bad, depending on whether it swamps her character. I’m a little worried about the adaptation for that reason. Check out the IMDB link for more information about the project.

Wonder Woman – Released June 2nd

wonder woman

So who hasn’t been waiting for Wonder Woman? This movie has been running trailers and promotional material for a while now, and you can tell that DC pulled out a lot of stops for it. They should. Wonder Woman is arguably their most iconic character after Superman and Batman, and before for many. In contrast to Marvel’s line-up, she is also a singularly iconic woman. This will be the first superhero movie to focus entirely on a female character, and DC beat Marvel to the punch (no surprise, since Marvel seems set on making mistake after mistake in this regard). Check out the IMDB link for more information.

I’ve been planning to rush the theater for this one, and I doubt I will be alone.

Atomic Blonde – Released July 28th

Holy shit, this move. Here’s the IMDB link if you haven’t heard of it. Take a minute to watch the trailer. I’ll wait.

atomic-blonde

Really, what is there not to love about this? It’s all of the action packed, grungy goodness of a hardcore spy movie, with the kickass feminine lead from Fury Road. You have my money, sirs and madames.

The Dark Tower – Released August 4th

So I honestly didn’t realize that this was coming so soon until this lovely trailer came out. Holy mess, it looks good. The Dark Tower series is a sort of hit-or-miss thing for me, actually – I thought it ended up getting wrapped around itself somehow, if that makes sense, and ending was not my favorite. But The Gunslinger was an amazing book, and I’m excited to see what they will do with the story, as it looks…very different from the one I remember.

Hitman’s Bodyguard – Released August 18th

I have to admit that this movie is not my usual cup of tea. I wasn’t a huge fan of Deadpool, actually. I thought it was fun, and the graphics were obviously spot on, but it just didn’t quite click with me. That said, Ryan Reynolds is a fun actor, and he definitely brought life to Deadpool’s character with some trademark witticism that seems evident in this move. Plus there are lots of guns. If the trailer doesn’t make you laugh, well, we have different senses of humor, probably. IMDB link on the click-through.

Blade Runner 2049 – Released October 6th

Holy shit, guys, there is a new Blade Runner movie and the trailer is out! Harrison Ford is always a good bet for these kinds of movies, but Ryan Gosling joins him, which I am way into. The director is also the guy who did Arrival which is one of my favorite movies cinematically of the past year.

blade runner

Basically if you are a fan of cerebral science fiction, this is the movie you are looking forward to this year (well, in addition to Annihilation, but it’s hard to look forward to something we don’t even have a trailer for, yet). Check out the IMDB page here for more info.

Thor: Ragnarok – Released November 3rd

thor-ragnarok-photo-chris-hemsworth

So Thor. Thor is the hottest Avenger, probably. And his hair is part of that for me. Now they have chopped all of his hair off. I find myself…not dismayed? He is still really sexy? Alright, then.

Other positives to this movie: Hulk cameo, gladiator fights, and CATE BLANCHETT. She is my favorite. IMDB link and video link for those who live in a hole and haven’t seen the trailer.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Released December 15th

You had to know this movie would be on the list. I am solidly in the Star Wars fandom, and I am so, absolutely ready for this movie. Rogue One was a great appetizer, of course. I had some problems with the Leia cameo, which was goofy and too on the nose. But overall, it was lovely. I hope that they will bring some of that creative energy into this new film.

I also have to pause here and note that The Last Jedi was Carrie Fisher’s last movie. I desperately want it to be good and tie up her character well. There are a lot of hopes riding on this film for me, and it almost feels scary leading up to it, but the teaser trailer looks pretty good so far.

sw-the-last-jedi-tall-B

That’s all for me! Let me know what movies you’re looking forward to. Next time I post, I’ll be married and talking all about marriage things!