For those of you who follow my blog, or my social media, you know I dig the MCU. They raised my eyebrow with Iron Man and sealed the deal with Avengers. In all the movies that followed, have they all been winners? No. Not by a long shot. But their track record is pretty good in my book. With top-tier gems like The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarock, Infinity War, and Endgame, they are entitled to have a few duds. (I’m looking at youDr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.)
Of the (up until now) trilogies, Thor’s movies had been the weakest entry. Until Ragnarok. That completely changed how I felt about Thor. The once bland, boring, 2-dimensional beefcake character now had depth, humor, and heart. They’d finally figured out Thor. Or so I thought.
My daughter (whom I’ve proudly introduced the MCU to) and I went to see Thor: Love & Thunder on opening night. Each of us was pumped to see the Thor from Ragnarok once again. And then, before our eyes, Thor turned back into the bland, boring, 2-dimensional, even bigger beefcake who was forcing out dialogue that was trying really hard to be funny but just wasn’t. Thor was working so hard for laughs that he lost his heart. His humility. He felt more like a caricature rather than the fleshed-out character we’d seen change and evolve over the movies. He’d gone backward in development.
Now maybe that is some bigger arc for him. That he’s attempting to use humor to hide his hurt, which we saw a tiny glimpse of but it was quickly rushed over in favor of a weird battle with bird aliens?
(Spoilers Ahead) But the biggest issue with this movie for me was the warring tones. On one side, you have this colorful, humorous (or attempting to be), song and dance vibe, and then on the other, you have a dark character of Gorr the God Butcher played brilliantly by Christain Bale, a terminal breast cancer diagnosis of Jane, and a forced rekindling of a romance that never had any chemistry from the start. The two tones did NOT play well together so it felt like you were watching two different movies. As a result, the stakes never felt real. The ‘sacrifices’ didn’t feel earned. I was being told a story instead of feeling the story.
That said, was it as bad as Multiverse of Madness? No, that was just awful in my opinion. Love & Thunder I’ll watch again. But it will hold the same weight as the first Thor. Which ain’t saying much.
If you want to hear more about my thoughts on why tone matters so much in writing, check out the podcast I did with writer, Tina Moss, on our podcast Bound By Books.
It’s been a few weeks since The Multiverse of Madness dropped, and there WILL BE spoilers in this post if you haven’t watched. WARNING: My thoughts may differ from yours, and that is OKAY. This is my opinion only. My opinion doesn’t invalidate yours. Movies are art, and art is subjective. Everyone takes something else away from a film. This just happens to be my take-away.
If you know much about me, you know that I am a bit of an MCU fan (The movies, not the comics which already disqualifies me as a ‘fan’ by some, but whatever.) I’ve recently gotten my daughter on board the Marvel train too, so when a new Marvel movie comes out, it’s a family event. We go opening night because spoilers are too hard to avoid, and I don’t want to be spoiled. So much so, that I stopped watching the trailers for this one. They just seemed to be giving away too many details.
After No Way Home, we were all pumped to see what happens with all of the cracks in the sky. Who was coming in, and what madness was going to happen as a result of Peter’s actions? Not a huge leap to make since Dr. Strange was such a big player in that movie. They set us up for a continuation of those events. Right? RIGHT?
No connection. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Weird. They must have a bigger plan that I’m just not seeing yet… OR… someone screwed up and gave Sam Raimi too much room to do his own thing, disregarding the movies and shows that came before.
Did I dislike this movie because it was more violent than I was expecting? No, I didn’t care for it because, for the first time since The Incredible Hulk, we got an awful script with no consideration for character development. Which, up until this film, the franchise had done an amazing job with. Marvel always stood out to me because their characters came first, then the action and comedy. It was their winning strategy for me. This one, however, was much more interested in the plot, characters be damned.
Let’s take a little look at the three main characters in this film to address my point better.
Dr. Strange: Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t much care for the first Dr. Strange movie. I didn’t feel they gave him much of an arc. He was an ass for too much of the film. I much preferred his appearances in movies after his own film. The character work was better for his role in movies that weren’t his, ironically. And his relationship with Christine in M.O.M? There was more chemistry between them in the animated series What If than what showed up in either movie. Which tells me that their story comes down to failed writing. These are capable actors given very little to work with.
America Chavez-There was a GREAT opportunity here to introduce this brand new character, but after the movie, I know nothing more about her than I did going in. They TOLD us a lot about her, but they didn’t SHOW us. One 30-second backstory scene does not a character make. They gave her zero character growth. She was written a boring two-dimension character used as a plot device. She was there because the plot needed her to be. She was a vehicle for plot points. Not Marvel’s normal way.
Wanda-They did Wanda dirty. They ignored ALL of the character work in WandaVision and recycled that series’s plot into a horror cliche. But the Dark Hold, the Dark Hold! That’s why she was acting like that! Sure. I could have bought that, BUT THEY NEVER SHOWED US THE DARK HOLD MANIPULATING HER. Again, they told us. Which does not connect us to the character. It’s lazy story-telling and not the normal Marvel way.
Now if they used the end credits of WandaVision of her kids shouting ‘help’ and used M.O.M as Wanda reacting to her children being in danger, fine yes. Let her be the unhinged mama bear to save her kids from a pending threat. BUT HER KIDS WERE NOT IN DANGER. They were in a safe, and loving home with another version of herself.
In M.O.M., Wanda’s just the stereotypical evil witch now who kills anyone who gets in the way of what she wants? Really? After all this work to showcase her past trauma, this is how you use her? I’m not mad, Kevin Feige, I’m just disappointed.
Which brings me to the biggest thing this movie got wrong for me. The branding of this one did NOT match what has come before. It’s like Sam Raimi said, “Screw the past decade of character and story work, I’m gonna do whatever I want.” And I know, Kevin wanted this to be the MCU’s first horror entry. Which is fine. Market it that way. Don’t pass it off as a normal Marvel film. I don’t object to the use of horror, but don’t do it at the expense of the characters and all the work that has come before it. It feels like a director that is out of touch with the source material. It doesn’t ring true.
I have so many other thoughts which is just too much to put here, so if you want to take a deeper dive into what went wrong for me, author Tina Moss and I go more in-depth about the writing/branding issue in our Bound By Books Podcast. Including our thoughts on that infamous “music fight.”
In the meantime, I’m going to do another watch of Moon Knight to cleanse my palate. THAT show, (which requires no prior Marvel knowledge so you can watch it even if you have never watched a single MCU show/movie) is tonally different from other MCU projects, yet still feels VERY much like an MCU entry because they put character work first. It’s funny, it’s got action, and while there is some blood/violence, it never becomes gory. And when they do that, I’m in. Sacrifice the character for the director’s vision like they did in M.O.M., and you might as well call it a DC movie (I said what I said.)