It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s what the holiday music already playing at the mall says and that’s what the first weekend of November has promised us for the last few years. Where the first weekend of May is the official start to the summer movie season and for a decade has been occupied by a Marvel movie, the last few years have proven the superhero masterminds have found their semi-annual counterpart. November has been the start of the winter movie season for as long as I can remember but 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, 2014’s Big Hero 6 and 2016’s Doctor Strange show that Marvel is staking another claim on the release calendar. It could even be argued that 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph was Disney’s first attempt and once they proved they could launch yet another season the Marvel flag began to fly. Can one studio… I mean, one branch of one studio… really be so powerful that they will forever remain unchallenged in their ownership of the two most guaranteed blockbuster weekends of the year?
5 Ways to Prep - Thor: Ragnarok
By George Rose
November 2, 2017
Technically, this question was already answered in early 2016. Not long before that, both Batman vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War were scheduled for the first weekend of that May. Marvel had owned it for a while by that point but DC Comics assumed that a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman mash-up would be stronger than Captain America 3. Then Iron Man’s presence in the movie was beefed up and the Captain’s third movie became the unofficial Avengers 2.5. Could DC’s best heroes in their first movie together finally knock Marvel’s millionth mash-up movie from the throne? No. DC chickened out, opened up earlier than Captain 3 so they could take first round of the revenue, earned less opening weekend, scored worse reviews, made less all together, and almost ended the DC movie universe.
In 2016, Marvel proved their dominance. Captain America 3 had great reviews, earned over a billion dollars and helped solidify Marvel as the everlasting gobstopper of Hollywood. Thor: Ragnarok isn’t here to prove anything new. It’s here to reinforce what we already know. Marvel movies are great, plain and simple. Thor 3’s reviews are currently 96% positive. It’s early estimates are showing this will sell more like a Marvel mash-up than a solo-Thor feature. It comes as no surprise that Marvel has featured Thor with Hulk, Loki, Doctor Strange and some new friends in the advertising. It seems to be paying off; a few weeks ago Thor 3 was tracking for a $100 million debut and DC’s upcoming Justice League was hovering around $150 million. Now both estimates are closer to $125 million. Only time will tell if Marvel’s non-Avengers team-ups can continue to dominate over DC’s best offerings. For now, here are a few ways you can prep for the first contender in Hollywood’s latest box office battle royale: the mighty Thor!
Way to Prep #1 - Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Thor: Ragnarok is part Thor 3, part Avengers 2.75, part Planet Hulk and all awesome-ness! The two true Avengers that appear in Ragnarok are Thor and Hulk. The last time we saw either of these guys was in Age of Ultron (aka Avengers 2) with both skipping out on Civil War (aka Captain America 3, aka Avengers 2.5). The reason for this lies within the final moments of Ultron. By this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) we have learned of a few of the six Infinity Stones that will eventually make up the Infinity Gauntlet that Thanos will try to obtain in Avengers 3 in 2018. If this short description of the situation confuses you, watch this movie..
Basically, Thor seems to have the best understanding in the group of what these Infinity Stones are. This is because the stones come from different parts of the galaxy and Thor is the only Avenger from another realm. His ancient race of Asgardians is well versed in such magical things which is why he leaves Earth at the end of Avengers 2, so he can learn more about these stones. Hulk also went on his own adventure at the end of the movie and nobody knows where. He was missing in Avengers 2.5 with no mention of his whereabouts. Thor 2 is considered one of the weakest Marvel movies which put Thor 3 in jeopardy but Hulk has never been more popular after he joined the Avengers. A solo-Hulk movie is in high demand at the moment and Planet Hulk is one of the fanboys’ favorite storylines. Adding Planet Hulk to Thor’s galaxy-hopping shenanigans was the smartest thing Marvel could do to correct expectations for Thor 3, and watching Avengers 2 is the smartest thing you could do before watching Ragnarok.
Way to Prep #2 - Green Lantern (2011)
Maybe Thor 3’s great reviews are because of the untapped genius of first-time blockbuster director Taika Waititi. Maybe it’s because every time you hold a Marvel movie up next to a DC movie, the latter ends up green with envy. Both of these concepts can be found in Green Lantern, DC’s initial attempt at forming their Justice League. After 2006’s Superman Returns failed to relaunch America’s favorite alien that’s invaded Earth, they tried taking the human most audiences barely knew and sent him out to space. Despite Ryan Reynold’s popularity and the assumption that all comic book movies will earn mega money, Green Lantern showed that DC doesn’t know how to handle their characters or how to properly build a release schedule.
DC tried to launch Green Lantern as if most audiences knew him, or at least knew Reynolds enough to give the movie a shot. The film barely broke $100 million on the back of 3D effects being a new novelty, with low-rated reviews and high production costs ruining any chance of a sequel. Needless to say, Green Lantern is nowhere to be found in the upcoming Justice League. Unless the League does well financially, you may not see DC’s version of an intergalactic superhero happen again anytime soon. Aside from decent 3D effects, the only worthwhile part of Green Lantern is the presence of Taika Waititi as Reynold’s funny friend. Before he was an up-and-coming director, he was a scene-stealing actor. You should watch Green Lantern before Thor 3 so you can get to know the face behind the name, and so you can laugh at DC’s version of a space hero before Waititi strikes lighting with Ragnarok.
Way to Prep #3 - Vacation (2015)
Sometimes my recommendation is meant to help you appreciate a specific actor from a movie. To help you like Ragnarok better, it would be helpful to already like Thor himself. Chris Hemsworth stars as the hammer-wielding god of thunder. Usually, I’d recommend a movie that makes you appreciate this person’s acting or appreciate them as a certain kind of talent. Ragnarok is being touted as one of Marvel’s funniest movies, so maybe we should look at a comedy that Chris has starred in before. Vacation is one of those movies.
Is it a great comedy? No. It is, however, better than the negative reviews suggest. So then why would I recommend it? Because Chris Hemsworth walks around in his underwear, showing off his ripped abs and bulging biceps and enormous pecs and… his throbbing flesh hammer?! When Transformers 5 came out, I suggested you watch Boogie Nights so you could see Mark Whalberg’s big fake wiener in the hopes that the imagery of that would boost your interest in his latest blockbuster. That’s what I’m suggesting you do again here. Vacation is the closest you’ll get to seeing Hemsworth in the nude and it does not disappoint in that department. Not only is his little-Thor a mighty demi-god but it makes for one of the best laughs in the movie. Hemsworth has proven his comedic chops in both Vacation and Ghostbusters, but only one of the two will have you drooling with joy and help you blindly appreciate his entire body of work.
Way to Prep #4 -Thor (2011)
Usually the rule is “only one film per franchise” on the list. I tend to consider movies from a cinematic universe as one franchise. This works for DC films because there are only a handful of films in that universe at the moment, so there will only be one DC movie to prep for prior to Justice League. However, Marvel has almost 20 movies in their MCU. So when a universe exceeds ten films I think I’m allowed to pick two movies from the group as long as they are from different franchises. Avengers 2 helps you understand where we last left Thor and Hulk prior to Ragnarok, but only the first Thor movie can help you understand how he became worthy of his power and why his hammer is so important to him. This will help you understand the impact of his hammer being destroyed in Ragnarok, a prominent plot point shown in the commercials. I also recommend this movie because it’s amazing. Kenneth Branagh directed this beautiful movie and pumped it full of incredible visuals, a worthwhile love story and exciting action. Like Waititi, Branagh was once known for acting but now is a great director. Luckily Marvel knows talent when they see it and Thor is about to rock again as the most magical Avenger around.
Way to Prep #5 - Cinderella (2015)
After Thor was a success, Disney hired Branagh again to direct the live-action update of their classic cleaning lady. With princess movies all the rage and twisted takes on those proving successful (like Maleficent) Branagh decided to kick things up a notch by… taking it back to basics. Cinderella didn’t go over-the-top with magic, it didn’t “update” the story we all know and love with something more modern, and it didn’t make us sympathize with the villain. In fact, the only parts of the villain that were blown out of proportion were her glorious costumes and nasty glare. She was so elegant in her evil that only an Oscar winning actress could have pulled off that vile demeanor with ease.
That actress, Cate Blanchett, is at it again in Ragnarok as the main villain, Hela. Her evil and acting know no bounds, and Blanchett’s performance is already being highlighted as one of the strongest part of the film. Here’s hoping that her return to playing the dastardly bad girl helps Waititi launch a mainstream career the way she helped Branagh reinforce his. In that same vein, check back next week to see how you can prep for winter’s next release and Branagh’s latest directorial effort, Murder on the Orient Express.