My friend and I came out of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 convinced that the Infinity Wars movies, and the big Avengers/Guardians crossover therein, were mostly going to consist of Tony Stark and Peter Quill trying to out-Daddy-Issue each other. As well as both having facial hair and a penchant for roguish one-liners, the two heroes have a few things in common, most notably their parental situation: like Tony, Peter Quill has a complicated and at times antagonistic relationship with his father that forms the emotional core of a whole movie, and a sense of wistful mourning for his mother, who was sweet, kind, and only shows up in a few scenes. She’s also dead due to circumstances that were in no way her fault, so they can bond over that as well. At this point, maybe Thor can chime in too, perhaps initiating a group hug, since he also has a complicated relationship with his main-character dad and grieves over his good and nurturing dead mum. Jeez, is Infinity Wars just going to be one big session of father-related angst and mother-related mourning?
Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father to main character status once, Marvel, and that’s shame on you. Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father twice, still shame on you. Do this three times for three different superheroes and it’s officially a pattern. What exactly is going on here, and why does it annoy me so much?
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Ah, the Thors—possibly the weakest MCU instalments, which still makes them better and more fun than a lot of other superhero movies. Like Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor presents an interesting and rather ridiculous premise for filmmakers to turn Big Screen Awesome, with the comic’s canon drawn (increasingly loosely) from Norse mythology, pulling that whole “advanced beings visited earth and primitive people decided they were gods” thing. The movies do, however, manage to weave together comics and myth into a story of world-hopping, cloaked heroes speaking olden-timey English and shiny science-magic that we can suspend our disbelief enough to enjoy and get involved with.
And gosh is it pretty (no, not just Chris Hemsworth). The first movie makes full use of its design and lighting to world-build, creating different atmospheres entirely for the three settings—Asgard, Jodenheim, and a tin-pot town in the middle of New Mexico (a nice change, really, after all this big city destruction). Asgard is all majestic camera pans and golden sunshiney lighting, the architecture just the right mix of fantastical and spacey not to look tacky. Hovering towers with Norse swirls all over them? Yes, you can make it mix. They take concepts like the Rainbow Bridge guarded by an all-seeing man in gold and make them believable and mesmerising to look at (no, not just Idris Elba), managing to look cool at the same time as setting up an otherworldly and beautiful atmosphere for the place that, yes, is rather godly.
The home of the Frost Giants is all in blues and blacks by comparison, and feels immediately cold and unforgiving, not just because of the colour scheme inversion to Asgard but in the cinematography. Earth too feels notably different, but not simply because it’s drab: that setting too has its own specific colouring and lighting (and many, many diagonal camera angles) to make it interesting in its own right, in a clutter-of-humanity kind of way, as opposed to the desolation-of-Frost-Giants kind of way or a majesty-of-gods kind of way. Each place is a character of its own, all elements of design carefully chosen and wonderfully executed to make them feel as vibrant as each other in significantly different ways. Where did this tact with characterisation and prettiness go in Thor: The Dark World? Fell off the Bifrost, I can only imagine. Continue reading