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Hollywood director James Gunn was fired last week after conservative activists consolidated and posted his long history of rape and pedophile “jokes,” in addition to tweets that were shocking for the sake of being shocking.
The interesting thing about Mr. Gunn’s “jokes” is that guys like me would not have been aware of them had he not been the kind of person who climbs upon a moral pedestal to lecture President Trump and Roseanne Bar about “abhorrent” rhetoric.
The rise of internet busybodies who destroy careers by spotlighting a single tweet can be traced to left-wing ideologues — often times guys like Patton Oswalt — who are furious that their Frankenstein monster has turned on them.
The commander in chief must be intellectually flogged for lewd comments he made about women many years ago, but Mr. Oswalt is now upset that a sustained flow of pedo and rape “jokes” by Mr. Gunn resulted in his termination from Disney.
What makes the situation more pathetic is that a large population on social media see nothing wrong with his “jokes.” Mr. Gunn deleted at least 10,000 tweets in a very short amount of time to cover up his disturbing behavior (as a 40-year-old man, mind you), yet many observers think Disney should have yawned and said, “Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here.”
The lesson of the day: Don’t go finger-wagging at politicians and fellow entertainers about “abhorrent” rhetoric if your past includes many years worth of sexual jokes about minors. That seems like it would be common sense, but then again common sense is in short supply as of 2018.
If you’d like to hear my full thoughts on Mr. Gunn’s firing, then feel free to check out my recent live-stream with the multi-talented Brett R. Smith. We wrap up the discussion with commentary on his latest project with artist Timothy Lim and writer Chuck Dixon: Trump’s Space Force.
You can check out the Indiegogo campaign here.
There will come a time many years from now when film historians will analyze Marvel Studios, and some of them will rightfully conclude that Thor: Ragnarok won over critics and fans despite its forgettable script. Producers gave the world a $180 million stick of cinematic bubble gum and the world cheered.
Once upon a time, superhero fans watched Thor movies in which actor Chris Hemsworth and his supporting cast attempted to channel literary classics like Beowulf. Director Kenneth Branagh infused Thor (2011) with tinctures of Shakespearean tragedy, while Alan Taylor churned out similar work on Thor: The Dark World (2013).
All that is over with the arrival of director Taika Waititi, who has the first “family-friendly” Marvel Studios/Disney movie that drops an “orgy” reference into a scene involving the cosmic equivalent of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous “Lolita Express.”
Thor: Ragnarok is essentially two movies mashed into one. Half of Ragnarok involves a ancient prophecy in which Asgard is captured by Thor’s sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) and ultimately destroyed by a giant demon named Sutur; the other half deals with an exiled Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) fighting as a gladiator on a planet ruled by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). The god of thunder and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) end up stranded on the planet as well, but they soon find a way to escape through “The Devil’s Anus.”
The two brothers are helped along the way by a disillusioned Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and the whole thing is tied together by a series of jokes that often follow (i.e., undermine) dramatic scenes.
In short, Ragnarok is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously — even as it sometimes asks the audience to do so. It is a movie that is seemingly so terrified of being parodied at the MTV Movie Awards that it decided to deny them the opportunity. Chris Hemsworth, at times, seems as though he’s parodying himself playing Thor. Potential moviegoers simply need to imagine a Batman movie in which the actor was required to alternately channel Joel Schumacher’s notorious Batman Forever (1985) and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008).
“Even when you had two eyes, you still only see half the picture,” Odin (Anthony Hopkins) says to Thor during a near-death experience. “Are you ‘Thor, the god of hammers’? Hmmm? That hammer is to help you control your power — focus it. It’s not your source of strength. […] Asgard is not a place, never was. This could be Asgard. Asgard is where our people stand. Even now — right now — those people need your help.”
“I’m not as strong as you,” Thor replies.
“No. You’re stronger,” says Odin.
The exchange is meant to be poignant, but it comes after nearly two hours of improv and slapstick comedy — it’s hard to appreciate Hopkins’ turn as Odin when the audience is still wondering how a thinly veiled masturbation joke involving Thor’s hammer made it into the finished product.
The question that fans of the genre need to ask themselves after the joke-a-minute Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and now Ragnarok is this: If a superhero movie struggles not to inject a gag of some kind into every heartfelt moment, then what does it say about the audience? What does it say about our culture?
If you’re looking for a Marvel movie that most closely resembles Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), then run out an see Ragnarok before it leaves theaters. If you expect your god of thunder to possess a Game of Thrones gravitas, then stay far away.
Editor’s note: Check out my “Thor: Ragnaflop?” live-stream if you want to hear almost two hours of Thor-talk.