Thor: Ragnarok — third time the charm?

Thor: Ragnarok poster

Thor: Ragnarok has begun its international run and will debut in the United States next week. So far, critics have given it their seal of approval, far more than the hero’s two previous installments.

The new movie, with Chris Hemsworth returning as the Norse God of Thunder, has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the website that collects reviews.

That’s up from the 77 percent fresh rating for 2011’s Thor and the 66 percent for 2013’s Thor: The Dark World.

Thor has a reputation for being one of the stuffier of Marvel’s original comic book heroes. He was powerful, but not tortured the way Bruce Banner/Hulk was. Thor didn’t crack wise the way Peter Parker/Spider-Man did.

A common view among reviewers is Thor: Ragnarok has more humor compared with the earlier installments. Regardless, here’s a look at some non-spoiler excerpts from reviews.

RAFER GUZMAN, NEWSDAY: Thor: Ragnarok “turns down the Shakespearean pretensions, cranks up the humor and delivers what is essentially an action-comedy with swords and capes….It’s a close cousin to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ a high-energy lark that occasionally makes time for monsters, battles, bloodletting and spectacular special effects.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “Need a quick fix for the bleak dystopian epics flooding the multiplex? Take a hit off the laughing gas rising up out of Thor: Ragnarok, which may be the most fun you’ll ever have at a Marvel movie…As for Hemsworth, who showed his comedy chops in the femcentric Ghostbusters remake, the Australian actor seems liberated by the opportunity to shake off any trace of God-of-Thunder gravitas.”

Thor fights the Thing in a 1968 Fantastic Four comic drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott.

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, TIME: “Thor: Ragnarok is boyishly eager to reveal Thor’s goofy likability to us, as if it were something we hadn’t yet cottoned to. Directed by the enormously talented New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it’s well intentioned but ultimately numbing, an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma.”

LINDSEY BAHR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “The results are pretty decent, though perhaps not the total departure that had been hyped….But it’s a fairly flawed movie on the whole with egregious tonal shifts. Some of the gags go on too long with the Hulk with too little payoff and sometimes it seems as though there’s a mandate that every 25 minutes there will be a big fight no matter what.”

ROE MCDERMOTT, HOT PRESS: “Similarly, the action sequences – though well-executed – are lacking in originality, resulting in an utterly generic offering. You’ll watch, be lightly amused for two hours, and go back to forgetting that Thor exists.”

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Thor loses hammer, fights Hulk in new trailer

It has been more than three years since the last Thor solo movie and almost two years since the Thunder God was seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

With that in mind, the teaser trailer for Thor: Ragnarok is out today, marking the return of Chris Hemworth’s Thor. While technically a Thor solo movie, the Hulk (also last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron) is around. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, naturally, is lurking.

Thor’s enchanted hammer appears to be destroyed, so you know the son of Odin is going to be tested. Later, Thor and the Hulk fight in a gladiator-style setting. Take a look if you’re so inclined. The movie is out in November.

Happy birthday to one of Marvel’s unsung heroes

A Jack Kirby cover featuring Ant Man, one of the characters scripted by Larry Lieber

A Jack Kirby cover featuring Ant Man, one of the characters scripted by Larry Lieber

Oct. 26 is the 85th birthday of Larry Lieber, one of the unsung heroes of the Marvel Comics universe.

Lieber scripted the earliest Marvel stories involving Ant Man (the Henry Pym version), Thor and Iron Man.

Those characters (especially Iron Man) helped build up the Marvel Studios juggernaut. Yet, Lieber’s name doesn’t resonate with the general public.

That’s ironic because Lieber is the younger brother of Stan Lee, 93, the one person from the old days at Marvel that practically everybody knows. (If case you haven’t guessed, Lieber is the surname the two men shared.)

Stan did the plotting for those early adventures. But it’s generally conceded that Stan’s plots weren’t very detailed and the artists (especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko)  did a lot of the heavy lifting in devising the stories.

Still, that left Lieber, actually scripting the stories plenty of leeway. The Bleeding Cool website, in a 2011 post, quoted from a Lieber deposition in a since-settled lawsuit by the Kirby family against Marvel. In the deposition, Lieber says he came up with the name “Uru” for the magical material Thor’s hammer was made of.

Despite all that, Lieber’s name receded. In Thor 158, the bulk of the story is a reprint from the character’s first story. Yet, it was presented as being “Pandemoniously Produced by Stan (The Man) Lee and Jack (King) Kirby,” with no mention of Lieber.

Lieber departed Marvel in the 1970s to edit a short-lived line of new comics. He would later rejoin Marvel and drew the Spider-Man comic strip.

In the 21st century, Marvel is big business (mostly a movie operation that still publishes comic books). A lot of the Marvel stalwarts — Jack Kirby, John Buscema and Gene Colan among them — aren’t with us anymore.

Larry Lieber is, and he is one of those who helped make Marvel big business.

Skyfall sets 007 record for U.S. opening

UPDATE (Nov. 12): The revised final figure for Skyfall’s opening weekend is North America is $88.4 million according to a story at BLOOMBERG.COM.

ORIGINAL POST: Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, sold $87.8 million in tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, breaking the previous 007 record of $67.5 million for 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Daniel Craig in Skyfall scores a 007 U.S. box office record.


Here’s an excerpt of a story at BLOOMBERG.COM

“Skyfall,” the latest James Bond film and the third starring Daniel Craig, led the U.S. and Canadian box office with a franchise-record $87.8 million in ticket sales for Sony Corp. (6758) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
(snip)

“They’ve done an amazing job keeping the brand strong and relevant,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It’s the oldest brand out there in the movie industry so the fact that 50 years later they’re doing record business shows that they’ve handled the property very well.”

Pandya expects the installment to gross more than $900 million globally in theaters.

For some perspective, Skyfall’s U.S. opening was higher than some recent popular comic book-based movies, including Captain America ($65 million), and Thor ($65.7 million), both released in 2011. If Skyfall can secure $900 million in worldwide ticket sales, that would get it close to the likes of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, each of which generated $1 billion in ticket sales. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, has said The Dark Knight helped influence Skyfall.

Meanwhile, the Box Office Mojo Web site estimates that Skyfall has total worldwide ticket sales to date of $518.6 million, including $428.6 million outside the U.S. and Canada.

Two Thor credits of interest to 007 fans

You have to watch the scroll of credits in Thor’s end titles (the movie hit theaters on May 6). But for die-hard 007 fans, they’ll catch your attention:

Second Unit Director VIC ARMSTRONG

Armstrong began his association with James Bond films as a stuntman on You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In the latter, he doubles George Lazenby who, as 007, nearly skis off a ledge of a Swiss mountain. Later, he was second unit director/chief stunt arranger on three Bond movies: Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

THOR will return in THE AVENGERS

This device mimicks the early 007 movies, starting with From Russia With Love (THE END…NOT QUITE THE END…JAMES BOND will return in the next Ian Fleming thriller, GOLDFINGER), where the Bond filmmakers told the audience the intended title of the next 007 movie. It lasted through Octopussy (which promised the next movie would be titled From a View to a Kill, later shortened to just A View To a Kill). The first couple of Christopher Reeve Superman movies also adapted the technique (Superman The Movie had, “Next Year, Superman II” while Superman II had, “Coming Soon, Superman III”)

In the case of the Marvel Comics character, The Avengers will come out next year and include Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Hawkeye and other characters.