A look into why Thor’s embrace of quirkiness gives me hope for cosmic superhero movies.
Sources images, via Twitter @Marvel | Art by Noel Ransome
I'm not going to waste my time telling you who Jeff Goldblum is; you already know who Jeff Goldblum is. Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum. My VICE colleague Jill Krajewski knows Jeff Goldblum. He's the "um" before the "uh." The man whose lips purse and lick at life's stupidness. And the artist whose hands fold, wave and dance the dance of an evil genius in training. I mean of course, you may know Jeff from The Fly , Jurassic Park , Earth Girls are Easy , Independence Day , The Big Chill , or The Invasion of the Body Snatchers etc etc...but forget all that. Listen, the point is that you can't sit there and tell me that you don't know Jeff Goldblum, because if you've seen Jeff somewhere, you've seen Jeff everywhere. Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum, and everything he touches, has the opportunity to become a Jeff Goldblum. So by proxy, Thor: Ragnarok is Jeff Goldblum.
Now of course, I mentioned Thor, so you're expecting me to pull some picturesque summary around Norse gods, civil war, immigration and the bombastic alien story that is this movie; but I'm not going to do that (here's google). What I'm really about is the embrace of this film's quirkiness. Jeff, much like this movie (I'll explain later), love him or hate him, is who he is. He can't really be anything else and still be loved. He's so much a personality actor that it takes a suspension of disbelief just to trust that his character in Ragnarok, The Grand Master, isn't just Jeff Goldblum, golding the hell out in a damn gold bathrobe. He still isn't the kind to take a single line of dialog and go from point A to B without adding an "ugh", and is still cheesy enough to put the "ass" on a Norse god's mention of Asgard.
Yes, The Grandmaster has something you can call a backstory about some galactic ruler with a fascination around games and manipulation like many of Jeff's past characters; but in the end, it isn't about that shit. It's about Goldblum's authentic, fingers-to-lips personality that almost always overrides it all. Goldblum is at a stage in his career where he's accepted who he is. It's far and away from the dark days of Death Wish, where he was cast as a rapist thug. What we get here instead, is the fundamentally Jeff. No role can really change that now. And to that I say thank god. Because it's really this movie's Jeff's Gold-ness that balances everything that attempts to be remotely serious in this movie. Sure, a lot of this can be attributed to director Taika Waititi's willingness to allow Jeff to do whatever the hell he wanted to do; it's a move that extends to every element of this film through its down-to-earth foolishness.
When I think about Thor, as a comic book fan, it always brought this painful process of trying to decode its odd comic-book canon to the regular folk. In the past, these films (Thor, Thor: The Dark World) stood as attempts to bring the fantastical into the real world with all its real world-ness. As a grown-ass man looking in, I never felt right with that. There's always been a certain suspension of belief I've had to demand. Add in the dumb filmic logic ( X-Men, Superman Returns, etc) of siding on the air of "realism" and it's like a infotainment commercial trying to be "hip." The shit never sits right.
Previous attempts at Thor in the hands of Kenneth Branagh, mixed incredibly heavy moments of Shakespearean gravitas with small jabs of comedy. Characters like Odin, Heimdall and Volstagg, with the exception Loki, were exactly who they were, Gods and shit. Their on screen appeal mostly centered around "ability" rather than personality. Interject a predictable, earth girl meets cosmic foreigner romance trope (Natalie Portman as Jane Foster), and you had a movie trying to justify its god-ruled fantasy with current-world fundamentals.
Thor: Ragnarok on the other hand feels like an embrace of its inner Goldblum-ness: fluorescent colours, 1980s hair metal, and a script deserving of its own laugh track. There's a decided air of "fuck that" to anything "normal" attached to this flick - just a damn, strange-ass comic book story, nothing more. And Jeff Goldblum's air of authenticity, humour and eccentricity is all over this shit. From the blue eyed, blonde, oh-so-perfect comic book Valkyrie, turned bad, black and powerful drunkard capturer of handsome men (Tessa Thompson). Then there's our newly insecure, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) himself, who's surprisingly almost as comedy rich as Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool.
There's no attempt to persuade the audience that any of this is grounded. Viking space gods with super powers are just Viking space gods with super fucking powers. I don't need explanations for why main villain Hela (Thor's sister played by Cate Blanchett), has a deer antler crown that transitions from her hair. It is what it is.
Now I'm not saying I got qualms with the The Dark Knights of the world that wanna be all depressing and brooding. I'm not asking to feel a Jeff Goldblum-ness all over my antisocial hero shit. Characters need to be dealt with on appropriate levels, so I don't want to see DC or Marvel films trying to be something they aren't. The Thor series tried to be something on that level in its early lifespan. It established a character from brooding beginnings, and is now embracing itself with a new self-awareness that seems far more in line with its colourful, trippy cosmic, comic book roots (like Deadpool before it). To put it simply, Thor: Ragnarok is perfect marvel movie for Jeff Goldblum, and thankfully, Jeff Goldblum is the perfect oddball for Thor: Ragnarok.
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