Full disclosure going into this. I’ve never really been interested in the Thor series and only find the character interesting when appearing in something that does interest me. This includes the various Marvel Cinematic Universe movies versus appearing in the Avengers movies. I have nothing against them and I’m sure great stories abound. I’m just not interested in them.
I am, however, a proponent of getting an adaptation and the characters in general correct for the sake of the audience. I believe you can please the fanbase without losing a new audience. It takes some effort but it is possible. It has been done in the past, but we have a generation of creators who don’t seem interested in anything beyond the base concept. This is, as I keep reminding folks, not a slam on the quality of the work itself. My usual example, the Battlestar Galactica remake, was a quality show but a terrible adaptation. Is the concept faithful to the original story.
From what I’ve heard Thor: Ragnarok was a fun movie but got so many of the characters wrong from the source material, and it certainly didn’t match the tone. This is not a complaint about director Taika Waititi, who is now set to make the next movie, Thor: Love And Thunder. A lot of people praised the movie for being more fun than the other two in the series, but it came at the cost of adaptation errors. The only one I can confirm is the Grandmaster making quips and being a bit out there. Tonally it was not right, or so goes the complaints I’ve heard. Naturally the fans of the character that has been around and enjoyed since the 1960s were not happy with the tonal shifts. If the first two movies were too dark this one was too light, and Waititi’s only benefit was being a better director than Joel Schumacher when he tried to do the same to Burton’s Batman.
A series of tweets collected by Bounding Into Comics highlights Waiti’s mindset going into this and his reaction to the fans. I’ve seldom see someone try so hard to make things worse since She-Ra & The Princesses Of Power told Teen Titans Go! to hold her root beer (they’re all underage to be drinking) but we’ve seen live-action Hollywood’s reaction to the source material versus their own vision. I’m not here to drop bricks on the director just because I disagree with his perspective. I think the benefit of not being a Marvel Thor fan allows me to have a cooler head about this. However, if fans are going to debate a director’s approach we need to understand where they’re coming from…before telling them they’re wrong.
The big issue of course comes from Waitit’s decision to base a movie around the “Jane Foster as Thor” storyline from the comics, a storyline derided by fans for the simple fact that Thor is his name. Using the POWER of Thor is one thing. Superman and Wonder Woman have done that, and they’re not even Marvel characters. When Thor was actually Donald Blake with superpowers it was one thing, but once they decided Blake was actually THE Thor and became Blake as punishment anyone else being Thor him(her)self becomes problematic. It would be like Patty Jenkins (the director of the Wonder Woman movies) taking over the Thor movies and still calling herself Taika Waititi. Unless that’s a stage name (perhaps his real name is Sam Collins or something) it would be odd. I did a commentary on that storyline and the Sam Wilson taking a step down in his career and identity by becoming Captain America #6 when he already has an established hero identity, the Falcon, who is already getting popular thanks to his appearances AS the Falcon. (And when being Captain America is a step down in your career you’ve already got a good thing going. See also Stephanie Brown becoming Batgirl after establishing herself as the Spoiler.) Jane becoming Valkyrie I could get behind, or establishing her own hero identity like Thunderstrike did would work as well.
Both tweets come from a place of anger rather than understanding, which is why I’m here. What Waititi doesn’t understand is that when you’re a fan of a particular work those characters mean something to you. Not as much as your family and friends unless you’ve had that bad a life and the worst family ever, but these characters gave them comfort and joy after a horrible day or while sick in the hospital or just because they wanted to read a good story. It’s not necessarily hating Jane Foster. Foster was Donald Blake’s nurse and as someone who has been dealing with medical issues as of late and being related to nurses I know how important and put upon they all are. I’ve heard stories is all I’m saying on the subject. Not horror stories but I’m getting off-track. In the movies her lack of presence in the last Avengers movie I’ve been able to see were because she was out doing good in the world WITHOUT the powers of a god. Thor’s fans understandably want to see Thor…the Thor that they knew, that didn’t quite match the Norse depiction (speaking of adaptation errors–which only became a problem when Blake turned out to be Thor himself) but was a superhero and protector of both Asgard and Midgard. That’s the Thor they want and no matter how much they may also like Jane and her relationship with Thor, she isn’t Thor. I’ll actually be coming back to those last three words.
What the posters don’t realize however, and I’ve discussed this in the past as well, is that Waititi probably doesn’t care about the Thor comics. (You can make the claim neither does Marvel lately but that’s another topic.) He may not have picked one up until he worked on Ragnarok. I’m of the opinion that he looked up whatever characters he could mold into his more comedic style and make a movie out of. That’s why you get a Grandmaster that doesn’t act like the one in the comics. For him these are just concepts to make a story out of, not a longstanding character that people know and a series people know how to adapt or continue correctly and still make a good story. He likes the concepts but is more interested in the types of stories he tells. The problem is he won’t relate that very well to his naysayers. In fact saying “I’ll ruin your mythos in a minute” shows an outright hostility to what came before, possibly because he can do it “better”. For example:
If that wasn’t a joke, then I just have to call him out on being a jerk…and that’s because the PG nature of my site falls short of the a-word I would use. This line I cannot defend at all. Again going back to a previous commentary, the less not-created-by-you a project is the more the fans’ complaints are justified. If I did a Thor movie fans’ complaints hold more weight than if they said I was doing something wrong about Captain Yuletide, and that’s at least based on established Christmas traditions and lore. Even then the moviegoers in general, and the fans of the characters and stories you’re adapting specifically, will tell you what they want by not going to the movie. Sure, the general audience who also couldn’t care less about comics might enjoy it, but imagine how much more support you’d get if you took the fans complaints and at least tried to see if they have any merit since they know Thor more than the guy who made one movie about him.
Also, what kind of ego do you have to have when you tell someone “you don’t know what you want until I give it to you”? Umm….yes, they do. They want a proper, well-made adaptation of the comic they enjoy and they expect the comic to not change so drastically that what they loved about it is no longer there. Sure, sometimes something we didn’t think about suddenly become something you crave. A recent Super-Team Family blog post featured a crossover between Captain Caveman, Mightor, and Godzilla. (The only thing missing is Devil Dinosaur.) My response in the comments was “How did you know I wanted to see this? I didn’t know I wanted to see this!” However, something like that is subjective to the individual and partially kidding, an indication that they came up with something to awesome for them to realize. There is no humility whatsoever in Waititi’s statement, but there is an unspoken declaration that “I’m smarter than you and I know how to make what you love better than you who actually loves it”. Different isn’t necessarily better if it’s a bad adaptation except to people who don’t care or outright despise what came before. Again, that’s not a commentary on the director’s skill because he hasn’t done anything I’ve seen. It’s a commentary on his attitude towards fans who don’t immediately bow down in praise of his vision. He sounds like the right director for a movie based on The Tick really. Not so much the tone of the Marvel Universe. Well, maybe Squirrel Girl and She-Hulk.
As the article I mentioned in the intro pointed out no she isn’t. At least that’s not her name any more than it is the real Thor or the others who have used Mjölnir in the past. The comic was called The Mighty Thor for the same reason his comrades had comic titles like The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Invincible Iron Man. Stan Lee loved flashy titles and alliteration and would use them as often as possible. The leader of the Fantastic Four is called Mister Fantastic and none of them had secret identities. Her name was Thor even though it shouldn’t have been but she doesn’t get to be “Mighty” any more than Beta Ray Bill, Frog Thor, Eric Masterson, or Thor himself. And no, she wasn’t “Thor Girl“, that was a different character who didn’t use the hammer, and has her own multiversal showing. Speaking of the Multiverse there’s a greater case that Jane’s hero name is “Thordis” than “Mighty Thor”, which is a name she chose on an alternate Earth. And that one married Odin. Long story, which I found through a fan wiki (because there’s one for almost everything), an easy bit of research Waititi couldn’t be bothered with because he only sees these as concepts for his style of storytelling, with no concern for the decades of continuity besides possibly an out of context Easter egg some writers and directors will use to say “see, we know the history, love us already” when it’s just for show since the heart of the characters and series are absent.
But this is the problem. Waititi is probably taking the complains personally, and many of them admittedly are. However, it’s not a comment on his skills, unless members of the everything for meeeeeeeeee club honestly don’t like his style. Then again, the feminists have their own everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeee members who are totally behind this. For all I know Taika Waititi is a great director but you don’t put Wes Craven on rom coms. Not every writer, actor, or director can make a proper adaptation or work in a certain style. The complains I hear are from fans of the character who just want a proper adaptation of Thor, Jane Foster, Loki, and anyone else traveling from the comics to the MCU. If they have problems with the technical aspects of the story like they have Captain Marvel they’ll say so. If they have problems with the adaptation they will also say so. A good movie can be a bad adaptation and a bad movie can be a good adaptation. The fans just want to have both, have seen it done with other properties including ones they enjoy, and want that for their characters. The attacks should never be personal, neither by the fans nor by the creators. We the fans need to understand where the creators are coming from and we the creators need to understand where the fans are coming from. In the end it’s the creators who need to listen to the fans and find a way to make the adjustments while still being true to their vision but the fans should be clearer about what their problem is, and that’s not easy to do on Twitter.
Especially when the creator is already openly hostile to them.