Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi: Thor Ragnarok & The Outer Limits

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, May 27, 2018 06:51pm | Post a Comment

Having A Movie Moment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. Both of these Blu-rays came out in the past three months.

Thor Ragnarok, Marvel Studios:
What a great movie! It's pure entertainment of the type that Marvel excels at. This movie works on manyThor Ragnarok levels; it's great science fiction, action, drama, and even comedy all simultaneously. It's got a great story, good acting and pacing, and wonderful sets, costumes, and special effects. Like every recent Marvel movie, the story feeds into the Avengers: Infinity War plot line, but it also succeeds quite well on its own. My daughter and I have been watching all the Marvel shows and movies and know how every related plot thread connects together, but my wife hasn't watched any of that stuff and she enjoyed this movie just as much as me when we watched it together. That's quite a feat, because the Marvel universe has gotten really complicated these days, so it takes great skill to make a new Marvel movie that doesn't need a guidebook for one to understand it.

This is the third Thor movie but it is almost equally a sequel and a prequel to the recent Avengers movies. It picks up with Thor wandering the universe performing his usual godlike deeds of heroism and searching for the Infinity Stones. He is imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur who tells him that his father Odin is no longer in his celestial home of Asgard and that the realm of the gods itself will soon be destroyed in a cosmic armaggedon known as Ragnarok. After dispatching Surtur and a really cool dragon, Thor returns home to find that his evil brother, Loki, has stolen the throne by disguising himself as Odin. After exposing Loki, Thor takes him to earth where they locate Odin with the help of Doctor Strange. Odin is dying, and his death releases his first born daughter, Hela, who destroys Thor's hammer, conquers Asgard, and casts Thor and Loki off into space. They land on a junkyard planet ruled by Jeff Goldblum who forces Thor to fight the Incredible Hulk in an area. Do Thor, the Hulk, and Loki escape? Is Asgard saved? I'm not going to give away any more spoilers, but let's just say that answering these two questions is tons of fun and pure Marvel entertainment.

All I'll say about the ending is that it is quite spectacular and perfectly dovetails into the new Avengers movie. It seems that Marvel can do no wrong these days and this movie is one of my favorites from the franchise. As usual, the best parts of this film came from the original comics it was based on. Thor was the creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and a lot of their original visions and story lines make it into this picture. All the major characters except Jeff Goldblum’s come straight from them. The same is true of the major plot points. The whole Surtur/ Hela/Ragnarok story is straight from Lee and Kirby's "Tales Of Asgard" series. Even the guest-staring Hulk is another Lee/Kirby creation. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the two greatest creators in the history of comics and the film makers were smart to stay close to their original vision. There are good reasons why the Marvel franchise is the most valuable in world history. Underneath all the special effects and million dollar budgets, there is a solid foundation of great characters and stories. Kirby's marvelous cosmic visions have also made it into all the recent films. It's too bad he didn't live long enough to see any of these movies. He would have loved them.

The Outer Limits: 1963-1964 Season One, Kino Lorber:
When I was a child, The Outer Limits traumatized me. Certain episodes I've never been able to forget. The Outer LimitsWhen I watched "The Mutant," it kept me awake for days. Every time I closed my eyes I saw the horrifying gigantic popping eyes of the main character; they haunted my nightmares for years. Other episodes pack a similar punch. "The Zanti Misfits" with it's huge human-faced stop motion insects is another set of images you won't soon forget. This episode is one of my favorite science fiction scripts from the sixties. The show was a gold mine of sixties stars and writing.

The series has been released in many formats over the years but now at long last it’s finally come out on Blu-ray and this is the way a box set should be done. It is beautifully designed with nice graphics that highlight The Outer Limits wave signal logo. The gatefold design opens to reveal seven discs that are firmly held in secure spindles. This is important because lots of box sets are so crappily designed these days that discs shake loose and get scratched while they are being shipped, which is a real pain in the ass if you are getting something big and expensive like this. The set is packed with commentaries and other extras but what really makes it worth the steep price of admission is the incredible re-mastered quality of the episodes themselves. They look flawless, no dust, grain, or scratches. You almost feel like you are watching reality through an open window instead of an old film on a TV screen. The special effects scenes look especially pristine, and there are details about the monsters and models that you've never been able to see before. Even though the special effects were primitive by today's CGI standards, one thing that is glaringly apparent in these new hi-def masters is that what they lacked in digital technology is more than made up for by the artistry of the special effects crew. In the hands of Jim Danforth and the rest of the crew at Project Unlimited, every alien world, spaceship, and monster just looks so fifties sci-fi badass cool that you'll want to watch these episodes over an over again.

The sound is equally improved, with the dialog crystal clear, and the wonderful background theme music has never sounded better. The Outer Limits is one of the best science fiction TV series ever made. This show along with The Twilight Zone and Star Trek set the gold standard for the science fiction shows of their era. If you don't trust me, Stephen King says basically the same thing in a quote on the back of the box. There were other shows from the sixties like Lost In Space and Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea that were just goofy fun, but The Outer Limits was actually a quality show with real literary value. The scripts are marvelous, filled with great characters and thought-provoking plots that frequently played off some of the major political themes of the time. This series was filmed in the depths of the cold war so there is an almost palpable dread of nuclear Armageddon that hangs over many of the episodes. The black and white color palette of the show makes these dark themes resonate even more strongly.

One of the most common themes in the show is that man's own inner failings will always be his worst enemies and even his advanced technology will not be enough to save him from himself. No episode illustrates this better than "The Architects of Fear," in which a group of scientists tries to transform one of their own members into an actual alien so that he can fake an invasion that will hopefully scare the nations of earth into uniting against an interstellar threat and not destroy each other with nuclear weapons. Their alien is horrifyingly successful, but, once again, human failings lead to an unexpected outcome. This episode is particularly sad and tragic, which is saying a lot since many of these episodes have dark endings. That was one of the things that made The Outer Limits stand out. In an era where every TV show had a happy, feel-good ending, The Outer Limits was not afraid to go where the plot led even if that was a sad, horrifying, or utterly pessimistic place. Joseph Stefano, the writer-producer of the series, didn’t pull punches and, as a result, many of these episodes will linger in your thoughts long after you've watched them.

Relevant Tags

Jeff Goldblum (2), Stan Lee (2), Jack Kirby (1), Comics (13), Superheroes (8), Sci-fi (52), Tv (35), The Outer Limits (3), Marvel (2), Thor (4), Film (186), Movie Moment (15), Jon Longhi (27), Joseph Stefano (1), Jim Danforth (2), Project Unlimited (1)