Doctor Who Christmas Specials: The Moffat Era (Part 2)

Last Christmas

It’s never just a fun little sci-fi adventure, there’s always at least one extra layer. The whole show is like this, delivering a message even if you don’t notice it, but it’s especially true of these festive episodes which pick the most impactful ideals. This time, The Twelfth Doctor and Clara face off against face-hugging aliens that send people to sleep as they slowly dissolve their brains and only Santa Clause can stop them. It’s all very silly, a little dark at times and constantly keeps the audience guessing but the episode’s meaningful message is hidden in plain sight – Last Christmas. As is pointed out during the adventure, every Christmas is somebody’s last with someone else. What’s upsetting is that you don’t know it’s the last Christmas until the day itself has passed. Christmas is finite, lasts for one day out of the year, and a lot can change in between celebrations. Relationships can end and lives can be lost so every Christmas should be cherished.

This doesn’t mean that the season should be without grief and the episode makes that clear too. Clara is facing her first Christmas without the love of her life Danny Pink. When she finds herself celebrating the day with him in a deadly dream, she contemplates allowing herself to die knowing that she will do so at her happiest. Ultimately, she allows herself to wake up because, while people may not always be with us, the memories made with them are. And what is Christmas for if not making memories?

The Husbands of River Song

Christmas specials aren’t designed to flow neatly into each other. There’s a year of real time between each and a whole series-worth of storytelling. Companions come and go, villains are fought and defeated, The Doctor’s appearance occasionally changes. However, if any era was close to having it’s own structure, it’s this one. The theme of Last Christmas carries over as beloved femme fatale River Song makes her final appearance to fight alongside The Doctor. Having been introduced by Moffat during the RTD era, it makes sense that he would wish to give her closure, especially since her timeline has been so turbulent. Her and The Doctor are never meeting in the right order but here, their timelines finally sync up, in her final adventure before that fateful trip to The Library.

This episode almost mirrors that first meeting, where the Tenth Doctor didn’t know who she was, by having her fail to recognise him. She is forever seeking him out and is aware of every face from his first regeneration cycle but is unaware that he has been gifted a new one with a brand new face. Of course, this doesn’t last forever and fans finally get the River/Doctor dynamic where they both have all the details. It’s a melancholy meeting because we and The Doctor know that this is their final night together at the Singing Towers of Darillium. She spends the majority of the episode oblivious to his presence and believes he doesn’t truly care about anyone because he can’t afford to as the universes protector. His final act of love for her proves her wrong in one of the sweetest and most heartbreaking moments of the show because of course he cares. He doesn’t protect the universe because he wants to be praised or rewarded, he does it because it’s right and, above all, it’s kind. If there was ever any way to approach the year ahead…there it is.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Superheroes are an interesting concept. Everybody lives a double life to an extent, hiding at least one secret from everyone they know, but superheroes take that to the extreme. They invite the age old query “if you had powers and anonymity, would you use them for good or evil?” which can often lead to some hefty introspection. The stories can be silly (Shoutout to The Condiment King) but at their core they usually say something about humanity. Superman fights for truth, justice and a better tomorrow while Batman fights for what is right even if his methods can be a little sketchy. This episode explores much of that idea – erring on the Superman side of things.

Of course, one could argue that The Doctor is something of a superhero himself. He sweeps in from nowhere when there is danger, barely ever sticks around to receive any gratitude and almost never tells anyone his real name. The main difference is that he isn’t living two seperate lives, there’s no Bruce Wayne to his Batman. However, like many, he has two very different faces. The public Doctor laughs in the face of danger whilst the private Doctor is sadder because he knows nobody can see. This special sees him grappling with the loss of River Song, meaning it also flows quite nicely from the previous special. His current companion Nardole (again, from the previous special) is doing what he can to help but the only true cure for grief is time. There’s no antidote for this pain, it just has to be lived with until one day you find you’ve barely thought about it at all. Anyone who can do that is a true superhero.

Twice Upon A Christmas

The twelfth Doctor has always been underrated. It’s no secret that a large section of the general public stopped watching the show when Russell T Davies left and that numbers continued to dwindle as the Moffat years went on. It’s a genuine shame because, whilst the Eleventh Doctor was good, this Twelfth incarnation was everything the famous Time Lord should be. He was mysterious, charismatic, charming, fantastical and just a little bit grumpy. Actor Peter Capaldi once said that he was aiming to channel all the men who had come before him, particularly classics like William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee, which absolutely comes across. It’s particularly prevalent here as a regenerating Twelfth Doctor encounters a regenerating First Doctor portrayed by David Bradley.

Bradley’s characterisation isn’t perfect, being overly sexist in a way that Hartnell never was, but has the same inquisitive nature and cheeky attitude. He’s clearly written this way to demonstrate how far society has (allegedly) come since 1963in terms of the attitude towards women but the show was never like that. It has always represented the best of humanity, regardless of the year. The very first episode was produced by the late Verity Lambert – a woman – and directed by the talented Waris Hussien – a gay, British Indian – which set the standard for representation behind the screen as well as on it. This episode features the introduction of Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor, which was a landmark moment in the shows history, but the plot isn’t building up to her specifically. With both the First and Twelfth Doctors refusing to regenerate, it’s about how far this show has come and how long it could continue to go. Sure, Jodie gets a couple extra seconds to really bask in her presence but then it’s straight back into business as usual. Pretty much sums up the end of the year too. Let’s all take a little moment to bask in the year just gone before diving into the one to come.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials: The Moffat Era (Part 1)

A Christmas Carol

Probably the most well known Christmas tale aside from the Nativity Story and for good reason. The tale of miserable miser Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart is changed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, has everything. It’s filled with all the joy and heartache that the yuletide season can bring as well as a sprinkling of scares but it primarily features an important message about life itself. Every single adaptation, regardless of quality, manages to capture at least an inkling of that spirit because the story at it’s source is so pure, and this episode is no exception. Crotchety curmudgeon Ezran Sardick is unwilling to allow a spaceship to land on the planet whose skies he controls, risking the lives of all onboard, until The Eleventh Doctor pulls a Christmas Carol on him. In a fascinating twist to the classic tale, The Doctor spends many Christmases with him and a young woman named Abigail who Ezra falls in love with despite her short lifespan. It switches between these adventures in the past and Old Kazran in the present as he deals with these newly acquired teenage memories. All the elements of the globally famous book are here, just adapted slightly and with a timeline twist that only The Whoniverse could provide. 

This is notably the very first Christmas special where The Doctor is joined by his full time companions, in this case the recently married Amy Pond and Rory Williams, as well as the third time that he joins in with a Christmas dinner. It also features real snow, which will become a constant for this era, and zero on-screen deaths, which will not be a constant ever again. As far as Christmases for the timelord go, this is a fairly relaxed one (unless you count the shark).

The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

Christmas isn’t easy for everyone. It’s a special day for many but, even for them, life carries on. After all, December 25th is just one of 365 days in the year. This particular episode sees newly war-widowed Madge taking her son and daughter to an uncle’s country house for the holidays. Waiting for them is the house’s new caretaker – The Doctor – who has recently faked his death in front of his friends (Amy, Rory and River) meaning he is the loneliest he has been in quite some time. The messaging in this episode is likely to hit harder than in previous years as it deals directly with processing grief. Madge knows that if she tells her children that their father is gone, then they will forever link that to this time of year, which is heartbreaking enough on it’s own, but it’s the very human way that The Doctor responds that may cause a few tears. His response is one of the most meaningful lines The Doctor, or any other character on the show, has ever uttered: What’s the point of them being happy now when they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.”

It’s impactful on its own but it means more coming from The Doctor at this particular moment because kindness always means more when it comes from someone who needs it the most. He just wants to provide a magical Christmas for this family, knowing it’s something he can never have, especially with those closest to him. Eventually, the adventure ends and Madge gives him some tough motherly love about being with those you love at Christmas which leads to The Doctor to visit the Ponds and unveiling the truth of his survival. It’s another beautiful, quiet moment that requires no dialouge to convey how much this reunion means to him. Actions speak louder than words and choosing who you spend Christmas with is one of the most impactful actions of all.

The Snowmen

Love isn’t always easy, especially if it ends in loss. Unfortunately, this lesson is often learned the hard way – through first hand experience. The world feels unjust and cruel, like nothing will ever matter again. It’s easy to shut yourself away from everyone and become ambivalent to those who still care because having feelings again just opens you up to more pain. This is the situation The Doctor finds himself in as the episode begins, only to be pushed into a plot involving carnivorous snowmen and a secretly cockney nanny, but his heart isn’t in it initially. This incarnation of The Doctor was known and loved for his whimsical delight and enthusiasm, which was present in his previous special, so to see him like this is upsetting. It feels wrong.

Of course, as the adventure progresses so does he. He finds himself lost in the mystery and fails to realise how much fun he’s having until he clocks himself in a mirror. Without even thinking about it, he has adorned his iconic bowtie, which he’d abandoned it when he no longer wanted to be The Doctor. It’s a small moment but it’s poignant as those moments often are. All it takes is a small moment of self reflection (metaphorical or literal) to remember how good things used to be and to realise that they could be again. Sure, life has its sorrows, but they make those moments of joy even more meaningful. Find things and people that you love and hold on for as long as you can. Treasure those precious memories because it’s those experiences that make life worth living.

The Time of The Doctor

Another regeneration special and another reminder that it’s okay that nothing last forever. As The Doctor finds himself in a stalemate in the town of Christmas on the planet Trenzalore (where it’s prophesied he will die) he faces his mortality and his principles. Yes, he could leave, allowing the town to be destroyed by every villain he’s ever faced but he never would. The Doctor will always fight for what is right, down to his last breath, for even just one life. Even here, as he approaches the end of his final regeneration, he tells the townsfolk that he has a plan because he would rather give them hope than allow them to wallow in despair. The Doctor stands for hope, kindness and the promise that someone out there cares.

That’s true of the show as a whole. For those who love it, it’s a safe space that’s always there when it’s needed. Stories can have dark moments but with The Doctor at your side, there’s no need to be scared. The show has a lasting impact on the fans and this episode is a powerful reminder of that legacy. This special aired Christmas Day 2013, one month after the 50th anniversary special The Day of The Doctor aired in cinemas around the world, and it felt like a defiant stand to anybody who thought the show was close to finished or a niche interest. Doctor Who has been around for nearly 60 years now, and fan-willing, it could go for another 60 because it’s a premise full of promise – all of time and space. The Doctor has 13 more lives (11 as I write) and every single one of them will have their time. This episode asks the oldest question “Doctor Who?” and there’s your answer.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials: The RTD Era

There’s never really been time for seasonal celebrations in the Whoniverse. The classic run only aired on Christmas Day once, during the 12 week-long story The Daleks Master Plan, with a Christmas specific episode titled The Feast of Steven. The footage is currently missing, as is much of the William Hartnell era, thanks to the BBC wiping tapes to re-use at the time. They weren’t to know it would be one of the most popular shows on Earth. It’s especially frustrating for this case in particular because an episode like that never aired again during the classic run. In fact, no episode was ever broadcast on Christmas Day again…until 2005. That’s when showrunner Russell T Davies, who had recently revived the show for a new generation, aired the first of his dedicated Christmas specials The Christmas Invasion. These specials continued throughout his 5-year stint as showrunner, becoming something of a running joke for characters on the show itself and cemented the beloved day as a British Christmas Tradition.

The Christmas Invasion

There is something very human about this episode. That shouldn’t be a surprise given it focuses on human characters, with The Doctor out of commission having just regenerated, but it’s how it shows the humanity within people that makes it wonderful. With Earth under threat of alien invasion on Christmas day and ⅓ of the world’s population being held hostage on rooftops via blood control, it’s up to the human race to save themselves. But how do you handle such a crisis? Do you attempt peaceful negotiations or plan a “defensive” attack and face the potentially deadly consequences? Of course, The Doctor awakes but British Prime Minister Harriet Jones still makes her final decision and she faces the career-defining ramifications.

It also serves as a spectacular introductory episode for The Tenth Doctor. David Tennant slips into the role comfortably, bringing an element of comedy, but still brings an air of gravitas that demands attention whenever he speaks. He does so in just 15 minutes of screentime, so it’s no surprise looking back that he became one of the nation’s favourite Doctors. There are plenty of noteworthy performances throughout the rest of the episode too, particularly from Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones (former MP for Flydale North and current Prime Minister). It’s clear that she’s afraid but it’s never for herself, rather for the people of her country and the rest of the world, but it’s masked by a steely resolve. Meanwhile Billie Piper as Rose Tyler brings a layer of dramatic emotional devastation over losing the Doctor that she knew whilst still having the courage to stand in his place as Earth’s spokesperson and defender. It’s an episode about having hope, even when it feels like there’s none left, and what’s more Christmassy than that?

The Runaway Bride

The Doctor’s own humanity is front and centre here. For the first time since he met Rose, he finds himself alone whilst mourning a great loss. When Donna Noble materialises in the TARDIS on her wedding day, he becomes swept up in a plot that dates back to the dawn of time even though he doesn’t have to. He only initially gets involved out of curiosity but, as the plot progresses,it becomes clear that he’s sticking around to save Donna’s life because (despite not wanting to) he cares. It’s clear from the mournful looks he gives her, and the ones that he keeps to himself, that he needs to save someone…anyone. There’s a sweet and simple moment where they’re sitting on a rooftop having just escaped a robotic santa in the TARDIS where The Doctor puts his coat around her. It’s a tiny gesture but, given his desire to be uninvolved, it’s clear how meaningful this act is.

It all builds to the moment where The Doctor faces off against the enemy, defeating her in an act of pure rage. He isn’t doing this because he’s worried about humanity or even because he’s worried about Donna, he’s doing it because he feels alone and doesn’t care what happens to him. For him, this is a moment of acceptance of his place in the universe and his final sacrifice for humanity because the pain of his losses is too much to bear. Donna stops him but she still refuses to travel time and space with him. It’s rare that someone turns him down and it clearly stuns him. He once again finds himself all alone, which breaks his hearts because life is only truly an adventure if it’s shared.

Voyage of the Damned

In times of struggle, there should be no class divide. In times of crisis, everybody is human…or alien as the case may be. Once again The Doctor finds himself stumbling alone into an evil scheme, only to find himself surrounded by a delightful cast of characters. On the space cruiseliner Titanic, whose crew features robotic angels set on murdering everyone, there is no shortage of class representation. There’s the rich businessmen who feel like they deserve their wealth, the waiting staff who have very little  and the farmers who toil away endlessly to earn theirs. It’s easier to sympathise with some of the characters more than others but it’s not difficult to hate the villain behind the whole scheme – a morally bankrupt CEO. It doesn’t matter how many people die, even if it’s everyone on Earth, so long as he gets his paycheck. Whilst this portrayal of CEO’s is comical, the underlying truth unfortunately is not. For the rich, it’s all about getting richer.

Meanwhile, the story manages to grapple with grief and loss. The cast is larger than just The Doctor and his companion but each character is fleshed out in a way that makes them easy to root for…even the stockbroker. It wouldn’t be a Christmas special without death and this one is no exception, featuring several of them, with each more devastating than the last. They are all inspired to sacrifice themselves, because that’s what they feel The Doctor would do, and his guilt is evident but grief can and should be felt at Christmas. Not everybody makes it from one Christmas to the next and that hurts but it doesn’t mean that feeling should be avoided. Celebrate Christmas for those you’ve lost with those you haven’t.

The Next Doctor

Sometimes Doctor Who is just a classic Doctor fights the monster story with a lot of heart. Battling the cybermen in 1800’s London alongside a man claiming to be The Doctor is one such tale. The major draw at the time was the spectacle of it all and the tease of a Doctor we hadn’t yet met. David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was beloved by the nation (still is) so his leaving the role was a major deal. The announcement was made prior to the airing of this special so it wasn’t improbable that 11 (or even 12) could have popped up. Of course, this turned out not to be the case but that’s a shame because David Morrisey is one of the best Doctor’s we never had. He embodies the very heart of the character. He’s charming, suave, and charismatic in a way similar to classic incarnations like The Fifth Doctor. His impassioned speech to a crowd of Victorians about how The Doctor has saved humanity countless times and has never been thanked turning into a raucous applause for the man himself is a beautiful moment.

The previous two specials have left The Doctor alone and grieving but here he finally gets a moment of peace. For the first time since The Christmas Invasion, he is convinced to enjoy a Christmas dinner. Given everything he’s been through, and everything he’s about to go through, it’s a brief moment of levity that brings joy to the soul.

The End of Time

It’s apt that this is ultimately a story about fate and acceptance. This two-parter was a major event at the time as, for many people, it was their first regeneration. David Tennant had been the titular timelord for 5 years and was adored by the general public but his fate was the same as every other actor to play the role – to leave. This idea is baked into the plot, which sees him facing off against The Master on a global scale. It’s been prohpisied that he’s going to die but he isn’t ready and is barely holding back his frustration. It perfectly echoes the emotions of the audience who were’nt ready to let him go either.

However, as it must, his fate arrived all the same. The Tenth Doctor, though upset, understands and accepts that it’s his time to go. He takes an emotional walk down memory lane, seeing where all his companions are and how they’re doing, seemingly to put himself at ease. The universe is currently resting easy, as are those in it that he cares about, so there’s no stone left unturned for him. The episode only shows Ten’s companions (although The Sarah Jane Adventures later clarified it was all of them) which makes a great deal of sense because it brings everything full circle. It’s obviously sad to see him go but visiting his companions serves as a reminder of all the good times. It’s almost like a clean slate, so that The Eleventh Doctor can burst onto the scene without baggage and embark on his own adventures. What a dynamic entrance it is too filled with excitement and wonder. This wasn’t to be the final festive regeneration (in fact it’ll be a little bit of a recurring thing) but it was the first and it knew the weight it carried. It was big, bold and beautiful.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Spoilers)

How do you achieve longevity? There are a couple of solutions and they are both present in Marvel’s 30th(!) feature length film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The background surrounding production is as well known as the title Black Panther, with the sequel entering development before the unfortunate passing of Chadwick Boseman and being reworked with a new name taking the mantle. It introduces beloved comic character Namor to the MCU in a rivalry between his underwater tribe and the Wakandans on land, which invites comparison to the DC hero Aquaman, although these comparisons end up being unwarranted. There is such a vast difference in the portrayal of both characters and the oceans they live in that it would do each world a disservice to compare them.

Naturally, at the forefront of this film, is the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. His introduction as Prince T’Challa (later King T’Challa) AKA The Black Panther gave children of colour across the globe a hero that represented them. He took the largest franchise in the world and used it as a platform at a time when racism in the West was on the rise. He seemed destined to continue in his role as actor and activist for years to come, which made his unexpected passing all the more upsetting. There were calls to recast the role but, given this surrounding context, it wouldn’t have felt right and the plot does address that. With all the heart shaped herbs, which provide the power of The Black Panther, being burned in the previous film Shuri is determined to replicate it…to no avail. The opening scene where she attempts to recreate it’s synthetic structure to save her brother is heartbreaking, especially since he is dying of a mysterious illness that he has been hiding from those around him. The story beat works on its own but it, very deliberately, hits close to home mirroring the real life circumstances surrounding Chadwicks passing. Eventually Shuri recreates the herb, consumes it, and becomes the Black Panther but initially she is only doing so out of vengeance. Her arc sees her struggling between letting the hatred consume her and deciding what this role as “protector” actually means. For those who have faced grief, it’s a familiar battle, to let the grief overcome us or to do our best moving forward. To shy away from the darkness or to run toward it. She struggles with it until the bitter end, right up until the moment she is about to kill Namor but, of course, she chooses the lighter path because this story is about healing…or beginning to heal.

The film’s conclusion sees her sitting on a beach, burning the funeral clothes, before being joined by T’challa’s partner Nakia and Nakia’s son T’Challa. It’s a clear indication that while Chadwick (and his character) may be gone, his legacy carries on. It’s not a straight-up recast but still allows for there to be a T’Challa in this world which is the perfect middle ground. Young T’Challa won’t be taking up any mantles any time soon but some day, presumably, he will. Chadwick won’t be forgotten in that time (or in anytime thereafter) but this allows for as much healing as can be done in a moment like this before life carries on. Through this character and these films, Chadwick has achieved longevity and ensured that we will never forget him.

The presence of T’Challa Junior also highlights the intended longevity of the MCU itself. Whilst it seems inevitable that he’ll become Black Panther someday, it’s likely that this won’t occur for perhaps another decade. He’s not the only new character either with the introduction of Riri Williams AKA Iron Heart and the aforementioned Namor. Riri is a delightful enough character who seems destined to entertain people in her own series next year before cropping up as “New Iron Man” for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Namor is rather interesting with his disdain for land-dwellers and long life span (having been around for several centuries) which is deserving of more exploration. Namor receives a rare treat as an MCU villain in that he gets to live, which is for the best considering dead characters can’t really be explored further. Then there are the returning characters, whose own stories are just beginning. Everett Ross returns to light up every scene he’s in with a charm that British Men seem to have patented with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (or The Countessa) by his side. She makes her return after appearing in Black Widow and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, where she is clearly putting together a Discount Avengers (or The Thunderbolts as they’re otherwise known), making her in essence the new Nick Fury. The MCU has ramped up its production rate since Phase One but considering Fury has been present since the start and is still kicking around, this should give some idea of how long The Countessa should be cropping up for.

The discussion surrounding “superhero fatigue” is a complex one but when the MCU alone is taken into account, it’s not difficult to see why it’s brought up. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is film number 30 but, with TV Shows included, it’s project number 39. The newly released Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is release number 40 and it aired only a couple of weeks after Wakanda Forever’s initial release. Here’s the thing about the MCU…it’s good. Even at its worst (bar a couple special cases) the projects are still adequate at worst. Even Wakanda Forever, which suffers from usual issues like obvious greenscreens and unnecessary characters, is still good. The issue isn’t and has never been the quality, it’s the rate and the risk that there will be an inevitable drop in that quality to maintain release schedules. There’s been a large conversation surrounding Phase 4, which started with Spider-Man: Far From Home (yes it did, I don’t care what Kevin Feige said) and ended with Wakanda Forever. “It feels directionless” is the big critique and it’s partially true but that’s mostly because it lacks context. Every piece in this phase that feels out of place will make sense in time as The Multiverse Saga draws to a close. It’s a promise to the audience that there’s a reason to stick around. People have already clocked off and that’s fine because the critics will still be here, keeping track for you.

We remember it so you don’t have to.

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ParaNorman

Animation is for children. At least, this is what some adults will try to have you believe. Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek is one such adult, which may partially explain why the world is in the midst of a live-action-remake-renaissance. The fine folks over at PIXAR Animation Studios have never held such a belief, knowing that children can handle most of what life can throw at them and that’s there no use hiding them from reality. The same is true of Laika Studios, whose 2009 classic Coraline delighted and terrified audiences of all ages. It was the very first film they’d produced for themselves, having assisted on other projects like The Corpse Bride, but it wouldn’t be their final forray into the world of horror. 3 years later came ParaNorman, which is often overshadowed by it’s predecessor but is no less creative.

The story follows 11 year old Norman, who has the unique ability to see and speak to ghosts, as he attempts to stop a 300 year old witches curse from destroying his town. The curse, which until recently had been held at bay by a crazed hermit, brings back to life the seven jurors who sentenced the witch to death as well as the spirit of the witch herself. Along the way, he is assisted by his older sister Courtney, school bully Alvin, best friend Neil and Neils older brother Mitch. It’s a simpler plot than Coraline but the characters and their dynamics are just as interesting. There’s the classic sibling rivalry betwween Norman and Courtney which also exists between Neil and Mitch, whilst Alvin finds himself clinging to the group out of fear. Courtney’s infatuation with Mitch is especially fun to witness, particularly on a rewatch with the knowledge that Mitch is gay.

The plot never makes a big deal out of that fact. It isn’t a running thread throughout themovie and, when revealed, isn’t given an aura that demands praise. It’s just part of who he is and comes up naturally, which is how it should be. Gay people are more than just their sexuality, which is something that Laika continues to understand. Their following three films would include gay characters, both in the background and the foreground, but there was never a massive deal made about them. Disney has been expecially bad for using gay characters as a marketing gimmick but the fail to grasp that this community isn’t demanding attention. The goal is simply to be included because that’s how it is in reality. The LGBT community only seems loud because it fights so hard to exist without prosecution, which is only getting more difficult by the year. Characters like Mitch normalise a community that has been seen as “other” for decades and help children to realise that, not only are there gay people, but that it’s ok to be gay yourself. It breeds a more open and loving ideollogy in children who see it and provides hope for a netter tomorrow for the community. Mitch was the first gay character in a “children’s” movie and he remains one of the best examples of how such a character can be handeled.

The most interesting development in ParaNorman occurs as act three begins. The seven undead jurors are not the steotypical undead, but are instead victims of the witches curse who wish to be set free. The overall message here is to not jusge a book by its cover but this only works because the idea of a “zombie” is so ingrained in popular culture…which is fascinating. It’s an idea embeded so deep withing society that this tweist works regardless of the age of the viewer and it only works better as time goes on. The zombie genre has seen a surge in popularity over the last decade propelled, in part, by the success of shows like The Walking Dead (a show which ironically will not die). However it also means that subverting the expectation of brain-hungry zomnies is not as unique as it once was, having been used in films like Warm Bodies and Life After Beth. ParaNorman was one of the originators and, considering how well they pulled it off, it’s no wonder it stuck around.

It’s also a remarkable homage to the B Movies of old. The opening scene is an in-universe B Movie which perfectly sends up the hoaky acting, simple sets and bright colours. This homage continues throughout the film itself. Laika’s signature stop-motion animation comes across on screen as more jagged and slow in movement, providing a slightly uneasy feel akin to the low frame rates of early cinema. There’s also a lighter tone than something like Coraline, although it still has its dark moments. The eventual reveal of the witches identity is as heartbreaking in terms of narrative as it is in terms of historical accuracy. There is also a direct link between the witch, the hermit and Norman which is never stated outright but is evident enough from context clues. It feels that a link like that would be directly adressed in a film today, but again ParaNorman refuses to talk down to its audience.

Despite the admiration the creative team clearly have for the horror genre and the admiration audiences should hold for their creative process, ParaNorman remains second fiddle to Coraline.This is likely down to its simplicity and lack of emotional weight in comparrison, but that doesn’t make it a lesser film. ParaNorman has enough charm, humour and stly to stick around in the public conciousness…even garnering a 4K remaster for its tenth anniversary. There is plenty of room for both and they make a spectacular double bill, with Coraline serving as the major scare and ParaNorman acting as a semi-palette cleanser. Both feature a suitably spooky aesthetic and are sure to entertain.

ParaNorman is fun for the whole family.

And, incidentally, a Happy Halloween to you at home!

The Power of the Doctor (SPOILERS)

Doctor Who is a ridiculous show. It is inheritly silly that a humanoid alien with two hearts, who ocassionaly regenerates their body, travels time and space in a little blue box. The stories told have been dramatic, serious and even heartbreaking at times but it’s still absurd. That’s part of why it’s such an easy show to fall in love with. The fanbase (or “Whovians” as we’re known) are one of the most passionate of any franchise and our excitement often peaks whenever The Doctor regenerates. There’s a palpable air of explosive tension as the episode approaches, which remains after the episode has aired and The Power of the Doctor is no exception. It features an added layer of hype because it coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the BBC’s founding, so it should be as Doctor Who as the show has ever been.

The feature-length episode sees the Thirteenth Doctor combatting The Master, whose plan involves Daleks,Cybermen and Raputin, although it’s so complex that it requires a PHD to understand. She is assisted by current companion Yasmin as well as former companions Ace and Tegan but the list doesn’t stop there. As an episode designed to celebrate the show and the network it airs on, there was no doubt that there would be cameos and references galore, but they really pulled out all the stops. The first batch of cameos occur shortly after The Master has succeeded in one of his plans many stages – forcing The Doctor to regenerate into him. Seeing actor Sacha Dahwan in the Thirteenth Doctors clothes having stolen her body (and by extention her regeneration cycle) would be thrilling enough but it allows Thirteen’s conciousness to interact with her former lives. (Think Aang in The Last Airbender conversing with former avatars). It allows for a lovely scene where David Badley as The First Doctor praises Thirteen for all she’s done, which should warm even the darkest of hearts. The First Doctor then morphs into his sixth, fifth and seventh forms which were to be expected given the good health of all the actors involved and their continued love for the show. The major cameo here is the presence of Paul McGann asThe Eighth Doctor, which is delightful. His TV movie has held a less than stellar reputation with the fanbase but over the years, people have softened and it feels as if Paul is finally getting the love he always deserved.

The second batch of cameos are equally wonderful. At the conclusion of the episode, Thirteen’s companions Graham, Yasmin and Dan form a former companion support group. In the room are the expected ones – Ace, and Tegan – as well as the semi-expected Jo Grant. However the cherries on top of this nostalgia cake are the appearance of Mel, who acompanied the sixth and seventh Doctors as well Ian Chesterton who was (along with Barbara) the very first companion. Actor William Russell may be 97 years old but he doesn’t look it and it so marvellous to have him involved. The same would have been true of Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor) had he been well enough to be involved. The cameos were not the only way that the show was celebrated as there were plenty of references for people who knew where to find them. Whilst The Master is The Doctor, he puts together an outfit featuring Ten’s shirt with tie, Seven’s sweater, Thirteen’s coat, Two’s cordorouy trousers, Four’s scarf and Five’s stick of celery. It looks a lot cooler than it sounds. Further, on top of even that, is the presence of The Doctors AI hologram which adopts the physical form most familiar to their companion. It leads to a lovely scene of Tegan with Five and Ace with Seven, which are made all the more wonderful with a couple of iconic lines and a mention of former companion Adric.

This may all sound like gushing about how cool this is for fans but that’s because it kind of is. Proper analysis requires a slightly further dive.

This is still a Christopher Chibnall written episode, which means that his fingerprints are still visible. As lovely as all of those character moments are, the majority of the script is fairly basic. It’s most notable during the opening segment where Thirteen, Yasmin and Dan board a moving space train. It’s especially true of Dan (whose actor John Bishop isn’t a very good actor) but none of Chibnall’s characters have much…character. They are there to tell The Doctor how cool she is and to fawn over her but nothing more. At least Dan didn’t stick around for long and Graham had a semi-arc with Ryan but Yasmin has really gotten the blunt end of the stick. She doesn’t just fawn over The Doctor, she’s in love with her (which is alreaady a tired trope). This wasn’t the intial plan because Yasmin was initially interested in Ryan but that was changed when a section of the online lesbian community began to hope that they would end up together. It’s only truly been present in the Thirteenth series and in these last three episodes. The prior episode Legend of the Sea Devils featured it very explicitly but that episode was filmed last which means that those scenes were written knowing that there was no romantic ending for the two. “Thasmin” (a portmanteau of The Doctor and Yasmin) was a half-assed concept, executed purely to please a subsection of fans with the liklihood being that it would never pay off…which is queerbaiting…which is a really awful thing to do.

There are several contrived aspects that could be focussed on, but if it’s a mostly futile exercise. The AI isn’t ACTUALLY The Doctor which means that Ace and Tegan didn’t truly get closure with The Doctor herself, but it’s closure for them and allows for a couple of nifty scenes. The forced regeneration is never fully explained, but it propels the stakes as high as they’ve ever been and (again) allows for some very neat scenes. The Doctor should probably regenerate quicker than she actually does, but it gives her a final scene with Yasmin which some people will have liked. The biggest contrivance that can be truly critiqued is The Masters Dalek Plan (an in-episode gag, which got a smile). The episode never fully explains it because this Doctor refuses to talk to anyone about anything that matters. She claims that Yasmin is her best friend but this refusal to tell her anything is so cruel it’s a wonder she hasn’t already left. Even as she’s about to regenerate, The Doctor pushes her away for seemingly no reason.

This is the end of an era and in a lot of ways it feels like it. There are grand stakes and countless homages for the fans but it should also work as a series finale…which it doesn’t. One of Chibnall’s biggest issues as a writer is that he can come up with an interesting idea but often won’t fully see it through. There are a couple of dangling plot threads that are unlikely to go explained (a belief that Chibnall himself backed up in a recent interview). The concept of The Timeless Child works in theory, adding a new layer of mystery to an already mysterious character, but it has no resolution. The Fugitive Doctor (allegedly a pre-First Doctor incarnation) is a brilliant idea with an unfortunate placement in The Doctors history which allowed for actress Jo Martin to give a few stand-out performances…but that’s half the issue. She is relegated to a few minor cameos and her backstory is never properly explored on-screen. It is explained in a comic book storyline but that makes it feel like it wasn’t important enough to actually get Jo Martin back on a soundstage for. Then there’s this manic iteration of The Master, whose placement in the timeline is also never explained. Chibnall is all excellent concepts with poor execution and that isn’t missing here, it’s just being overshadowed by the pre-existing characters.

The regeneration itself is stunning. Credit has to be given for allowing Thirteen to regenerate outside which hasn’t been done since the fourth regeneration. It allows for a beautiful setting and a now iconic shot. Even more iconic are her final words which are short, sweet and very Thirteen. One could complain about the camera close-ups (another Chibnall staple) but honestly, it’s so near to perfect that it doesn’t matter. The introduction of the Fourteenth Doctor, however, is perfect. Portrayed by David Tennant, with a call back to the first Tennant Doctor (Number 10), it’s as funny as it is shocking. It can only be speculated why the body chose this face and why the clothes also regenerated but the current hypothesis relies on “forced degeneration gonna do something weird” although I personally would also throw in this being part of the new regeneration cycle. The Eleventh Doctor did warn that it may be a bit unstable.

The Power of the Doctor may have it’s issues but it’s still a delight to watch. As a regeneration episode and celebration of the shows history, it’s excellent and as a moment in that history it is unprecedented. There are thirteen months between now and the airing of the 60th anniversary specials, which are sure to be rife with fan speculation and social media teases. Whilst writing this, the new logo and momenteous pairing of the BBC and Disney+ were announced. It’s difficult not to be excited as a fan. As an underappreciated Doctor once said:

Change, my dear, and not a moment to soon.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Pinocchio (2022)

There should always be a core reason for remaking classic media. The Wizard of Oz (1925) was the first adaptation of that story with sound while Ocean’s 11 (2001) gave the story more action and a larger scale. Even Dumbo (2018), another of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes, expanded the original plot past its conclusion. Pinocchio (2022), on the other hand, seems to exist purely to absolve the main character of any flaws.

Disney’s original telling of this tale in 1940 has, admittedly, not aged well. The age-old racist stereotype of the chain-smoking Native American gets a look-in while the child selling aspect is a bit intense. Honest John even sings about how “gay” an actor’s life can be which has different connotations these days. There are sultry puppets, evil whales, and minors drinking but Disney has brought this story into the 21st century by ignoring all that. It’s as safe and squeaky clean as stories can be. It’s so clean that Disney appears to have forgotten to give the story any morals.

1940 Pinocchio is a mischievous little scamp. No sooner is he born than he’s directly disobeying his father in the pursuit of becoming an actor. When he escapes the abuse of that life choice, he becomes enticed by an island with no rules and plenty of alcohol. He only leaves that island out of fear, with his first act of true selflessness being the rescue of Gepetto. 2022 Pinocchio goes through the same plot beats, but in a way that fully absolves him of any blame. He only becomes an actor after he is kicked out of school and he only goes to the island because he’s been kidnapped. By the time he rescues Gepetto, there is no question that he is pure of heart because he’s never been anything else. The same character assassination happens to Jiminy Cricket who once became a conscience to gain a medal. Here, he’s imprisoned in a glass for half the plot so that Pinocchio’s actions can’t be pinned on him either.

The morals of “a lie will grow until it’s as obvious as the nose on your face” and “actions have consequences that are sometimes dire” have totally vanished. Pinocchio (2022) would like the audience to know that lying is bad and that bad things can happen to good people but it will probably work out in the end.

The best decision made for this story is to give it a more cohesive plot. It no longer feels like 3 separate stories that happen in quick succession but like a series of events that lead to each other. However, it also adds backstory for Gepetto which may have been present in the source material but comes across here as forced. 1940 Gepetto wasn’t the most fleshed-out character but he was clearly lonely and longing for a family. So many pieces of current media feel the need to spell everything out for the audience as if they’re too dumb to figure it out from the subtext themselves. There can’t be any ambiguity about a character’s past or how they feel, despite mystery sometimes being a key part of their personality. Just because the audience knows more about a character, doesn’t mean they’re more likely to care.

It would be nice to say that the CGI is impressive and worth sticking around for but that isn’t the case. It’s at its most creative when Pinocchio reaches the island and embarks on a theme park ride through all the attractions it has. It’s whimsical and colourful but it’s the only part of the film to which this sentiment applies. Pinocchio feels hollow, like a tree that’s had its center removed.

Sure, the tree is still there but it no longer benefits the world it exists in.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Pinocchio (1940)

Disney profiting from IP they didn’t create is nothing new. In fact, it’s been baked into the company’s DNA since its conception in 1923. The earliest feature-length films produced by the company were all based on pre-existing stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty but only one would provide the iconic Disney Theme. 1940’s Pinocchio gave the world When You Wish Upon A Star which has become a staple of the company since then, although the film itself is just as memorable.

When Italian carpenter Gepetto wishes that his latest project, a wooden marionette, could be a real boy, he gets what he wants. The Blue Fairy provides the boy with life and bestows upon a homeless cricket named Jiminy the role of his conscience until he grows one of his own. Over the course of 90 minutes, Pinocchio gets swept up in an acting gig, a plot to turn young boys into donkeys, and a fight against a giant whale to save his father. Everyone he meets wants to use him for their own ends so, even if he never said a word, he’d still be a sympathetic character. Even his trusted Jiminy seems to only want the job initially because The Blue Fairy promised him a gold medal, although he goes above and beyond the call of duty as the story progresses. Even when he contemplates it, he never leaves “Pinoke” to his fate.

Everyone in this story is at least a little bit terrible, which makes them come across as more human than the perfect characters of modern Disney. The nicest individual seems to be Gepetto but he has a very one-track mind, only focusing on the son he wishes he could have. His poor kitten Figaro ends up pushed to the side most of the time but he still somehow ends up in the whale with him. The Blue Fairy, though not malicious, is still placing an absurd amount of undeserved faith in Jiminy Cricket who is in the role for only a few moments before Pinocchio manages to set his hand on fire. Even Pinoke himself is quite selfish, only abandoning that attitude in the final 15 minutes when he is required by the story to learn his lesson. Not that this justifies the trauma he goes through.

First comes the anthropomorphic fox “Honest” John and his mute, feline friend Gideon, who sell Pinocchio to the selfish puppeteer Stromboli. There is no explanation as to why they are the only anthropomorphic animals, but if one had to guess then it would seem that certain animators wanted it that way. After The Blue Fairy helps Pinocchio escape the cage Stromboli had locked him in, our protagonist is immediately found and sold by Honest John again. Although, this time, it’s to a Coachman who lures boys to an island without rules so he can turn them into donkeys and sell them. No explanation for these circumstances or the logistics of it but it’s still a horrific segment to sit through. Then Pinoke and Jiminy return home to discover that Gepetto is trapped in a whale and they embark on a mission to save him that nearly kills them. You’ll never find out how or why Gepetto got there either. This plot is a bombardment on the brain and because of that, it’s oddly gripping. It’s just one befuddling circumstance after another. It’s made more intense with the context of this occurring over a couple of days.

Pinocchio has not aged well,. There are numerous shots of people’s rear ends, Jiminy is relentlessly interested in those rear ends and there are some “of the time” depictions of minority groups. The song I’ve Got No Strings on Me is primarily sung to Pinocchio by female marionettes with pronounced busts and sultry intentions, which oddly isn’t as well remembered as the song itself. Then there’s Stromboli who can perhaps best be described as Jew-coded and The Island which features a solid 15 minutes of underage drinking, smoking, and an unflattering Native American statue. The phrase “you couldn’t make that these days” gets thrown around too much but this is the first one I’ve seen where most of it would have to be cut or altered drastically.

As with all fairy tales, Pinocchio has a moral…in this case several. The iconic scene of his nose growing as he lies (which only occurs once?!) is about how lies can grow until they’re as obvious as the nose on your face. The point of The Island is that partaking in “debaucherous” activities like smoking and drinking makes you look like a fool. Even the idea of Jiminy receiving a medal for his work reinforces the idea that good morals are rewarded. One might say it’s very on the nose (teehee) but fairy tales usually are. Arguably, having traumatic events transpire as part of the plot should further reinforce these morals but whether it worked or not is uncertain. Many people only seem to recall the donkey transformation scene and it’s not exactly one of Disney’s most re-watched classics as far as I can tell.

Pinocchio is the perfect film to watch with friends. It provides plenty of shared laughs and shocks as well as the opportunity for riffing jokes. It’s also a good reminder of how much (most) of society has come in terms of “othering” and how utterly gorgeous 2D animation is. Despite being drawings on a page, they are filled with so much life and can be classed as pieces of art in their own right. This can’t be said for the “live-action” remake but that’s a story for another day.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Thor: Love and Thunder (Spoilers)

“You’re over 1000 years old and you don’t seem to know who the hell you are”

This is the analysis of Thor made by Starlord in the opening scenes of Love and Thunder. It’s an astonishingly non-self-aware statement because, after 11 years, the MCU doesn’t seem to know who he is either. He is, at the very least, a character re-experiencing the same narrative for multiple films in a row. Thor is unsure what kind of man he is and must embark on a journey of self-discovery either by choice or by force. Being unsure of yourself can be a lifelong experience but Thor seems to revert to stage 1 after every adventure so that he can be easily molded into whatever kind of hero that specific narrative requires. This time, he’s a buffoon whose trauma and emotions are often the butt of the joke.

By contrast, Thor in the previous solo installment Ragnarok was often the one setting jokes up. Actor Chris Hemsworth has excellent comedic timing and it was on full display there but here, he’s more akin to the man we saw in Avengers: Endgame. You remember, he was funny because he was fat(!). Had this film taken him seriously it could have had more to say about toxic masculinity and how stereotypically “feminine” emotions aren’t societally accepted in men. Instead, the audience is invited to laugh at his pain, or at the very least to find the image of a grown man crying amusing. This tone isn’t just directed at Thor, it’s present throughout the entire movie, and this makes it near impossible to care about any of the characters.

One such character is Doctor Jane Foster who returns after being absent from the MCU for 9 years barring a minor Avengers: Endgame cameo. Actress Natalie Portman had previously declined to return to the role due to “creative differences” during the making of Thor: The Dark World (which is one of my favourite Hollywood reasons by the way. Like, was there a screaming match? Were you refusing to pay her as much as Chris? I need specifics). As a result, the announcement of her return was a major deal for fans, with the added excitement of seeing her take up the Mighty Thor mantle. In the comics, she uses the mystical powers of Mijolnir to combat her cancer before it becomes evident that the iconic hammer is hindering her healing as opposed to helping it. Given how serious this subject matter is, fans were unsure if it would make it into Love and Thunder but it did. If done right, this could have provided solid emotional grounding for the plot and characters as well as providing a new Thor for a new age but this isn’t what happened. Her cancer is treated with the same levity as everything else, although it’s never used as a punchline. To cap it off, she dies. Despite a long run in the comics and the popular fan perception that she would be taking over as Thor…she dies. This makes Thor very upset, which seems to be the only role that MCU Jane is destined to play. She makes it to Valhalla so if she happens to get resurrected later (a la the comics) then her death will be even less impactful in retrospect.

On the subject of being non-impactful, Love and Thunder‘s gay representation is abysmal. Director Taika Watiti and actress Tessa Thompson both claimed it would be “queer AF” whilst many reviews heralded it as being for “the she’s, they’s and gay’s” but this isn’t the case. The one canon gay character is the rock-being Korg who holds hands with a male of his species, which is their equivalent of intercourse, however it falls flat because Taika is (as far as we know) straight. This somehow isn’t the first time that a straight director has portrayed a gay character in the MCU either. Why wasn’t this effort being put into Valkyrie, who passes for straight so well that she might as well be locked in the closet? Making seductive eyes at a woman and using the term “girlfriend” isn’t queer representation, it’s every party girl after a couple of drinks. All of this accounts for less than a minute of screentime too, so those foreign markets that Disney loves so much can cut it without losing anything. The “she’s, they’s and gay’s” deserve better and have better (Jennifer’s Body, Heathers and Booksmart to name few).

As mentioned in the Spoiler-Free review, there’s still things to like. The designs of the costumes and sets (like Omnipotence City) are gorgeous, whilst the soundtrack is comprised of some of the greatest Rock and Roll anthems of all time. However, Love and Thunder‘s biggest asset is the drastically underused Gorr. Actor Christian Bale turns in a riveting performance, as he so often does, with this semi-tragic God butcher. He feels betrayed by these all powerful dieties, feeling that they serve only themselves and care not for their subjects, including Gorr’s recently deceased young daughter. He’s still willing to kidnap and threaten the lives of all the children in New Asgard though, which seems a bit odd for a recently bereaved parent. Of course, this is a Marvel film so these children are never actually going to die but Gorr feels like he would murder these children without hesitation if the age rating allowed it. He’s also delightfully manic, giving off what can best be described as Joker Vibes. The Dark Realm, where he resides, is amazing too with its monochrome pallette which is only filled with colour from the light of Mijolnir and Stormbreaker. Tragically, he’s only present for 20 minutes and dies at the end so this is likely the only time we will ever see him.

“Tragic” is an apt description for Love and Thunder as a whole. It has plenty of potential in its foundation with the option for major character progression and grand Galaxy-wide scale but it never goes down these routes. Instead, it spends two hours filling the screen with cringe-worthy humour and a large amount of flat shots which are broken up by action scenes and establishing shots. Had it chosen to commit to all the great aspects hidden within, it might have been a great send-off for Chris Hemsworth…although Hemsworth isn’t leaving. After 11 years playing Thor, which makes him the longest-standing Avenger, he’s sticking around for whatever comes next. Maybe it’s for the best because he deserves a better send-off than this.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Thor: Love and Thunder

Comedy and film journalism are vaguely similar concepts. Responses to both are based on objectivity and are there to entertain, so when it comes to reviews of comedy films it’s probably best to form your own opinion. You can certainly gauge what your reaction might be if you have a reviewer whose opinion you often share but their objectivity is not yours. The following piece is a reflection on how I felt about Love and Thunder (the good and the bad) which some may agree with and others may not. Regardless of that, here’s hoping it still entertains.

Thor: Love and Thunder follows the titular God as he embarks on a mission to stop Gorr the God Butcher from carrying out his murderous plan. He is assisted by old friends Valkyrie and Korg, as well as returning romantic interest Dr. Jane Foster who has gained the powers of Thor. Director Taika Watiti returns, having helmed the previous installment Thor: Ragnarok, but it feels like his best comedy was used there. When the running gag is a couple of screaming goats, it’s not a great sign. Regardless of the fact that it’s a dead meme from over a decade ago, it only works when it has shock value to it, which is lessened over its 5 or so uses.

The dialogue isn’t great either. When it isn’t spouting exposition, which it so often is, it’s one-liners with a snarky undertone. Very few lines in Love and Thunder feel genuine or grounded in these characters that have been around for so long. When it isn’t that, it’s the several voiceovers from Taika as Korg, which feel unnecessary. They seem to be there to set the tone as opposed to carrying the plot forward, but the tone is so in-your-face that a voiceover isn’t required.

There are things here that are likable. The film is visually gorgeous, from the cast to the locations. Every scene is bursting with colour, much like Ragnarok was,, which gives the film a more comic-book feel compared to the Earthier hues of other MCU installments. When the cinematography is allowed to fully display these locations crafted by the talented (and over-worked/underpaid) folks in VFX, it’s utterly gorgeous. Omnipotence City (home of the Gods) is caked in classical, golden architecture akin to Asgard. The shadow Realm (residence of Gorr) is totally devoid of colour but is still interesting with its barren landscape across a miniature planet.

Gorr the God Butcher is Love and Thunder‘s greatest strength. Christian Bale’s performance is occasionally comical but never loses that sinister edge and is best demonstrated when talking with the Asgardian children he’s kidnapped. None of these children are going to die because this is an MCU flick but there’s never any doubt that Gorr would take them all out. Unfortunately, he isn’t present for the majority of the film’s runtime, which brings us to the largest of the issues. Thor: Love and Thunder wastes its characters.

A big deal was made about the return of Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster but her presence here seems to primarily be furthering Thors arc. His arc, as per usual, is about discovering what kind of person he is but the plot refuses to take his arc or character seriously. His fragility is often the butt of the joke and his trauma is dismissed with similar hilarity. Meanwhile, Valkyrie (who still isn’t gay enough) is here to primarily chaperone Jane, whilst Korg (who is somehow gayer) is here to spout one-liners and exposition. Then there are the Guardians of the Galaxy who feel like a hold-over from Avengers: Endgame that need to be gotten rid of before the real plot can progress. Nebula is still great though. Her lines are some of the film’s best.

Ultimately, Thor: Love and Thunder is damaged most by its lack of seriousness. If the film doesn’t care about the lore, characters, or stakes, then why should the audience? It’s one of the weakest entries in the MCU and no amount of classic rock songs on the soundtrack can hide that.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer