Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

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Disney Princess Types That Have Not Happened So Far

We all know the official Disney princesses as of now. Some of us may know about the forgotten Disney princesses. But that’s another post.

Anyway, have you noticed these details that have never happened to Disney princesses, both the official and forgotten ones? Read below:

1: A princess who wears glasses

Not one Disney princess wears glasses. In fact, not long after I noticed that, a little girl who wears glasses wrote to Disney and stated that it would be nice to have a Disney princess who wears glasses. Hey, glasses are NOT nerdy at all.

2: A princess with braces

Like glasses, braces are not geeky, either. Yes, many princess movies are set in historical time periods. But, hey, unchronological stuff happens in Disney movies all the time (like several times in “Aladdin”, especially with the genie). A princess with braces would be nice.

3: A transgender princess

In a time of people starting to accept sexual orientations and gender identities, it would be appropriate to have a transgender princess. There’s already been pressure toward Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. While there haven’t been any hints to Elsa having a female lover on the “Frozen 2” trailer, it would be great if there were a lesbian or transgender princess.

4: A disabled princess

There was a petition for a Disney princess with Downs Syndrome. But not one princess has been blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or anything else. Well, Ariel becomes mute for a good chunk of “The Little Mermaid”. But her voice was physically removed.

5: A tomboyish princess passionate about science

Okay, I know. Science barely plays roles in Disney films. Probably because magic is more dominant. However, I think this would be hard to market to little girls. So if a tomboyish science-obsessive princess ever happens, she’d likely end up a forgotten Disney princess.

6: A princess too old to be official

I was surprised when I first discovered that Elsa is supposed to be 21 in the main events of “Frozen” (the first one in 2013). That makes her the oldest official Disney princess in age and the only one not a teenager. Some of the forgotten Disney princesses might be older than teens too (Wikipedia said that Megara from “Hercules” was 20) and some are definitely younger, like Vanellope from “Wreck-it-Ralph”. In fact, part of the reason Vanellope is not official is because she was considered too young. However, no princess has been deemed too old. Disney rarely made human protagonists older than teens before the turn of the century. But even now, a 30-year-old princess would likely be too old to appeal to young girls.

Well, that’s all. Have you noticed any missing details among the Disney princesses?

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The Journey Continues… Check out this Review of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

I was never really a Lord of the Rings fan. I never read the books nor saw the movies before this one. However, I did do a little research on it after, despite finding this film just okay.

Basically, a bunch of men are continuing their journey from the previous movie, which I didn’t see. Never reading the book, I discovered that many female characters, such as Tariel the elf, and Bard’s daughters, were not in the novel. The film crew added them.

One thing I found surprising was that Bard had kids that were suddenly shown at the end. And they were older—old enough to look after themselves without a nanny. I’d came up with private nickname for Bard, “Guy who looks like he had kids at 17.” Then, after doing research, I discovered that Bard was supposed to be in his 40s. The actor, Luke Evans, was in his early 30s when the movie was shot—I think.

Another interesting aspect was that the elves were not short, like they traditionally are portrayed in other fantasies, excluding Christmas ones (except in “The Santa Claus” movies, where the elves looked like human children—but that’s another topic). They were even fierce.

Because I was never into the LOTR franchise that much nor was I very familiar with it, I was a little lost in the story, which is why I didn’t narrate it. It was also a little intense for me. Therefore, I would rate this film 3 out of 5 stars. It just didn’t hold my attention as much as “Harry Potter” or “Narnia”.

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The Scarcity of Stop-Motion Movies

Image from Pixabay

There are three types of animation: hand-drawn or 2D, CG, and stop-motion. Stop-motion is when an object is moved very slightly and then photographed. Several photos are done until each object moves believably.

Usually, stop-motion animation is done with puppets. Examples include those Christmas specials like “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Then there are more recent examples, like “Paranorman” and “Box-Trolls”. There is also another kind called Claymation, where the animators use clay models instead of puppets. A couple examples include “Wallace and Gromit” and “Early Man”.

While stop-motion films look fantastic, I notice there are not too many. Why is that, you may wonder? I think it’s because they are extremely time-consuming.

Before CGI was invented, most animated movies were 2D and drawn with pencil and paper. There were some stop-motion films, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Then, after the turn of the century, when 2D animated films were dying out, and CG animation was booming, the number of stop-motion movies have pretty much remained the same.

Stop-motion animation may involve lots of skills, patience, and time, but I don’t know if they will increase the number of films, or decrease them.

Yes, there have been advancements, like the use of special effects in movies, like “Paranorman”. And I’m sure that involves more work, therefore, more time.

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Musical Movies: Why Were They Huge in the 20th Century?

Image from Pixabay

Although I was born at the end of the 20th century (1993), I still watched a lot of old movies growing up. I noticed that many of them were musicals.

There was “The Wizard of Oz”, “Singing in the Rain”, “The Sound of Music” and many, many more. Then there were the Disney classics, like “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid”. But Disney still makes their classics musicals, even if they [sadly] stopped doing 2D-animated movies after 2011.

While there are musical movies of this century, like “The Greatest Showman” and “Mamma Mia”, I am going to focus on those released in the 20th century.

Why were musicals so big? Was it because movies were new forms of entertainment in the early 1900’s. Well, those had no dialogue, except for words shown on the screen after the scenes.

But once dialogue could be heard and not explained through separate words on the screen, musical films were born.

Of course, not every movie was a musical. For example, could you imagine films like “Jaws” being a musical? Or “Friday the 13th”? I think horror and thriller movies would have looked strange with singing and dancing.

By the end of the 20th century, musical movies seemed less common. Maybe people were tired of them? Or they wanted to focus more on the stories than the singing and dancing? There are people who favor that more. Therefore, they prefer live plays over musicals. I’m the opposite, though. I find shows with singing and dancing more fun to watch as they look much harder to perform in. But that’s another topic.

Musical films seem a lot less common these days. Oh well. Just like time, trends change. I have not seen “The Greatest Showman”, but I have seen “Into the Woods”. Although I usually enjoy musicals, I will admit that “Into the Woods” wasn’t really my cup of tea.

This post may have seemed like a lot of questions asked. But it is just an observation of movies and their trends.

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What I Look for in Movies

Image from Pixabay

Who doesn’t love movies? I don’t know about you, but I always have. There were also times where I didn’t know what I was watching. This was mostly when I was little.

I just saw scenes and enjoyed the characters. But did not know the plot. When I was an older child, I started understanding the storylines of movies. When I studied creative writing, I started pointing out plot points (inciting incident, call-to-action, midpoint, falling action, and resolution).

Many adults will understand sarcastic or dry humor. Unfortunately, I don’t, although I do get the inappropriate stuff, even when it’s snuck into G and PG-rated movies. People may also point out hidden symbolisms.

What I do, though, is not only identify the plot points as well as the main conflict and other literary elements, but I also point out these two unique things:

1: Moments that would get you arrested in real life

Have you seen “Toy Story 2” or “Night at the Museum 3” or even watched “Ned’s Declassified: School Survival Guide” on TV? If not, I would not suggest reading forward—unless you are uninterested in watching them.

So here it is. Remember in “Night at the Museum 3”, when Lancelot went crazy and ran on stage during a live performance of “Camelot”? Rather than calling security and having Lancelot arrested, the guy playing Arthur just explained to him that he was just an actor and held the play as he calmly told Lancelot to get off the stage. However, if you run on stage during a live-performance in real life, you would get arrested. Forget about yelling at the actors and threatening to hurt them, like Lancelot did. You could run on stage, stand there, and say nothing and still get arrested. Just the action itself is illegal.

In “Toy Story 2”, Al steals Woody from the garage sale Andy’s mom holds. He gets away with it. Andy’s mom doesn’t bother to call the police. However, in real life, not only would Al have been arrested for stealing, but so would have Andy’s mother for failing to report a crime she’d witnessed. But if that happened, Andy and Molly would’ve been taken away by CPS and the ending would’ve been too sad. Therefore, “Toy Story 3” may never have been made as audiences would have complained about the ending to “Toy Story 2”.

In an episode of “Ned’s Declassified”, where students were having the fifth graders tour the middle school, there was a scene when one of them (not in sight) that removed Seth’s clothes. He was naked while using a plush elephant to cover himself. Everybody else laughed. A younger kid may have done the same. A parent may have stated that it was inappropriate and turned off the TV. I, as an older sibling, reacted by saying, “You’d get arrested for that in real life.” Yup, even as young as 17, I was pointing out things that would get you arrested in real life.

Because of having to learn about the importance of believability in prose writing, I have developed expectations too high for movies and TV shows. I now find it strange when characters in movies do things that real people would get arrested for, but the characters don’t. So many illegal activities happened constantly in the movies “Monster Truck” and “Dumb and Dumber Too”, but the characters didn’t get arrested because of plot movements or conveniences.

While many say “It’s just a movie”, that can also be an issue. Someone who doesn’t know better may imitate those actions and get surprised when they get arrested because the characters in the film didn’t get arrested. Then someone could try to sue the film company.

If the characters can’t get arrested for plot reasons, couldn’t there, at least, be a disclaimer in the end credits, warning audiences not to try those activities or else they’ll get arrested?

2: Things that would not be acceptable today

There are so many of these. I could not state them in one post. However, I will give a few examples of movies that I don’t think would come out today.

  • “A Christmas Story”

If you’ve seen this film, the kid, Ralphie, wants a bb gun for Christmas. Obviously, in the 80’s, that was acceptable. However, today, after so much gun violence, especially in the US, I do not believe this would be acceptable today. No way would a child with a bb gun be appropriate.

  • “Pinocchio”

Although rated G, there is smoking, drinking, and the use of a dirty word, which I will not specify. Smoking wasn’t always inappropriate, especially when people were unaware of the dangers before the 60’s. They thought smoking was cool. And “Pinocchio” was released in 1940. That was at least 20 years before smoking-dangers were discovered. And even then, people were resistant to the studies. I saw in a video that it was not until the 90’s when smoking became inappropriate for young audiences. I don’t think “Pinocchio” would be released today.

  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Just this past holiday season, this movie got tons of criticism for it being offensive, promoting prejudice and discrimination, and more. I was confused, so I watched the film. And I could see why people complained. When Rudolph’s nose cover came off, revealing his red nose, the other reindeer freaked out. Even Santa took their side (“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Santa said to Rudolph’s dad). The elf boss gave Hermey a hard time about being a dentist and not wanting to make toys. “You’re an elf, and elves make toys!” the boss said. Umm… that’s elfist. Another scene is where Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius arrived on the land of misfit toys. There is a Jack-in-the-box whose name is actually Charlie. He complained that no kid would want to play with a Charlie-in-the-box (that’s namist). Sensitivity is growing for some reason. So I could never see “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” being released today.

So that is really it for what I look for in movies. I apologize if I seem overcritical at times. But thanks for reading.

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Be Happy With this “Inside Out” Critique (2015)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

This film must have been so hard to produce. And that is what makes it so enjoyable. It probably involved a lot of studies behind the mind and emotions.

There were actually going to be more emotions than the five the film created for Riley. But that didn’t work out.

Enough said on the introduction. Let’s get down to the critique.

First, the strengths:

1: The mind and emotion constructions

The mind is an abstract place. The creators made everything so literal, and that must’ve been very difficult. There was the train of thought, the core memories, islands representing Riley’s different interests and life essentials, and, of course, the emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear.

The emotions matured as Riley aged over time. When Riley was a toddler, the emotions would react strongly to broccoli and no dessert if she didn’t finish her dinner (which had no protein, by the way. But that’s another topic).

By the time Riley was eleven, the emotions have matured even more. I appreciated how Joy could feel grief and pain as she was unable to make Riley happy throughout much of the film. She even cried in the “all is lost” moment. However, there is also a special feature of Riley without her internal emotions being shown. And I heard the viewer can understand why Riley can’t be happy.

2: Bing-Bong

Who doesn’t love Bing Bong? Or that cute little song Riley made up as a toddler? He was such an imaginative character as well as a fun one. I loved when he barged into Riley’s dream. But it was very sad when he died as Joy had to continue her way back to headquarters.

3: The “Triple Dent Gum” song

Why was that song so annoying to Riley and even the bus driver in the end credits? I found it amazing and funny. It was a great way to incorporate humor.

4: The boy’s emotions at the end

“Girl, girl, girl.” The emotions panic like crazy in his head. It was so hilarious. It is also realistic for boys if girls like them. Many have been nervous about impressing girls. The animals’ emotions were funny too.

Which brings me to the flaws…

1: Why do Riley’s parents have all male or female emotions while Riley has both?

This plot hole has been wondered so much by the general public. However, the creators revealed that it was just for humor. I guess that’ll work.

2: Why do the Andersons move?

When things go well, of course conflict has to happen. However, why did Mr. and Mrs. Anderson sell the house? Why did they move to a less-appealing building, both unattractive on the outside and the inside? Were they unable to afford the house in Minnesota? Did one of the parents get offered a new job in San Francisco?

It makes sense for Riley to be unhappy with the move. At the end, one of her parents says that they missed Minnesota (but they were the one who chose to leave). Is it supposed to remain a mystery?

3: Would a pizzeria really only serve broccoli pizza?

It’s believable for a pizzeria to only to plain cheese pizza. But just broccoli pizza, only for plot convenience? I can’t imagine so. Also, couldn’t Riley have just removed the broccoli from her pizza?

4: “Child runs away from home and parents comfort them after” cliché

I don’t know why the media keeps portraying this. It’s not really credible, let alone allowing an eleven-year-old to walk to school unsupervised in the 2010s (which would get you in trouble with CPS). Riley also stole her mom’s credit card to pay for a bus ticket back to Minnesota. Add that to running away, Riley would’ve gotten the beating of her life and been severely punished for months if this were believable. But the parents had to feel sorry just for plot convenience. Kids, don’t try this in real life. You will most definitely get the beating of your life as well as be grounded for several months—at least.

5: Toddler Riley has no nipples

Okay, this might be a bit much, although they show topless Toddler Riley. And she has no nipples. When I saw this in the movie theater, I found it strange and was thinking “Maggie Simpson has nipples”.

And that’s all. I would rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars. It must’ve been one of the hardest films for Pixar and Disney to create. I always found productions that look so challenging to make more enjoyable than those that look to easy to create.

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It’s Time We Try the “Lilo & Stitch” Critique (2002)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

I saw this movie with camp when I was eight. It was one of Disney’s few successful features in the early 2000’s. It had a few sequels and even a TV series on Disney Channel.

The story centers around an alien and a little girl from Hawaii desperate for a friend. Stitch is blasted off a planet. At that point, he is dangerous and his identity is Experiment 626. The POV switches to Lilo, a small girl late for her luau class after feeding Pudge the fish his peanut-butter sandwich. Lilo and the other girls break out into a fight and then she runs away unsupervised. Her older sister, Nani, gets in trouble with CPS as a consequence for the escape. After an arguement between the two, Nani forgives Lilo. The two go to adopt a dog. Lilo chooses Stitch, thinking he is a dog. Their time begins from there.

Now here are the strengths of this film.

1: The plot

In some ways, it reminds me a lot of “Beauty and the Beast”. The structure of scenes, the characterizations and actions of both Stitch and Lilo, and how they go from an unhealthy to heartwarming bond. Does that ring a bell? I can’t imagine this was intentional, but it was well-executed.

2: The Elvis music

Not often do you hear pop music in a Disney movie. Although “Lilo & Stitch” is sometimes treated like classics such as “The Little Mermaid” or “Pinocchio”, it sometimes is not. None of the characters sing. But the scenes where Stitch plays the guitar dressed as Elvis and where “Hound Dog” and “Burning Love” play are great.

3: The way this film was promoted (lol)

As a way to promote the movie, Stitch barged into classics, such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”. I love this line from the others, “Get your own movie” (Belle really is a funny girl). I will admit, however, that the picture quality wasn’t the strongest.

Which brings me to moments that could’ve been improved or explained better…

1: How does Stitch learn to speak?

The alien somehow goes from monstrous feral beast to knowing how to use developed speech like a human. Yet, it is never explained why or how (correct me if it gets revealed in the series or one of the sequels). I was surprised to hear that there is talk on making a live-action “Lilo and Stitch” remake. I don’t know if this plothole will be resolved, though, depending on how many people are bugged by this. But it’d be nice if this question is answered.

2: Why was Cobra Bubbles there at Lilo’s birthday in that brief scene?

I get he was an important character, but doesn’t anyone find it a bit strange to invite someone from CPS to celebrate a child’s birthday? I wouldn’t do that.

That’s really it. I would rate “Lilo & Stitch” 5 out of 5 stars.

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What Can I Say, Except, “You’re Welcome” for this Wonderful Review of “Moana” (2016)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

I saw this film a year after it was released in theaters. I watched it at my house. It was such a beautiful movie.

As a baby, Moana is interested in the story she is hearing in daycare about Maui stealing the heart of Te Fiti. All the other children are scared. Moana is somehow called to the ocean. But her overprotective father forbids her to go near it.

Years later, when Moana has reached her current age for the main part of the story, there is a shortage of fish by the reef. Moana suggests going beyond the reef. But her father gets angry and will still prohibit anyone going further than the reef. Moana’s mother reveals why her dad is so against going beyond the reef. Moana tries sailing, but it ends up not working out. Her grandma shows the story of her ancestors and how they used to go beyond the reef all the time. They stopped because there were too many dangerous monsters, especially Te Ka the lava demon. Unfortunately, not long after, Moana’s grandmother is dying. She tells Moana to sail out to the ocean, seek Maui, and return the heart of Te Fiti. Moana’s journey begins from there.

I really admired many parts of this movie, from the story to the characters, especially Moana. She is one of the few Disney princesses to have no love interest. The other two are Merida and Elsa (which is why fans were begging Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend in the “Frozen” sequel). Anyway, Moana was fierce, brave, and strong, which is what many expect for female characters today.

The music was also fantastic. Many songs sounded different from traditional Disney songs. Some sounded more like pop songs, such as “How Far I’ll Go” and “Shiny”. I particularly appreciated the rap section in “You’re Welcome” sung by Maui.

That being said, there were a couple flaws in this movie, such as some urine jokes and (sorry to disappoint some of you) the coconut pirate scene. I loved when Moana said that they were cute and then they went vicious. However, I couldn’t see how important it was to the story. I felt it was just a little filler to add conflict. And the story told in Moana’s daycare is really too mature for little kids. It was only used for plot convenience.

The ending was beautiful. After violence with Te Ka the lava monster, Moana figured out that she was really Te Fiti without the heart. The scene where Moana returns the heart and Te Fiti turns back into a beautiful Goddess and Island was heartwarming. It was also funny how Te Fiti looks a lot like Moana.

I would rate Moana 5 out of 5 stars. It is such a wonderful movie that I would recommend to all, especially with a strong, independent female lead.

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He is the God of Thunder, from the Planet, Asgard – Let’s Review “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

I’ve never been a superhero fan, regardless of brand or characters. I saw “Thor Ragnarok” at a birthday party a little over a year ago. It turned out better than I thought. However, I will say that I didn’t love it.

The film starts with Thor is some underworld environment. He then joins his father and brother. Thor discovers that the planet, Asgard, is in danger. In fact, an evil woman, named Hela, gains so much power and puts the whole planet in danger as she becomes a tyrant.

Thor is whisked away to another planet, where there are messed up beings and cannibals. Thor is imprisoned somewhere. Not long after, his hair is cut and he has to fight the Hulk in a stadium. Meanwhile, Asgard is falling apart. It takes time for Thor to get others to trust him and try to save his planet.

Unfortunately, the planet is pretty much destroyed once Thor arrives. The people there have to move to Earth.

The film was interesting. I will admit that. But I found some things disappointing, like when Thor had his long hair chopped off (I actually have a super-painful memory of me experiencing my hair chopped off years ago) as well as his eye removed. I felt sorry for Thor’s hair to be cut and right after that, the crowd booing at him. At least the scissors guy let Thor keep his beard. As for the eye, something satisfying happened in the “Avengers” film with all the Marvel characters (I won’t say what, though).

Hela was so evil. She was not only unlikable to the point that I couldn’t even have just the tiniest amount of sympathy for her, but she also wasn’t really believable . She just abused her power. Maybe she has a tragic backstory and wasn’t always evil. But pure evil villains are too stereotypical and even lazy.

Thor’s brother wasn’t too likable, either. The ruler of the planet (played by Jeff Goldblum) or the Grandmaster, was wicked in a special way. He was calm and acted more positively. I think that’s more creative than the approach to developing Hela.

The ending was disappointing too. I know this is an installment, but still. It could have been at least a little more satisfying. Will things turn around later?

I would rate “Thor Ragnarok” 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was engaging. I will also admit that many parts were funny. Just a few things didn’t really work out for me.