Marvel hopes to redeem and reinvigorate one of its core superhero characters, The Mighty Thor, in this November’s Thor: Ragnarok. We last saw Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he was suffering a series of waking nightmares that portends a dire future for his family and his home of Asgard. These dreams represent the intiation of the classic Norse legend of Ragnarok, the end of Asgard and its pantheon of Scandinavian Gods. This premonition is essentially the premise of the upcoming film.
As an aside, if you’re a bit vague on your folklore and mythology check out Neil Gaiman’s aptly-named and brilliantly-written book: Norse Mythology. Gaiman tells you all you’ll ever need or want to know about Odin, Thor, and Loki, and then ends with the shockingly-violent tale of Ragnarok. It’s powerful, grim stuff and an awful lot of fun to read.
Back to our main topic. Thor has always been kind of an outsider within the MCU. Both of his stand-alone films, Thor and Thor: The Dark World, rank near the bottom of Marvel’s MCU films (in terms of box office revenues), despite stellar casts and some pretty amazing visual effects. Chris Hemsworth has played Thor in two solo films and both Avengers movies, yet he’s always felt like a secondary player, struggling to fit in. Despite the combination of rich lore, a solid lead actor, and a compelling ongoing adversary in Loki (arguably the best villain in the MCU) somehow hasn’t translated to the same popularity of the other MCU films.
Part of the issue might be Thor’s otherworldly nature. Marvel’s mega-successful MCU films have largely focused on its, shall we say ‘Earthling’ characters. (how long has it been since you heard someone say, ‘Earthling’?) The leads in each of these films to-date — Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Spider-Man and Starlord — are very much human and born on Earth… and then there’s Thor; a quasi-British, supposedly immortal, Norse legend who’s played by an Australian… Thor’s honestly something of an odd duck within the MCU.
In Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel strips the character down to his basics, in order to build him back up. Hemsworth describes where he is, emotionally and physically, at the start of the movie:
“He’s on this sort of a personal journey of his own discovery, to find answers for himself. Removing Thor from his environment and his world where he dominated a lot of the fight scenes, and putting him in a situation where all of sudden he’s fairly equal with everybody.”
Hemsworth explains that part of Thor’s journey in this film is to shed his past and remake himself, which hopefully resonates with audiences. In the film Thor loses his magical hammer, Mjolnir, becomes imprisoned on a gladiator planet, and even has his long hair hacked off… consequently, he’s left with little more than his sense of humor, which is on full display in the film’s recent trailers. The result is a Thor that we’ve never really seen before:
“All of the conflict and the disharmony of the world he’s in, his physical appearance is altered due to that. It’s paralleled by his journey, and who he is in the world and how he thinks he fits in-this is a new version of him.”
By humbling Thor and reducing him to his core, Marvel is hoping that audiences will embrace this updated version of the character, at least more so than in past films. Fandango recently announced that Thor: Ragnarok is their most-anticipated fall film, so something is working. Additionally, Thor: Ragnarok not only mines its hardcore Norse mythology but the film also teams-up Thor with The Incredible Hulk, promising a ‘road film’ or ‘buddy cop’ kind of experience. Hemsworth closes with his thoughts on the epic combination:
“Early on I was saying, let’s do something like Butch and Sundance and tear ’em up and go on a road trip.”
Thor and Hulk in a cosmic Western adventure? Sign us up!