As franchise mastermind Kevin Feige revealed at Comic-Con, Thor: Love and Thunder is currently in pre-production. This means that Thor will be the first Marvel superhero to get a fourth film in his series!
As recently as the end of Phase 2 or even midway through Phase 3, Iron Man, Captain America, or even Ant-Man would have seemed more likely contenders to reach that milestone first. Thor had its fans, but critical and fan reception of Thor: The Dark World was much colder. Now, the character is more popular than ever before, and Chris Hemsworth has extended his contract beyond Avengers: Endgame.
The movie that made the fourth one possible was the third one, Thor: Ragnarok. This movie changed everything about Thor, his series, and perhaps even the MCU.
A Change of Approach
After a certain point in the MCU’s history, it could be said that Marvel Studios had developed a “house style.” This referred to a certain way that each film would look and sound and feel, with room for variation depending on the characters involved.
The approach seemed like a good way to make the disparate film series seem like part of the same universe. However, people began criticizing this “samey” aesthetic once they caught on, and creators chafed under it.
After some high-profile disputes between directors and the studio, and especially after the success of more personalized films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios had to rethink their strictness with this approach.
Additionally, they had to rethink their approach with the Thor movies. Previous entries were often quite serious in their tone. Moments of humor typically coming from other characters, and even the rare instances where Thor would do something funny were unintentional on the character’s part.
Instead, the films leaned heavily towards drama, to the point that Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh helmed the first film. However, the films featuring Iron Man, Captain America, and even the more overtly comedic Guardians had a greater balance between the light and the dark, the jokes and thrills and thematic resonance. In this regard, Thor was less popular than most other Avengers. This meant that the character was ripe for something very different.
A Whole New Vibe
That being said, Marvel Studios would have been hard-pressed to find a more eccentric director than Taika Waititi. The New Zealand director’s four films up to that point, all indie comedies that he wrote himself, had a distinct visual and storytelling style. Anything he would create was bound to be different from any other MCU film and on a different planet than the other Thor stories.
To their credit, Marvel felt that this was necessary for revitalizing the series. Waititi then punched up the screenplay and encouraged a shockingly high amount of improvisation for the dialogue, creating perhaps the funniest Marvel movie yet. (He also plays a role in that by playing the role of Korg, a rock-skinned revolutionary with an unexpectedly pleasant voice and demeanor. He quickly became a fan favorite.)
With Waititi’s encouragement, the new Thor is much wittier and cooler than ever before. He and Chris Hemsworth, eager to show off his comedic chops, demonstrate just how much they retooled the character in the opening scene. In five minutes, Thor gives exposition to a skeleton, trash-talks a demon god, and annihilates monsters to the rip-snorting guitar crunches of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” The rest of the movie gets even weirder when Thor and Loki get warped into space and land in the “lost land” of Sakaar.
The two of them team up with a gladiator Hulk and an alcoholic warrior angel named Valkyrie, and Thor seriously dubs the group “The Revengers.” They escape Sakaar in a “leisure vessel” explicitly stated as being used for orgies. It is the kind of film that would star Jeff Goldblum.
Amazingly, Thor: Ragnarok tells a story about how a former empire cannot escape its imperialist past. This is represented by Hela, the warrior daughter of Odin who fought by his side when he was still a conqueror (something touched on in the first Thor but not explored in depth until now). Thor also learns in the end that a nation and culture are not defined by physical location but by the people that comprise it. To defeat Hela and move on from his kingdom’s dark part, Thor ultimately allows the prophesied destruction of Asgard to happen. He and his people become refugees, packed into a spaceship, headed for parts unknown from an exploding homeworld, but glad to be alive and together. For all the silliness and weirdness, Thor was more relevant and poignant than ever.
A Smashing Great Time
Thor: Ragnarok was a success by any metric. It essentially rebooted the series by marrying its characters to Flash Gordon-like space opera aesthetics and a far zanier sense of humor. It catapulted Waititi into the mainstream and elevated the star of Valkyrie’s actress Tessa Thompson. Every single character is now a fan favorite, including Cate Blanchett’s fearsome Hela, the first female MCU villain and one of its best. There is so much to love about this movie.
Perhaps the best thing about it that has not been mentioned yet here is that though it deviates greatly from its predecessors, it also builds off of them. Watching it makes you feel like everything that came before, with Thor and Thor: The Dark World, was full of potential, just waiting to be tapped. Thor: Ragnarok truly makes the most out of that potential, and with Waititi, Hemsworth, and Thompson all confirmed to be returning for the next one, the future looks bright.
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