When the first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok dropped last month, I loved it immediately. Then and there, I knew full well that I would pay good money to see it and, once again, Marvel had me in the palm of its hand. I quickly noticed however, that not everyone was so easily sold on the idea, and the biggest complaint I heard was “It’s just a rip-off of Guardians!”
“What?!?” I protested, “What about Thor fighting Hulk in gladiatorial space combat makes you think they’re copying Guardians of the Galaxy?” But, as I took a moment to stop fanboying and think about it, the similarities became obvious. When the first Guardians movie became a hit in 2014, its unique, throwback style and mashup of classic songs with a space setting resonated strongly with audiences.
Now, here we are with Thor jamming out to Led Zeppelin’s classic “Immigrant Song” as the trailer introduces us to a plethora of otherworldly characters that feel very space-y (including Jeff Goldblum with a blue line on his chin). Both films are clearly utilizing nostalgia, recalling the visual styles and music of past decades. The #MarvelStudios logo even gets the technicolor treatment in both the #ThorRagnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailers.
#Marvel has produced some of the most fun and entertaining movies of recent years, but with the sheer amount of films it releases, not all of them have been able to avoid becoming formulaic, and with Thor: Ragnarok’s trailer, some people simply saw it as Marvel taking the successful style of Guardians of the Galaxy and slapping it on another property as a tried-and-true tactic. While we obviously won’t really know until the movie hits theaters in November, I think there are some solid signs that Thor: Ragnarok has the potential to stand on its own despite some stylistic similarities.
The '80s Throwback Makes Sense For Thor
Throwbacks are in. People love to reminisce, and nostalgia has always been used to market and sell products, but pop culture has recently been giving a lot of love to the past, and it strikes a chord with audiences. Just look at the success of Stranger Things, the most ‘80s thing you could ask for. Guardians of the Galaxy definitely capitalized on that throwback style, but applying that sort of thing to #Thor makes complete sense for the character. Just look at him — Thor, the Norse God of Thunder with his trusty weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, his flowy hair, and endless muscles — he could’ve walked right into Masters of the Universe and gallivanted around with He-Man, no problem. If he grew some fur, he could even pass as a Thundercat.
Thor is the epitome of a mythical ‘80s hero. The aesthetic that dominates the trailer fits the character perfectly, and shows a cultural awareness that may help the movie be more lighthearted and enjoyable than Thor’s past installments.
Thor Is Inherently Silly and Marvel Is Owning It
Thor is awesome, but he’s also kind of silly. Taking a mythological figure, like a Norse god, and placing him in contemporary culture naturally leads to comical situations. The first movie, Thor, took advantage of this and had plenty of self-aware moments, like when Thor demands another coffee and smashes his mug in the diner, or angrily declares his status as the Son of Odin while getting a shot of anesthesia to the butt cheek.
The sequel, Thor: The Dark World, took a step in the opposite direction. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) opted for a darker, more serious tone. While the darker sequel idea has worked well in Hollywood’s past (The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Knight, etc.), it may have been a misstep in the world of Marvel.
Both of the previous Thor movies were financial and critical successes, but Thor: The Dark World was received less favorably. It simply lacked the lightweight charm that Marvel had become known for, and neglected Chris Hemsworth’s surprisingly good comic abilities. With Thor: Ragnarok however, it looks like Marvel has chosen to fully embrace that fun, lighthearted tone.
Don’t get me wrong, it looks like there will still be plenty of satisfying drama — that shot of Cate Blanchett as Hela destroying Mjolnir gave me chills — but other moments like Thor seemingly addressing the audience directly, to Loki slo-mo flipping his knives, to Hulk showing up in a full set of armor, give the trailer an overall tone that clearly says, “This will be fun.”
Taika Waititi — That’s All You Really Need To Know
Here I give the last sign that Thor: Ragnarok looks to be in good shape — and the real reason you should be excited for this movie — Marvel’s choice of director, Taika Waititi. Waititi has made his mark with several distinct and excellent films. In 2005, he earned an Oscar nomination for his short film Two Cars, One Night. He often works with Jemaine Clement, having directed several episodes of Flight of the Conchords, and having co-written and co-directed the hilarious vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows. He also wrote and directed what was arguably one of the best comedies last year, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a heartfelt indie gem.
Waititi has proven his excellent comedic timing and artistic ability that crosses easily between styles from short-form, to mockumentary, to drama. There's that great moment in the trailer when Thor sees Hulk bust into the combat arena and has the surprising reaction of shouting "YES!" He then explains, "We know each other! He's a friend from work!" This is a prime example of Waititi's sense of humor, and a great taste of the charm he could bring to this character's world.
If you happened to see the two hilarious “Team Thor” short films Marvel released last year and early this year, then you’ve already had the privilege of seeing Hemsworth and Waititi working together. The shorts were written and directed by Waititi to address the question: What was Thor doing during Captain America: Civil War?
Ultimately, I think the biggest thing that Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy will have in common (obviously other than being in the MCU together) will be the use of a throwback style. However, thanks to the new direction Marvel has chosen to take, and the talent of Taika Waititi at the helm, I think we can expect this movie to be satisfyingly dramatic, fun, and unique.
What are your expectations for Thor: Ragnarok?