Thor: Ragnarok – I’ve been looking forward to this one, especially since seeing the trailer where Thor calls the Hulk “a friend from work.” So many trailers are awful, but this one worked. The Thor films feel genuinely epic, combining classical Norse mythology with space opera and the usual superheroics, and also including a lot of humor. And yes, there are spoilers aplenty here. You might remember (but probably don’t) that I was confused by how the mid-credits scene in Doctor Strange fit with the ending of The Dark World, but the movie sorts it out pretty quickly. First we see Thor facing the fire demon Surtur and taking his crown in an attempt to prevent Ragnarok, then exposing Loki, then getting help from Dr. Strange to find the real Odin.
I think (although I’m not entirely sure) that this is the first case of a credits scene from an earlier Marvel movie actually being part of a later one, rather than something that happens in between films. I wonder if the indication that Loki initially left Odin in a retirement home was an intentional Douglas Adams reference. Anyway, Thor and Loki find Odin in Norway, but he dies right in front of them. If you’ve read the traditional account of Ragnarok, it’s strange that Fenris is in this movie and Odin dies, but the two don’t have anything to do with each other.
Awww, who’s a humongous puppy?
For that matter, Hela and Fenris are supposed to be Loki’s children, while here the former is Odin’s daughter and the latter of unknown origin. I wonder if they thought the Loki of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was so much a man-child as to make his having kids weird. This also makes Hela Odin’s heir, so good for Asgard for not being totally patriarchal, but bad for Odin apparently having no clue how to raise decent children. Hela being a psychotic overlord, while I believe it’s accurate to the comics, is part of a general trend of making classical death gods who aren’t really presented as evil into supervillains. See also: Hades/Pluto in just about anything post-Jesus (including Marvel; he was the bad guy in a Thor/Hercules story I read fairly recently), Arawn in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Anubis in the Atari game Riddle of the Sphinx, Ogoun in Robert Rankin, and many more. On the other hand, Death of the Discworld, Death of the the Endless from Sandman, and even Marvel’s Lady Death aren’t evil, and can even be downright friendly; but that’s personifications of death rather than deities associated with it.
Hela is definitely well played by Cate Blanchett, though, totally nasty and a bit haggard in the face, but also with a definite sense of style. I’m not quite sure about the antlers, though.
She’s actually pretty similar to Disney’s Maleficent in some ways.
In mythology, she’s described as having half of her face dead, something Marvel obviously didn’t go with any more than they did Thor having red hair, although I know that latter was at least addressed a few times in the comics.
While Hela is instituting her reign of terror over Asgard, Thor and Loki both end up on the planet Sakaar, setting of the Planet Hulk storyline that I read in preparation for this. I might have some thoughts on that later, but for now I’ll just say it was a planet styled after the Roman Empire that hosts gladiatorial matches, which describes pretty much every other planet in the universe of comics. The Hulk ends up here after being tricked into a spaceship by the other Avengers, who have deemed him too dangerous. He becomes the champion in the arena, and then launches a revolution and gets married, only to have it all go up in smoke from an exploding warp core. The movie takes elements from this without being a direct adaptation. Instead of the Red King, the planet is ruled by the Grandmaster, who’s a traditional Marvel character, but not one I was familiar with. He’s played by Jeff Goldblum in a performance that’s very blatantly Jeff Goldblum.
Thor isn’t in the comic arc, but there’s a nod to Marvel’s first Thor story with the character of Korg, one of the Stone Men of Saturn who invade Earth and are defeated by the thunder god.
When Marvel started caring a little more about verisimilitude, they were retconned into Kronans, beings from a different solar system entirely who had a base on Saturn’s moon Iapetus. Here, Korg is basically a goofy British guy, in a movie that also portrays Skurge the Executioner as a goofy British guy.
After some assistance from Odin’s spirit in beating the Hulk in the arena, Thor recruits him and the last of the Valkyries in an attempt to save Asgard. This character’s actual name is never revealed, although she’s called Scrapper 142 on Sakaar. She’s based on someone in the comics who’s usually just called Valkyrie, although her real name is Brunnhilde, and she’s had a variety of secret identities. I don’t think I’d even heard of Tessa Thompson, who plays the character here. She’s really cute and bad-ass, but also flawed, in the role.
Thor and his allies try to save Asgard, but he eventually decides it’s best to just evacuate everyone he can and let Surtur burn the place.
Speaking of letting things burn, what is with these movies just casually letting it drop that the main characters’ relationships have ended offscreen? First Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and now Thor and Jane Foster. Well, maybe it was just because Natalie Portman’s contract expired or something, but I feel it really should have been explored more. I think both Valkyrie and Sif were love interests for Thor in the comics after he and Jane split up, but I have no idea if the movies are going to go that way. I also think they had Bruce Banner and Black Widow get together just because they were both there and unattached. You probably shouldn’t expect a lasting, healthy relationship with a superhero, I guess.
From what I’ve heard and observed, the comics are never entirely clear about the exact nature of Asgard and the Norse gods. The films seem to largely go with the idea of their being really powerful but within limits I really wouldn’t expect. I mean, Thor was stunned with a taser in the first movie. Here, Odin presumably dies of old age, although I’m sure Loki’s messing with him didn’t help. Hela murders much of the population of Asgard (including the Warriors Three, but we’re not shown what happens to Sif), and Loki is easily out-magicked by a human sorcerer. Unlike the Greek gods, the Norse gods could be killed, but it took a lot. I think most of them have died and come back to life in the comics, but that’s also true of many mortal characters. And while Bifrost is in use, Asgard also seems to be reachable by standard space travel (or at least it was before the ending of this one). Whether any of the Asgardians are dead Vikings is never stated one way or the other. I wonder if the Cinematic Universe will ever bring in the Greek gods. I suppose they’re a bit overdone these days, but Hercules was an Avenger.