By Marvel movie standards, it’s been quite a while since we last saw Thor, the thunder god from the studio’s live-action superhero universe. Last seen in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, he returns to action in November 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, and the latest update on the film indicates that he’s getting a warm welcome back from critics.
Directed by What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople filmmaker Taika Waititi from a script penned by Eric Pearson (Agent Carter), Thor: Ragnarok brings back franchise star Chris Hemsworth, as well as veteran Marvel movie actor Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s adopted brother Loki. Joining them are returning Marvel movie veterans Idris Elba as Heimdall, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (and his green alter ego, the Hulk), and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, as well as franchise newcomers Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, and Karl Urban.
Simply the best?
Although Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t officially hit theaters in the U.S. until Friday, November 3, early reviews of the film are piling up — and they are fairly uniform in their praise for Waititi’s foray into the Marvel movie-verse.
As of Thursday, November 2, Ragnarok held a 95 percent “Fresh” rating from 183 reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, making it the best-reviewed movie in Marvel’s entire cinematic universe. Ragnarok topped 2008’s Iron Man and its 94 percent “Fresh” rating, and more importantly, also topped the list of the most positively reviewed live-action superhero movies of all time, which was previously led by 2008’s The Dark Knight (which achieved a 94 percent “Fresh” rating among both critics and audiences).
Whether the film’s arrival in theaters — and subsequent flood of release-day reviews — will increase or decrease its “Fresh” rating remains to be seen, but it has some work to do if it wants to beat the 97 percent “Fresh” rating of the 2004 animated feature The Incredibles and take the all-time superhero movie crown.
The complicated relationship of Thor and Loki has made for some of the most memorable stories involving the two characters, and that subject appears to offer some excellent narrative material in Thor: Ragnarok, too.
In a clip from the film released by Marvel Studios (via Fandango) ahead of the movie’s premiere, the pair have a fascinating conversation about their brotherly dynamic while riding an elevator — a ride that culminates in one of the funnier moments stemming from the two sharing a screen.
— Fandango (@Fandango) October 19, 2017
The strongest Avenger?
It’s no secret that Thor: Ragnarok is going to have some funny moments, and a clip released by Marvel Studios on October 12 puts the spotlight on one of those moments.
The clip features Thor (Hemsworth) attempting to gain control of an Avengers spaceship, but getting declined upon every attempt at identifying himself to the ship’s computer. After Thor’s access is denied when trying to confirm his identity as “strongest Avenger,” Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) shows up and is quickly accepted by the computer as just that.
Hammer, meet rock
A brief clip from Thor: Ragnarok premiered October 10 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the scene features Thor discussing his fondness for his magical hammer, Mjölnir, with the rock-skinned alien Korg.
Along with offering some amusing insight on Thor’s feelings regarding his weapon of choice, the clip also gives audiences a taste of Waititi’s vocal spin on Korg, a character introduced in Marvel’s comics and voiced by the Ragnarok director in the film.
Marvel Studios’ movies typically receive a warm welcome outside the U.S., so it makes sense that the films’ international trailers often contain footage that doesn’t appear in domestic previews.
The Chinese trailer for Thor: Ragnarok that debuted in late September 2017 continued that trend by offering up quite a bit of extra footage from the film — particularly involving Blanchett’s character, the Asgardian death goddess Hela.
Along with showing Hela in various stages of costume, the trailer also offers a preview of some of her deadly abilities as she takes on the whole of Asgard and later, Thor’s team of seemingly reluctant heroes.
Pulled from the pages
Marvel Comics fans will likely find a lot that’s familiar about the characters, settings, and certain story elements in Thor: Ragnarok. Like many of the Marvel movies before it, Ragnarok draws ample inspiration from famous comic-book story arcs.
The alien planet on which Thor and Hulk are stuck is Sakaar — the same world that was the setting for the 2006 Marvel Comics story “Planet Hulk,” which had Hulk forced to fight for his life on a dangerous planet for the amusement of the world’s tyrant ruler. Penned by Greg Pak, the tale is widely regarded as one of the greatest Hulk sagas ever written.
As for the god of thunder, many elements of Thor: Ragnarok were pulled from the classic “Ragnarok” saga penned for Marvel Comics by veteran Thor writer and artist Walt Simonson. That story also had Thor attempting to thwart the end of Asgard, and he was joined by a small group of fellow warriors — many of whom appear in the Ragnarok movie.
Marvel Comics writer Jason Aaron’s interpretation of Hela, the goddess of the underworld, in his Thor: God of Thunder series also reportedly informed Blanchett’s version of the character that appears in the film.
Possibly the most visible influence on the film comes from the work of legendary comic-book writer and artist Jack Kirby — the co-creator of Thor — whose colorful, fantastic illustrations of alien worlds clearly informed the set design and costumes (among other elements) of Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi himself cited the work of Kirby as one of his primary inspirations for the visual tone of the film.
Hemsworth’s god of thunder isn’t the only Asgardian returning for Ragnarok. He’ll be accompanied by a host of familiar characters — both heroes and villains — from previous installments of the solo series.
First and foremost among the returning Asgardian characters is Loki, the trickster god memorably portrayed by Hiddleston in the first two Thor movies and The Avengers. Last seen taking the throne of Asgard while pretending to be Odin (Hopkins), Loki’s activities since The Dark World are unknown — but we’re likely to learn a lot more about the events transpiring in Asgard as Ragnarok unfolds.
Also returning for Ragnarok is Heimdall (Elba), the gatekeeper of Asgard who’s seen in the film’s first trailer. The Asgardian warriors Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) are also expected to make appearances in the film.
Ruffalo returns as the brilliant scientist Bruce Banner, but it’s his green counterpart that’s expected to receive most of the attention in the film. Trapped on Sakaar for years, Hulk has reportedly suppressed his human side in order to survive, and in doing so, has also developed rudimentary language skills.
“He’s much more of a character than the green rage machine you’ve seen in the Avengers movies,” Ruffalo told Entertainment Weekly in March 2017. “He’s got a swagger. He’s like a god.”
Newcomers to the franchise — and Marvel’s cinematic universe — in Ragnarok include Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death played by Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). Released from her prison, Hela has her sights set on destroying Thor’s home world, and puts plans in motion to bring about its fiery end.
Two more Asgardians added to the mix are Valkyrie, a former member of Odin’s elite warriors played by Thompson (Creed), and Skurge, a vicious warrior played by Urban (Dredd) who aligns with Hela in order to save himself.
Ruling over the planet of Sakaar is Grandmaster, an eccentric “Elder of the Universe” portrayed by Goldblum (Independence Day). Obsessed with games of chance and sport, Grandmaster is “a hedonist, a pleasure-seeker, an enjoyer of life and tastes and smells,” according to Goldblum.
Supporting cast members in Ragnarok include Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as Stephen Strange from Doctor Strange, as well as Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) as Topaz, and Waititi himself providing performance-capture work as the rock-skinned alien Korg.
The first photos from Thor: Ragnarok debuted in Entertainment Weekly in March 2017, and while the Asgardian characters were the focus of many of the images, it was Goldblum’s visual spin on the powerful Grandmaster that generated the most buzz.
From his silvery hair and eyeliner to the blue stripe on his lip and chin — a possible nod to the character’s blue skin in the Marvel Comics universe — the live-action version of the character has a unique look with Goldblum in the role (and we wouldn’t have it any other way).
The first trailer for the film was released a month later, and it introduced the characters both new and old who would be appearing in the film, as well as the film’s overall tone, which seemed significantly more lighthearted than that of its predecessor, The Dark World. It also set the stage for Thor’s battle with Hulk, which is expected to be one of the highlights of the film. Set to the powerful sound of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” the first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok was received well by audiences and instantly pushed the film onto many lists of the year’s most-anticipated movies.
A second trailer for the film was released during Marvel’s hotly anticipated movie panel at San Diego’s annual Comic-Con International convention in July 2017. Along with some new footage from Ragnarok, the preview also introduced an unexpectedly chatty version of the Hulk, who took some verbal jabs at Thor in the trailer.
The San Diego Comic-Con trailer for Ragnarok was accompanied by a new poster for the film that emphasized Waititi’s colorful visual spin on the project.
An international trailer for Thor: Ragnarok debuted on Twitter a month later, this time featuring a brief appearance by sorcerer hero Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), along with some fresh footage from the film.
“I sense a great change in your future,” warns Strange in the opening moments of the Japanese trailer for the film. “Destiny has dire plans for you, my friend.”
“I have dire plans for destiny,” replies Thor.
— 『アベンジャーズ』［公式］ (@AVG_JP) August 16, 2017
The big picture
In September 2017, IMAX announced that several scenes in Thor: Ragnarok will feature a 1.9:1 aspect ratio, meaning that a significant portion of what appears on the screen will only be seen in the large-format theater screens.
The announcement was accompanied by a new, IMAX-specific poster for the film.
According to IMAX, audiences who view the film in IMAX theaters will see 26 percent more of what occurs on the screen during these scenes than audiences in standard theaters. It’s unknown exactly how many scenes were filmed in this widescreen format.
Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled to hit theaters November 3.
Update: We added some news about early reviews of the film.
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