Well, the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer might just have turned out to be the most pleasant surprise of the season. The previous two Thor movies are generally not considered to be anyone’s favorite Marvel efforts. They’ve both been bogged down by concerns that are entirely too earthly considering that they’re about a race of extradimensional/extraterrestrial gods/heroes/villains. Neither has fully taken advantage of the rich artistic legacy that would be appropriate for a set of characters who boast endless adventures by comic book visionaries like Jack Kirby and Walter Simonson. And they’ve never really gone out of their way to forge an identity outside of the obligatory solo adventures between Avengers movies.
It’s tough to judge from less than two minutes of footage, but Thor: Ragnarok at least looks like it wants to correct all of that. From a decidedly more ambitious outer space setting to director Taika Waititi’s distinctive sense of humor (have you seen it yet? No? Go watch it), this suddenly looks a lot more appealing than its predecessors and a lot more fun than other superhero movies on the schedule.
So here’s how this works. I’m not going shot-by-shot or frame-by-frame. I’m just going to make connections as they seem appropriate and try to answer some big questions for everybody. If you spot something I missed, or if I’m flat out wrong about something, just drop it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter, and we’ll go from there.
Watch the trailer here just in case you haven’t already:
Ready? Let’s go…
What is Ragnarok?
Ragnarok is the Norse “twilight of the gods.” This is the end of all things Asgard, and I won’t get into potential spoilers here, it may end up requiring the death of many of your favorite supporting characters. Marvel has touched on Ragnarok more than once in the comics, most notably in stories by Walt Simonson and more recently by Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea Di Vitto.
The movie doesn’t appear to be leaning too heavily on any of the comic book interpretations, and looks about as faithful to Norse mythology as the other movies have been, which is to say: not at all.
Asgard has always been the best visual in the Thor movies, and one of their key failings has always been that we don’t spend enough time there. While that isn’t likely to change in this one, I think other complaints about how these movies have been far too earthbound are about to get thrown right out the airlock.
Anyway, don’t get too attached to Asgard…
Is that supposed to be Yggdrasil, the world tree of Norse mythology? It sure looks like it, although it’s not the gigantic, world-spanning, universe-centric thing we usually associate with it.
Then again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe plays fast and loose with the cosmology that surrounds this stuff, so it’s entirely possible that Yggdrasil just serves a symbolic purpose here rather than the more literal connector of worlds it does in the Norse myths.
The Jack Kirby Influence Is Strong
I’m going to be referring to this throughout this article, so I just want to get a bunch of it out of the way up front. Jack Kirby is the guy who co-created a significant chunk of the Marvel Universe as you know it. The thing is, there isn’t a hell of a lot of his imaginative, visual influence to be found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies a lot of the time.
Thor: Ragnarok looks to fix that.
This shot. This single shot might be my favorite frame from any Marvel movie ever. Not only is there a strong Jack Kirby influence visible in virtually every character and costume design you can see here, even in the shape of that crazy doorway, but there appears to be literal Jack Kirby artwork on the walls there. I’m not 100% sure, but some of this almost appears to be details from a piece of non-comics related Kirby art called “Dream Machine.”
See all those bizarre shapes and squiggly circuitry designs? This stuff is all over the trailer, virtually everywhere you look, whether it’s on costumes, weapons, and even just walls and doors. I’ll talk about this more as it comes up.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Influence Is Pretty Strong Too
Taika Waititi is a director with a particular sense of humor and timing, and his influence can be felt in many of this trailer’s lighter moments. But since this movie (thankfully) takes things off of Earth for the majority of the action, it makes sense that this shares an aesthetic sense with Marvel’s spacefaring (and immensely popular) Guardians of the Galaxy.
For one thing, the use of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” throughout the trailer is a fairly Guardians-y stylistic choice. But so many of the aliens, weapons, and spaceships we see look right out of the Guardians playbook. This isn’t a bad thing.
You know who else the perfect blending of space stuff with the mythological elements reminds me of? The other greatest Thor artist/writer of all time: Walt Simonson. Simonson’s influence on the Thor movies has always been pretty strong (particularly in Thor: The Dark World), as he really nailed the whole mythic but still high tech vibe that the movies have been striving so hard for.
All we need is for Beta Ray Bill to show up in this movie. From what we’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
Thor: Ragnarok Villains
The brilliant Cate Blanchett as Hela is responsible for the destruction of not just Mjolnir, but Asgard overall. In Norse mythology, Hela is a daughter of Loki, and in Marvel’s version of things, she’s the daughter of Loki, but not our Loki…basically a Loki who died in the previous Ragnarok, which is where all these gods end up anyway. It’s not clear if they’re going to go that route in this movie, but she does share his fashion sense with the green bodysuit.
Here’s a look at her as drawn by Jack Kirby…
Ah, but where is that glorious headdress that we know from the Marvel Comics?
There we go. Much more intimidating.
It’s worth noting that when the trailer opens, Thor is already in Hel, which is, of course, Hela’s domain, and where one goes when they croak. If you listen carefully, the music here is already the bass line from “The Immigrant Song.”
Surprise! Tom Hiddleston is in the movie as Loki. You…aren’t really surprised, are you? I would hope not.
Also, the guy on the left looks really familiar and I can’t place him. Anyone help me out? He kinda looks like one of the baddies from the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, a movie that was visually inspired by the work of none other than Jack Kirby.
Skurge: The Executioner
Check out Karl Urban as Skurge! Skurge is another Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation, and he first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #103. He’s been around almost as long as Thor himself!
So, I’m not totally sure about this one. Is that soldier in the middle a different look for Skurge? Do these guys work for him? Some of the soldiers have kind of a Kree look. Anyway, if anyone has a more concrete answer for this, please point it out in the comments or shout at me on Twitter and I’ll correct this.
And once again, I have to point out that not only the armor designs, but the guns themselves, and the weird, angular look of the miscellaneous items visible in this set all look like they were drawn by Jack Kirby.
Here is Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, looking pretty amazing. Also note that there are more Kirby-esque designs in the background. The Grandmaster is part of the same group of Elders of the Universe that Benicio del Toro’s Collector (from the first Guardians of the Galaxy film) belongs to, so the Guardians connections here aren’t just aesthetic.
He loves games, so making him the reason that Thor and Hulk end up squaring off in an arena here makes about as much sense as anything else!
In fact, let’s discuss this for a moment…
Gotta love that Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster introduces him as “The Incredible Hulk,” which I’m pretty sure is the first time those words have been used “in continuity” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the unlikely event that you aren’t aware of this by now, Hulk is wearing his armor from the excellent Planet Hulk story, which saw ol’ Jade Jaws exiled into space, where he ended up on the Planet Sakaar, where he became far more than just a gladiator.
Planet Hulk is a really terrific story, and certainly could have supported its own movie. Maybe there isn’t going to be any resolution to that here, and we’ll get more of it in the future. I do know there are some issues between Marvel and Universal that make the prospect of a solo Hulk movie a little tricky, though, so you might not want to hold your breath.
Also, while Planet Hulk wasn’t a Jack Kirby story, I just want to point one thing out…
I just love this arena crowd and needed an excuse to get this in here. But the weird, geometric look of the arena itself? You know which artist that reminds me of? Take a guess. That would be Jack Kirby.
Even the “runes” on this door have a decidedly Jack Kirby-esque flavor.
The moment you’ve all been waiting for, when two “friends from work” go all out against each other. It’s amazing that this moment is somehow not even the coolest thing in this trailer.
Anyway, while Hulk definitely spent time fighting in an arena in Planet Hulk, he never fought Thor. He did, however, fight the Silver Surfer, which would be a hell of a cool surprise if that ever happens in the MCU!
However, in the animated Planet Hulk adaptation, they subbed in Thor-surrogate Beta Ray Bill for Silver Surfer, so we’ve kind of seen this play out before.
Who is Valkyrie?
Tessa Thompson looks extraordinarily badass as Valkyrie, presumably the last of the Valkyries. And, I know I’m basically a broken record at this point, but even the ornamental designs on the wings of her ship look like Jack Kirby artwork.
She appears to be a bounty hunter working for Grandmaster, though, presumably because of this…
This shot of an army of Valkyries taking on Hela is pretty great.
But it would appear Hela is the reason why Tessa’s Valkyrie is the only one left.
These spaceships look kinda like some of the crazy ships that were designed by Chris Foss for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s lost Dune movie.
Here’s one for comparison:
And for real, if you haven’t seen the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary, I can’t possibly recommend it enough.
Idris Elba is back as Heimdall, which is always wonderful news. Presumably he’ll have a little more to do in this movie. Anyone have any idea who he takes out with that sword? I couldn’t quite tell.
Well, this is certainly a new look for the former God of Thunder. Short-haired Thor has been a thing recently in The Unworthy Thor comics, a series which, like this movie, deals with what happens when our guy loses the right to wield Mjolnir.
It goes along with his new weapons, too…
A couple of things here. Thor’s “club” looks a little familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Although “Jupiter’s Thunderbolt” (killer username) in the comments suggests that it looks like the mace that Marvel’s version of Hercules wields, and I can totally buy into that.
And both the club and shield, not to mention the design of the wall in the background, all look like they were designed by, wait for it…Jack Kirby.
What I presume to be the entire internet’s reaction after watching this trailer, and what will absolutely be mine if Beta Ray Bill ends up appearing in this movie.
Wanna talk comics or movies or TV? Spot something in the trailer that I missed? Hit me up on Twitter!