Thor: Ragnarok is the third film in the Thor franchise inside of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe and finally brings all of the original films (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) to the status of trilogies. Over the years, we’ve watched these characters develop in their own films, each one learning (for the most part) from the missteps of their predecessors. As a film, Thor: Ragnarok takes many cues from the latest slew of Marvel films by not taking itself too seriously. We know all of the main players in these films, so it's exciting to see Marvel give the writers and directors of these films free rein on the source material, and it has definitely paid off.
Thor: Ragnarok feels exactly what it was described as back when the film was first announced. A few years ago, the idea was pitched that this film would be a Thor and Hulk buddy-cop adventure and to be honest, that is exactly the film we got. I’m always thankful to see the Hulk on the big screen, considering Universal Studios still holds the film rights, thus keeping Bruce Banner from having his own solo film anywhere in the near future. However, Ragnarok lets Hulk really stretch his metaphorical and physical muscles in what could be argued is a solid adaptation of the Planet Hulk arc in the comics (even if we didn’t get all of the elements we wanted, it’s still a Thor film after all). Gathered below are some things you may have missed during your first watch, as well as some great nods and winks that you’ll want to look out for the next time you watch this great film.
You may have noticed that the scenery and architectural design of Thor: Ragnarok was very consistent across the board for one main reason: Jack Kirby. For those of you who don't know (pick up a history book!), Jack Kirby was one of the original artists for Marvel who brought the cosmos and otherworldly aesthetic to Marvel Comics. He's responsible for the cosmic voyages of Dr. Strange, much like you saw in 2016's Dr. Strange, a film full of colourful representations of the metaphysical universe. As a matter of fact, this was an Easter egg that has been around since one of the original trailers for the film was released. If you look closely inside of the Grandmaster's viewing room at the colosseum, you can see that the mechanical looking wallpaper is taken directly from the drawings of Jack Kirby and used as a wallpaper. It is great to see one of the most influential artists in the Marvel industry get a moment in the spotlight.
For anyone well versed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how it correlates to the comics, I'm sure you no doubt saw this in your first viewing of the film. Alongside the tallest tower in the film, you see giant steel busts of the champions that ruled the ring before Hulk arrived and took that crown. Anyone who grew up reading comics will no doubt remember two obscure characters who are now confirmed to have existed at some point in time as the champions of the arena. Those two characters are, of course, Beta Ray Bill and Man-Thing. Beta Ray Bill and Thor have a very direct relation to each other and as it turns out, Beta Ray Bill was set to appear in the film and ended up having to be cut from the final theatrical release. Man Thing is Marvel's closest relative to Swamp Thing from the DC universe and shares a similar green nature aesthetic. There was a Swamp Thing film a long time ago, but it doesn't exist in the Marvel Universe just yet, but I hope to see more of these characters in future films.
You may have noticed how the Hulk had some very different personality traits than we have seen in the past films. In The Avengers, we started to understand how the Hulk could comprehend small commands, like how he would smash aliens with glee under Captain America's orders. In Age of Ultron, we saw the progress certain characters like Black Widow have made with the mean green machine in the way she uses her calm routine to get Bruce back from the Hulk. Thor: Ragnarok brings us one step closer toward a major comic event for the character by having the Hulk say, "No Banner here," implying that Bruce's persona is no longer in the Hulk's body. This has happened in the comics before as the Hulk and Bruce Banner become two separate characters, able to act of their own free will. While I think we're a few films away from seeing this done officially, I think the hints toward it we have gotten are very interesting so far.
If you look back at the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, you'll remember that the Hulk's ultimate fate in the film was never really explained. During the climax of the film, one of Ultron's bots is attempting to escape via a Quinjet, which the Hulk is quickly able to leap aboard and dislodge any of its unnecessary passengers. Instead of leaping back down into the fray, Hulk takes a relatively quiet and reflective change of pace as he sits near the control center. A video of Black Widow pops up on the command center and urges him to come back to Sokovia. As we know, he doesn't, and instead ends up crash landing on the alien planet from the movie. Later in Thor: Ragnarok, we see Thor access the command center of that very same ship to play Hulk in the exact same video from Age of Ultron.
This one might seem like a bit of a stretch, but I promise if you stick with me until the end of it, you just might start to see what I’m saying. Keep in mind that at the time of the film, Hulk has been contained in the Contest of Champion’s quarters for almost two years. This means that when he isn’t fighting or training, he’s confined to a fairly small bedchamber considering Hulk is the strongest one there is. When Thor and Valkryie are in the room with Hulk coming up with a plan, Hulk can be seen in the background of the scene, bouncing a large ball against the wall of his comfortable cell. The repetition of this act is seen only in one other film, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, where Jack Torrence’s character does this same act while slowly losing his mind. In Hulk’s regressive state of confinement, he begins to lose his sane side (Bruce Banner) reducing him to the mindset of a child, which explains his immature nature. It’s easy to see how The Shining could have influenced this directorial and symbolic decision.
We've seen these two characters get in bouts over who the strongest Avenger is for decades. In the original Avengers film, we got to see Hulk and Thor duke it out while onboard one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helicarriers. That fight showed us that Thor could go head-to-head with Hulk and even block some of his punches and throw a few of his own. In Thor: Ragnarok, one of the film's major set pieces revolves around the battle arena, so fans were expecting some major action sequences that would put Thor and the Hulk head-to-head. Fortunately, we weren't let down in this department because the fight was absolutely amazing. At one point in the fight, Thor attempts to use Black Widow's sunset method to calm the Hulk down only to get grabbed by the Hulk and smashed exactly the same way Loki was in The Avengers, making for one of the most comedic (and cathartic for Loki, I'm sure) scenes in the film.
To continue talking about the colosseum (it was by far my favorite part of the film and should justify the price of the ticket on its own), this next fact has to do with the production of the film. Since the film decided to reshoot some scenes with additional moments of improv, you can imagine anything that takes place inside the colosseum would receive some extra love as well. As it turns out, one of the best lines of the film, the one regarding the Hulk being Thor's "friend from work" was a line that wasn't in the original script and didn't even come from anyone on the production team, as a matter of fact. A Make a Wish Foundation patient was on set watching the filming and production of the film and suggested the line to Chris Hemsworth and the director, who fell in love with the line and made it to the final cut of the film. It was also used as a major scene in almost every trailer for the film. Good work kid!
Way, way back at the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before most people even knew who the likes of Groot or Ant Man were, we had the original Thor movie. In that, keen-eyed fans spotted a particular glove on display in the lower security vaults of Asgard and theories began to run wild as to how Thanos would eventually get his hands on this gauntlet. To add to the confusion, we get an end credits sequence that showed Thanos grabbing a different gauntlet which prompted the question of, “Just how many of these things are there?” Fortunately, Thor: Ragnarok handled this long-term continuity error with absolute grace by having Hela prove everyone’s theory that the one on display in Asgard was a fake.
The after-credits scene for Dr. Strange set up a major plot point for Thor: Ragnarok way back in 2016 by having Dr. Strange and Thor interact inside Dr. Strange’s sanctum. During that scene, Dr. Strange explains to Thor how he knows Odin’s location which confirms a theory from the previous Thor film. In Thor: The Dark World, it was alluded that Loki had somehow taken over for Odin during some confusion. Using his powers of deception, Loki was able to take on the appearance of Odin and thus rule over Asgard in his father’s absence. This arc comes to a conclusion in Thor: Ragnarok and when we first see Thor return to Asgard. In that scene, we see a play that Loki has put together, but more on that later!
Jeff Goldblum’s portrayal of the Grandmaster was one of my favourite parts of the film, considering they gave Goldblum such free reign over the character. As a matter of fact, there were a lot of scenes in the film that were shot and reshot with an improvisational nature that gave the scenes some of the best jokes in the film. Now, back to the Grandmaster. If you look back to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you’ll remember that Ego the living planet belonged to the same group the Grandmaster does: The Elders of the Universe. For the uninitiated, the Elders are a group that evolved from the earliest galaxies that were formed following the Big Bang. Given that information, I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen the last of the Grandmaster and it’s a good thing too because the Marvel Universe needs as much Jeff Goldblum as it can afford.
If you keep up with any of the games Marvel has been putting out across mobile and home console platforms, you will most likely be at least somewhat familiar with Marvel's Contest of Champions. The mobile game pits players against other characters of the Marvel universe and forces them to fight until one person is crowned as the champion. Given how long the production for Thor: Ragnarok must have taken to develop, it isn't hard to imagine Marvel wanting to introduce the idea of the Contest of Champions before it appeared in the film. From the comics, Hulk returns to Earth in World War Hulk to get revenge on the superheroes that sent him away by enslaving heroes like Mr. Fantastic to fight in his own twisted version of the Contest of Champions.
Anyone with any speck of comic knowledge should know that the comic book iterations of the Incredible Hulk are more verbose than Mark Ruffalo's portrayal of the character. In the comics, we have seen a wide variety of sentient Hulks, from the version of the Hulk that speaks in short, controlled bursts and provides the reader and the rest of the Hulk's team members a brief glimpse into his emotions. This version of the Hulk seems very childlike and simple. Other versions of the character are much more troubled and intelligent, especially like the Hulk we see in Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, where the Hulk rationalizes the enslavement of Earth because of the way they treated, tricked, and exiled him for being too strong and out of control.
This reference might show my age a little bit, but anyone who grew up in the 1990s spent at least one or two afternoons getting to watch Patrick Swayze in Point Break, one of the coolest extreme-sports movies of all time. The film was actually remade a few years ago, but I don't think I ever got around to actually seeing it. Regardless, one of the references in Thor: Ragnarok harkens back to the film and also manages to be a sick burn on Thor at the same time. One section of the film sees Thor trying to reactivate the Quinjet for a quick escape from the planet so he might be able to return to Asgard and rescue his people. The problem with this plan is that the ship is locked with a password and Thor is grasping at straws in his responses. Eventually, Thor caves, knowing that Tony Stark programmed the ship to only respond after Thor embarrasses himself and accepts the Point Break reference.
Most modern superhero trailers follow the Paranormal Activity marketing practice. For the uninitiated, this practice revolves around tricking the audience into what they should expect from the movie while still giving them a taste of the final product. Take the scene where Hela catches Thor's Hammer mid-throw and proceeds to break it into pieces, blasting Thor and Loki back. In the trailer, this scene was set in a New York City alley, but the final film version takes place near the cliffside where Anthony Hopkins' Odin bestows his final wisdom upon his sons. This happens again at the end of the film where the trailer depicted Thor fully powering up his Odin-Force and lightning powers. The scene in the film is shot for shot in line with the trailer, but we see that Thor's missing eye was not shown in the trailers for obvious spoiler reasons, which is a really cool example of how editing can affect narrative.
Thor's trusty hammer is usually always by his side, or at the very least, is capable of flying toward him at a moment's notice, disregarding any collateral damage (which is sometimes used by Thor as a motivational tactic). During the early portion of the film, Thor and Loki travel to New York City to look for their father and have to disguise themselves in civilian clothes to pass unnoticed, save for a few Thor selfies with fans. Longtime fans of Marvel comics and Thor as a character will notice that the umbrella Thor carries in that scene is actually his hammer, Mjölnir, disguised as an umbrella. This is a reference to the original iteration of the character, where Thor had a human persona and would transform into Thor by striking the umbrella against the ground and taking on the role of God of Thunder.