The days of Marvel's Thor being a series of viking warfare and Shakespearean drama are over, with Thor: Ragnarok bringing Marvel's new vision of a lighter, more comedic, and adventurous god of thunder to life. The terms "light" and "dark" have become loaded terms in the realm of comic book movies thanks to fan and media coverage, but whatever a moviegoer's preference, the Thor series has shown the risks of trying to have it both ways. In the MCU, a franchise that's one part Norse war story, one part Earthbound romantic comedy has turned out to be one of the studio's most challenging to turn into a home run.
It may be a good problem for Marvel to face, since it rests on Chris Hemsworth's shoulders: a leading man too muscular, charismatic, and comically gifted to fit a specific mold. But the solution has become obvious from Ragnarok's joke-heavy trailers, and when we got the chance to visit the set of the film before the world had seen Chris Hemsworth's new Thor design, everyone agreed that the time had come to help Thor live up to his potential.
Producer Brad Winderbaum backs up the idea that Chris Hemsworth fought for a funnier Thor movie, explaining that the dark, Norse warfare tone of The Dark World didn't seem as promising as the lighter moments of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The first film may have made its laughs on Thor's obliviousness to Earth's ways, but was already showing the star power needed to stand with Iron Man himself:
The biggest takeaway from Ultron was that Thor got some of the biggest laughs in the movie and, you know, he won scenes even with Tony Stark. And we wanted to base a movie around that Thor, that empowered, smart Thor who the other cosmic figures in his mythology would maybe be a little bit unprepared for.
There were certain things that Kevin [Feige] wanted out of [Thor 3]. One was definitely, you know, the comedic side of Chris, who’s an awesome comedy actor as it turns out. A big, fun kind of space epic that's not so married to Earth. And really just a fun adventure film that has big stakes, but also has a breakneck speed and takes you on a crazy adventure.
There will of course be some disappointed by the shift in direction, particularly those who felt that the darker, more brutal aspects of the Thor franchise heavily influenced by Norse mythology held more promise than its romantic comedy. But a choice seemed inevitable for the series - lighthearted, or viking epic - and there's no denying that Chris Hemsworth's comedic chops have shone brightly in the role. And that's a major reason, according to Winderbaum, that New Zealand director Taika Waititi landed the gig.
The first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok showed that the goofier, irreverent comedy of the Comic-Con short starring Thor's roommate Darryl was closer to the actual movie than many expected. And while the anticipation of seeing Thor do battle in Sakaar's gladiator arena could be undercut by the happy reveal of his "friend from work," Hulk... Waititi explains that fans won't have to choose. Ragnarok will bring the laughter, the action, and more:
There were already story ideas when I came on board. A lot of that changed over the first sort of three or four months. Right from the beginning, they had wanted… just to lighten it a little bit, and to kind of embrace a bit more of the adventure aspect of it. You know, the last two films, well definitely the last film was a little darker. Personally I feel like, and I’ve said this before, is that if the movie's called Thor, then Thor should be the best character.
That's what my main focus was: making [Thor] cool and funny when he needs to be, heroic when he needs to be, and, you know, obviously there'll be a certain degree of pathos, and some emotionality to it as well. If you've seen my other films, there's always a balance between some comedy and some drama, and I think that's a satisfying story to watch. So that's always been my focus with this whole thing. To make it really entertaining, and poignant, and profound when it needs to be. And also adventurous when it needs to be, and funny when it needs to be.
Marvel movies have distinguished themselves as crowd-pleasing adventures, if nothing else, so it's easy to see why the Thor series is being retooled to fit the mold. It's not all that much of a change where the character is concerned, especially with Ragnarok debuting a newer, better Thor. If the world around him changes to amp up the adventure and fun, and Waititi can keep the heart of the character intact, then it may just be Thor's best big screen outing yet.
And even if Marvel fans are uncertain about a "lighter" series, it will be hard to refuse a "better" one.
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