We finally have a Planet Hulk adaptation – sort of. Like much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Ragnarok draws from a multitude of sources in comic canon. Some parts, like the threat of the titular Asgardian apocalypse, bear a strong resemblance to one popular story, while others are more composite, with no one single source as their inspiration. It’s a recipe that’s made the MCU exciting to watch whether you’re a comic book fan or not, seeing the nods to deeper lore while also getting to enjoy a new spin on some very tried and tested ideas. Thanks to director Taika Waititi’s distinct approach, Ragnarok‘s mix of the familiar and the fresh is of particular note because not only are there overt story references, but the visual language of the film is so inspired by comics.
Indeed, Thor: Ragnarok is one of the MCU’s most comic-like stand-alone pictures. The cinematography through-out emulates classic Marvel artwork, particularly from that of Jack Kirby, Thor’s co-creator whose art helped define the medium as a whole. The color palette is wide and bold and Sakaar itself, the planet where much of the story takes place, looks practically lifted straight from a cover of the Golden or Silver Ages. The whole production is a joy to look at with a story to match – here’s a look at how the movie stacks up to its biggest comic influences.
Thor: Ragnarok Wasn’t Actually That Close To Planet Hulk
The most pronounced inclusion, and the one that had most fans excited in the lead up to release is that of Planet Hulk. Ever since The Avengers, there’s been a demand for another Hulk solo outing with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, with particular emphasis on seeing the 2006 storyline by Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan. Ever seeing Hulk headline his own film is doubtful thanks to studio politics, so Marvel had the bright idea to insert Hulk into Thor’s third movie, creating a fun team-up and really beginning the build towards Avengers: Infinity War.
After being overcome by Hela, the Odinson essentially stumbles into Planet Hulk as it’s happening. Becoming stranded on Sakaar, the God of Thunder is captured by Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson) and made to fight in a gladiator arena run by Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster, one of the elders of the universe and brother of the Collector, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. Sakaar is mostly covered in trash with a central hub city overseen by the Grandmaster that houses his never-ending fighting tournament. The population is made up of various races, many of whom compete in scavenging for weapons and competitors to sell to said tournament, many others just enjoying the festivities around the fights and events. After leaving Earth in the quinjet at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hulk somehow wound up on Sakaar through the giant wormhole in the planet’s sky that catches objects and living things and throws them onto the pile for someone to capture. Naturally, Banner’s other guy found himself at home pretty quickly with an economy entirely based around his ability to beat other things up, leading to he and Thor facing off.
The whole situation covers most of the broad-strokes of the comic, but with some key variations. The gladiators are still slaves kept in line with implants called obedience disks, but in the original story the Red King is their ruler, not the Grandmaster. Silver Surfer, a character Marvel can’t use because Fox own the rights, is the Red King’s main champion, whom Hulk is made face. In Ragnarok, Hulk is placed in Silver Surfer’s position as the prizefighter, with Thor the challenger. Hulk’s arc is further altered in that he doesn’t have an obedience disk implanted in him, and instead of slowly working towards a rebellion to challenge the Grandmaster, he’s at home being revered in Sakaar and doesn’t want to leave. It takes Thor, his friend, needing help (and a convenient transformation back to Banner) to get the strongest Avenger to decide to leave, 142, revealed to be a Valkyrie of Asgardian legend, in tow.
An upheaval is still slowly coming together, but it’s independent of the emerald monster, coming instead from a set of rag-tag aliens who’ve managed to avoid death working as openers for the main-events. Led by a pair from the comic, named Mief and Korg (the latter performed by Taika himself), the lower-tier fighters manage to escape the Grandmaster and join the rest in Asgard. A second post-credits scene reveals the elder managed to rustle his way out of his kingdom collapsing altogether by convincing the not-too-bright coup he’s their leader. The rest of Hulk’s friends from the comic – Brood, Elloe Kaifi, Lavin Skee and Hiroim – are all absent without mention.
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