Thor: Ragnarok's Version of Ragnarök
The titular plot is more composite in nature. There are two Ragnaroks in Thor canon: an arc and a character. The character is a cyborg clone of Thor designed by Tony Stark introduced during Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Civil War event in 2006. Since we already got Captain America: Civil War without any sign of an Asgardian or clone thereof, it's safe to say that this Ragnarok is being quietly ignored. The other is the comic arc from 1978 that involves Thor, Odin and the warriors three stopping Hela and her forces from taking Asgard - but despite broad similarities, that's still quite different to what goes on here. This film merges several different ideas and themes that make use of both comic canon and actual mythology.
This Ragnarok is actually referring to the more literal meaning: the end of days. A prophecy echoed through Asgardian legend states that Asgard must fall in order to be reborn, a cycle the realm must repeat in order to survive through the ages. Though there's no direct reference to this legend, a lot of emphasis is placed on how Ragnarok ends, Asgard falling, being inevitable - “Asgard is not a place, it's a people”, as the film puts it.
Related: Thor: Ragnarok’s Ending Explained
Perhaps most noticeably to comic fans, much of the established canon around Hela is rejigged in the film. Adapted from the Norse mythological figure Hel in 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Hela is somewhat true to her namesake as the Goddess of Death and the overseer of Hel in Marvel's Asgard. She's a recurring villain of Thor's and the child of his brother Loki, and on at least one occasion explicitly tried to create Ragnarok with the help of her father, but that story is very different to this one.
Here, she's Odin's firstborn, making her a sibling of Thor and Loki. Her character draws inspiration from Angela, another Marvel creation and child of Odin, and Cul Borson, a brother of Odin imprisoned at one point. Her and Odin led the Asgardian empire, but her lust for dominance grew too strong so Odin exiled her to the underworld. She's responsible for Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie being the only one left, having killed the rest of the female battalion in the battle that eventually led to her imprisonment. Odin's death frees her from her prison, allowing her to lay claim the throne of Asgard unless her brothers stand in opposition. In her first encounter with Thor, Hela destroys Mjolnir and sends he and Loki to Sakaar by knocking them out of the Bifrost mid-transport. Arriving on Asgard, she kills all those who oppose her, single-handedly destroying the Asgardian army and several of its finest warriors. Only Heimdall stealing the sword that controls the Bifrost impedes her, buying Thor some time to get out of Sakaar as she hunts for the seer of all and the rest of the Asgardian survivors.
The prophesy Thor was told gets turned on its head, then, when he realizes freeing Surtur and burning down Asgard is the only way to prevent Hela from seizing power. Loki resurrects the demon with the eternal flame and Surtur immolates the city in minutes. Elements of many of these events can be seen in Marvel history – Mjolnir has been destroyed on numerous occasions – but this story mostly forges its own path in what it does for the main characters. Asgard is gone, Thor himself loses an eye and learns to manifest his power as the God of thunder without his hammer, Loki completes a transition to hero status, Valkyrie is brought into the fold as an MCU regular and Hulk, according to Bruce's theorizing, is now stuck in Hulk-mode indefinitely.
Thor: Ragnarok signifies the start of a great sea-change in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As we get ever closer to Avengers: Infinity War, all the different storylines and characters are starting to converge, gradually building toward the big showdown with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. If Ragnarok tells us anything, it's that the only thing we can really expect is the unexpected. And Hulk doing some smashing, of course.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019