It's no secret that Thor has fallen short of his fellow Avengers in solo movies, but with Thor: Ragnarok, fans of the god of thunder will finally get the adventure they're been waiting for. That's the promise made by director Taika Waititi, who has spent ever day since signing on to Ragnarok ensuring that if anyone is going to come out of the film as the undisputed, crowdpleasing, next-level star, it's Chris Hemsworth's hero. And given the previous two Thor movies... it's about time.
That isn't meant as a slight against the first two Thor movies or their respective directors: both boast accomplished careers and, in the case of Kenneth Branagh, made the world realize why a Shakespearean viking was a certified superhero. But during our visit to the set of Thor: Ragnarok last year, it was impossible to miss the writing on the wall: Thor hadn't grown into the cosmic champion that Marvel hoped he would. Judging by Waititi's intentions, and what we've seen of the movie since... he's finally the man to do Thor justice.
As much of a blessing as it may be to helm a Marvel movie, the job comes with some risks. Succeed, and be hailed as the latest in a long line of successful studio collaborators. Fail, and you're likely to take the blame, despite the studio directives, meddling, or marketing. Yet Waititi is unfazed by the directors who have come and gone (including his Thor: The Dark World predecessor), committing himself to making Thor: Ragnarok his way, and letting Marvel sort out the larger 'shared universe' demands. And with Marvel seeming to allow him the freedom to do just that, both director and studio may agree on what Thor needs to carve out a movie franchise distinctly his own.
For Taika Waititi, that means being honest about where he sees the previous Thor movies losing their way. Without directly criticizing Thor or The Dark World, Waititi perfectly states his driving philosophy: "Personally I feel like... if the movie's called Thor, then Thor should be the best character." It's a statement nearly every superhero fan would endorse, even if Tom Hiddleston's 'Loki' wound up stealing the spotlight to their delight. But no matter how charming the villain, if they're outshining the hero, something needs to change.
Marvel is hoping Ragnarok will be that change and more, and Waititi explains why, in his mind, it has to come without remaining chained to the prior two movies in Thor's cinematic career:
I think the main challenge, for me, was actually working at getting away from the other two films. And again... Yes, the other films are there, and it’s great to watch them. I think they're good films. But I don't mind if people start with this film. In my mind, for me, this is is my ‘Thor 1.’
I've seen the other films, and I respect them a lot. But I can't spend too much time thinking about this as a threequel. Because then I'll get tied up too much in respecting what went before, and respecting what's going to come after. It just, for me, has to be a standalone thing. Because this could be the only time I do this. And I just want to make it a version of a Marvel film in the best way possible.
That's just one of several ways that the filmmakers behind Ragnarok have framed the movie as something of a 'rebirth' for both Thor and Chris Hemsworth. The Aussie actor fought to make Thor a more comedic hero going forward, and the film's early trailers have shown only glimmers of what Hemsworth and Waititi's comic chops have wrought. In short: a god of thunder who is funnier, smarter, more active in his realm of the MCU, and a hero as ready to leave the past in the past as his director.
A new Thor, for a new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first two movies will always have their place, but if the goal for Ragnarok is to leave it all on the field in the pursuit of the only Thor movie audiences need to see, well... we doubt anyone will protest carrying that version forward over the one who came before.
Thor: Ragnarok advance tickets are now available wherever tickets are sold.