Thor: Ragnarok is considered by critics and fans to be the best Thor film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s in big part thanks to director Taika Waititi, but it was considerably different before the filmmaker signed on. After a heavily criticized Thor: The Dark World in 2013, the God of Thunder came back for a third solo film four years later in Thor: Ragnarok, which changed the title character for the better, even influencing his portrayal in the last two Avengers films.
Like with any other big budget film, Thor: Ragnarok went through an extensive pre-production process, which included many rewrites and ideas being left out in favor of better ones. The original concept for Thor: Ragnarok was much darker, and at some point was teased to be the darkest Marvel script, which doesn’t fit the final product at all. Taika Waititi’s involvement completely changed what the film was going to look like, adding humor to it and with that changing the tone the studio was originally going for.
Thor: Ragnarok was in development at the same time Marvel was going through a major transition, one that separated Marvel Studios from Marvel Entertainment. The reasons behind the split have already been revealed by Disney CEO Bob Iger, and it all came down to Ike Perlmutter not leaving much creative freedom to Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios. This separation benefited Marvel, which went on to produce some of its best films, many of them with very different tones (and addressing many more topics) than the first ones. More freedom meant that a mind like Waititi could arrive and make the third Thor film his, making some big (but positive) changes to the original Thor: Ragnarok.
The Thor: Ragnarok That The MCU Set Up
Prior to his return in Thor: Ragnarok, the last time viewers saw Thor was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he left Earth to learn more about the infinity stones and their reemergence after the vision he had at the cave. This would have been explored in Thor: Ragnarok, but Waititi wanted to make it a standalone film, adding that they were “in a way, kind of dismantling and destroying the old idea and rebuilding it in a new way that’s fresh” and that everyone had a “slightly new take on their characters, so in that way, it feels like [this is] the first Thor” (via EW).
Still, Thor: Ragnarok did keep some connections to its predecessor – after all, it’s a connected universe. Loki was still alive and posing as Odin in Asgard, as seen at the end of Thor: The Dark World, and the film also showed what happened to Bruce Banner/Hulk after flying away in a Quinjet at the end of Age of Ultron. What Waititi added was some much needed humor and a new take on Thor, who was considered by many fans the weakest (and plainest) link in the team.
Waititi gave him a personality and truly seized Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talents with this change. Thor: Ragnarok might not connect to Avengers: Infinity War as directly as it was supposed to after how it was set up at the end of Age of Ultron, but it answered some of the biggest questions fans had about both Thor and Hulk (mainly where they were during Captain America: Civil War), reset the characters, and still linked it to the following Avengers films without making the infinity stones the center of it.
Thor: Ragnarok’s First Logo
As previously mentioned, Thor: Ragnarok was, at some point, teased to be the darkest MCU script, and as such the first logo was literally darker than the final one. There was nothing out of the ordinary in it, with the letters in dark red and in a more similar style to those in the previous Thor films. The logo as audiences now know it wasn’t revealed until Marvel’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, and certainly suits the overall vibe of the film much better. Something as seemingly simple as the logo was a big indicative of the behind-the-scenes changes Thor: Ragnarok was going through.
A Major Role For Sif
A big absence in Thor: Ragnarok was Lady Sif, played by Jamie Alexander. Sif had appeared in the previous Thor films and was said to be a “very pivotal part” of Ragnarok, with Jamie Alexander set to reprise her role. However, due to scheduling conflicts with the TV series Blindspot, she was unable to appear. Sif does appear in Thor: Ragnarok but as a character in Loki’s play of the events in The Dark World, and was played by Charlotte Nicdao.
Given her absence in the film, Sif is still alive, unlike the Warriors Three who were killed off in Ragnarok. Sif was later confirmed to be among those who vanished after Thanos’ snap, meaning that she came back after Hulk reversed it in Avengers: Endgame and is alive, somewhere. The big advantage of Alexander not being able to come back is that Sif survived Hela’s massacre, unlike the Warriors Three, leaving the door open for her return. Even without her, Thor: Ragnarok still had a big female presence (aside from Hela, of course) in Valkyrie, though it’s unclear if she was included to replace Sif or if her role as it is was part of the plan from the beginning.
Who Else Could Have Directed Thor: Ragnarok
Now that the world has seen what Taika Waititi brings to the MCU, it’s hard to imagine Thor: Ragnarok done any other way, especially given the impact this new Thor had in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Of course, at some point in time, Waititi had some competition, among those were Ruben Fleischer, Rob Letterman, and Rawson Marshall Thurber.
At the time, Fleischer’s credits were Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less, Gangster Squad, and Two Night Stand. Fleischer also adds humor to his work, though differently than Waititi, mostly combining it with (a lot of) action. Letterman’s previous works were Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, Gulliver’s Travels, and Goosebumps – very different from what the MCU had been doing, though that hasn’t been an impediment for anyone. Letterman’s work has been mostly family-friendly oriented, so Thor: Ragnarok could have been a new realm for him to explore (more so given the original, darker concept it had). Marshall Thurber, on the other hand, had mostly directed comedies, with DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story and We’re the Millers as his biggest works.
Given that Marvel had a darker idea for Thor: Ragnarok, it’s interesting how they approached mostly comedy directors for it. As mentioned above, Marvel was going through a major shift during development of Ragnarok, one that was giving them more creative freedom, and they clearly knew they needed a big change in the Thor trilogy.
What The Original Thor: Ragnarok Would Mean For the MCU
Had Marvel stuck to their original concept, Thor probably wouldn’t have become a big fan-favorite, and viewers wouldn’t have gotten some of his most entertaining moments, not only in Thor: Ragnarok but in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as well. Ragnarok was the film that gave Thor a personality and sense of humor, and without that, there might have not been a fat Thor in Avengers: Endgame or the sassy exchanges between him and Star-Lord in Avengers: Infinity War.
Aside from the humorous side of it, had the original Thor: Ragnarok stayed it would have featured the infinity stones, possibly as the center of the story, therefore setting up Avengers: Infinity War. There was only one film between Ragnarok and Infinity War (Black Panther), so it would have worked, at the cost of a more fun and layered Thor. Thankfully, Marvel’s 2015 split was for the best, and allowed the MCU to explore other planets, realms, characters, and styles. While some of these can seem to be too different from each other, in the end they complement each other in the ever-expanding Marvel universe, just like Thor: Ragnarok did with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
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- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
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- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022