Something had to be done about Thor.
The Norse Thunder God’s first two movies felt somewhat out of sync with the rest of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe: drearier, denser, not as popular as a lot of the others.
So, as Marvel tends to do, a decision was made to make the third Thor movie, subtitled “Ragnarok,” more fun, even though Ragnarok equals the Apocalypse in Viking legends and comic books since the 1960s..
So a campy main villain, Cate Blanchett’s Goddess of Death Hela (and resentful half-sister to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) was brought in to take over the space gods’ home world of Asgard. Elements of the “Planet Hulk” comic book series were mined for a long, long subplot about Thor getting marooned, sans hammer and hair, on a world full of alien kooks, not to mention his old Avengers frenemy Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and a hard-drinking, refugee Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who can also work with or against the hero.
Most significantly, Kevin Feige’s organization brought in their most unlikely new director yet, New Zealander Taika Waititi. The writer-director of such modestly wackazoid comedies as “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and TV’s “Flight of the Conchords,” Waititi was clearly expected to infuse “Ragnarok” with the kind of fizz fellow indie smart aleck James Gunn brought to Marvel’s hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise.
Don’t tell Taika that he pulled that off, though.
“I wanted it to feel different,” Waititi says. “I wouldn’t say that I tried to make it a comedy, but there’s a lot of humor in this and a lot of color – and a lot of energy in a way where I felt like, even though I love ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ I don’t really want to be compared to that or accused of following it.
“It’s not my source material and it’s not my franchise, so I’ve got to feel like there’s some part of me in ‘Thor’ to keep me invested, creatively, and interested,” adds the filmmaker, who points out that, although most of his shows have been relatively lo fi, he’s also made a number of very elaborately produced commercials and felt quite comfortable with “Ragnarok’s” cosmic-sized action, effects and production values. “So I tried as much as possible, for two years, to inject as much of myself into this as I could, and that manifested a lot in dialogue and improvisation, but also the palette. I wanted some bold and vibrant color.”
Making Thor cool
More on that later. But first, a clearer idea of what Marvel was going for. Eric Pearson has come up through the studio’s writers training program and contributed to a number of its films, TV and home video projects. He’s one of three credited “Ragnarok” screenwriters, and worked on the shooting script with Waititi, studio head Feige and other producers.
“Taika’s first thing was, this is a Thor movie, Thor should be the coolest character,” Pearson recalls. “We really wanted to focus on making his character fun, relatable, affable. Our logic is he’s spent a couple of movies around Iron Man Tony Stark, and having that kind of proximity to sarcasm. it’s not like Thor is not going to pick things up. His worldview has broadened a lot since he was the Prince of Asgard in his first film, where he spent most of his time in that kind of regal identity.”
“Ragnarok” also sees Thor and Loki’s contentious relationship ease to the point where they actually act convincingly like brothers for a change.
“All of my movies are about relationships, father-son relationships, familial relationships,” Waititi points out. “When it comes down to it in this film, if you look at the main relationships and what they’re really about, Thor and Loki are obviously two brothers who want to be able to trust each other. But they come from a super-dysfunctional family where, probably, no one has ever said the words ‘I love you.’
“Because all of the elements in this film are so crazy, it’s almost necessary to make it relatable to an audience to bring it right down to simple human relationships and experiences,” the director continues. “That’s why peppered throughout the film are moments like that, like Hulk and Thor, after having an argument, making up on the bed.”
Pearson reveals that Hemsworth’s input was invaluable to making some of Thor’s longstanding relationships develop in fresh but credible new directions. Having played the character since 2011, the actor nixed ideas that had been explored before. From the jumping off point of Thor’s ally/obstacle tension with Loki, the relationships with Hulk (as well as his Banner persona, which is a essentially a whole different character) and Valkyrie could be similarly themed.
“I really wanted Hulk and Thor to spend some time together,” Pearson says. “If you think about it, Thor and Hulk are the outsiders in the core Avengers group. Not only that, they’re probably the two worst at talking about their feelings. So I liked that in their quieter scenes together, Thor is at his lowest and the only sounding board he has is the other guy who’s the worst at talking about his feelings.”
Surviving the spectacle
Speaking of ally/obstacle relationships, we wondered how utterly indie up-to-now Waititi fared within the corporate Marvel machine. Distinctive directors, such as “Baby Driver’s” Edgar Wright, have been kicked off of Marvel projects in the past, and of course the Disney subsidiary’s stepsister operation, Lucasfilm, has been whacking directors off its Star Wars projects left and right.
But Taika felt loved.
“The relationship was very positive, I was supported the entire time,” Waititi reports. “I’d heard stories before coming in about various studios, and even during making the film about some franchises, getting rid of people. But I can’t go into a project fearing or suspecting that I’m gonna get screwed over, because then I’m gonna be suspicious and paranoid and not concentrating on doing the best job that I can.”
Waititi felt so comfortable that he even took on an unrecognizable role in the film as Korg, a nurturing rock creature that was introduced in the recent “Planet Hulk” comics but recalls both the Fantastic Four’s Thing and Thor’s first nemeses, the Stone Men from Saturn. Those characters, like Thor and the Hulk, were created in the early 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and it was the latter’s singular visuals that the director endeavored to apply to “Ragnarok” to make it stand out from the other movies Marvel manufactures.
“One point of difference that we had was looking at all of that original Kirby art and those amazing designs, then saying ‘put it all into this’,” the filmmaker notes. “That’s something unique we can earn and feel like that’s part of our franchise.”
Why it hasn’t been attempted to this degree in previous Marvel productions makes sense too, despite the fact that Kirby’s mythic illustrations were what distinguished the comics as much as the characters he created with Lee.
“There’s something about Kirby’s stuff that’s not easy to emulate in a real world situation because it’s such beautiful, graphic 2-D art,” Waititi notes. “When you start putting that in a three-dimensional environment, it sometimes just becomes, like, a huge mess. So we would really try to design these things, changing shapes and stuff, just to make the actors actually stand out from the backgrounds because that’s a hard thing as well.”
Considering all of this, it sounds like Waititi made the film both he and Marvel wanted. Despite all the support displayed both onscreen and behind-the-scenes, though, the toughest part is yet to come: Will audiences like “Thor: Ragnarok” as much as they do other Marvel films?
“Obviously, after that many movies you don’t want to be the director to come in and topple it all,” Waititi jokes on the square. “So there’s those nerves, and after two years you’re just wishing and hoping that the film’s going to be received well.”
source: daily news