Thor Ragnarok Comics Changes

Thor: Ragnarok has been a rousing success for Marvel Studios. Commercially, the film cleaned up at the box office on its opening weekend. Critically, it stands as one of the best-reviewed movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with only the original Iron Man rating one percent higher on Rotten Tomatoes.

I grew up reading Thor and other Marvel Comics — I even had a fan letter printed in the back of Thor, Vol. 2 #36 (2001). And while I enjoyed the new movie immensely, I initially had a few qualms about its treatment of the Thor mythos. And not just the comic book mythos, but also the movie mythos. Director Taiki Waititi casually discards much of the God of Thunder’s previous history, jettisoning old supporting characters in favor of new ones…but maybe that was a necessary step to liberate the character.

At the very least, it can be said that Thor: Ragnarok offers a fun, deeply heretical take on what came before it. Let’s address some of the sweeping changes the film has made to the Thor series, and why those changes might have been made. Spoilers follow, of course.

Marvel Studios' THOR: RAGNAROK..L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Thor and Hulk: New Best Friends

People called Captain America: Civil War “Avengers 2.5” for how it looped in so many Avengers characters and was as much a continuation of Tony Stark’s story as it was a Steve Rogers adventure. In the same way, Thor: Ragnarok offers the only continuation of Hulk’s story that we are likely to get outside the Avengers franchise. Just last month, our own Hoai-Tran Bui detailed why Marvel won’t make a solo Hulk movie (it has to do with rights between Marvel Studios and Universal).

Before its release, Mark Ruffalo had teased that Thor: Ragnarok would be an “intergalactic buddy road movie.” The film certainly delivers on that, with Chris Hemsworth’s attempted Hulk-whispering a la Black Widow in Age of Ultron (“Sun’s going down, sun’s going down”) being an amusing callback that serves as one of the film’s funniest moments.

Yet when did Thor and Hulk become such bosom buddies? In the comics, they are known more for their adversarial history, which is marked by some epic fights — my personal favorite being the one in Incredible Hulk #440, discussed by Collider here in its rundown of best Thor vs. Hulk comic fights. This adversarial tradition carries over into Thor: Ragnarok’s arena fight, of course, just as it carried over into The Avengers when Thor and Hulk had their first fracas aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Even at the end of that movie, Hulk is still more likely to send Thor flying off-screen with a deadpan punch than to warmly embrace him as a comrade-in-arms. The only time we really see Thor and Bruce Banner bonding is during the party scene in Age of Ultron, where everybody takes turns trying to lift Thor’s hammer (though it is easy enough to imagine them hanging out more off-screen in Avengers Tower.)

The truth is, with no solo Hulk movie adventures on the way, pairing these two heavy-hitters off — merging them in a super-sequel, just as Civil War did with Iron Man and Captain America — simply makes the most sense, business-wise and storytelling-wise. It’s a classic Marvel team-up: two for the price of one. The “Planet Hulk” storyline from Marvel Comics had already laid the precedent for the Green Goliath in outer space.

Prior to Thor: Ragnarok, the general consensus seemed to be that the first Thor was a second-tier Marvel movie, while its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, was a bottom-tier Marvel movie. In the absence of any foolproof metric, Rotten Tomatoes recently ranked the films of the MCU from worst to best by Tomatometer, and while all of them are Fresh, if not Certified Fresh, guess which one has the lowest Tomatometer rating?

Marvel Studios' THOR: RAGNAROK..Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Some people will tell you Thor: The Dark World is outright bad, but personally, the only Marvel movie I have actively disliked is The Incredible Hulk (the second worst Marvel movie by Tomatometer). That movie is deserving of its reputation as the red-headed stepchild of the MCU, mainly because of what a poorly rendered eyesore the Abomination is. “Third-act problems” are a common criticism of comic book movies, but when the Abomination shows up in The Incredible Hulk, the film dissolves into a sub-moronic CGI mess.

That is part of what made it such a joy to witness the Hulk stealing scenes in The Avengers, because there was a sense of the character coming home to himself on the big screen for the first time. By bringing the Hulk into the fold in Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel is also able to give the live-action treatment to one memorable element from Peter David and Gary Frank’s three-part “Myth Conceptions” story arc in Incredible Hulk #421-423. In that story arc, Hulk and the Warriors Three faced off against a creature called Hoarfen, the demented progeny of a Frost Giant/Fenris Wolf coupling. Over two decades later, fans now have the chance to see Hulk face off against the Fenris Wolf itself in a larger-than-life screen tussle.

But let’s bring this back to Thor. Until Thor: Ragnarok, the god of thunder never had a moment to truly shine, not to his full potential. Ragnarok remedies that. It does for Thor what The Avengers did for the Hulk. Instead of coming home, however, the character leaves home, and in fact, his home of Asgard is completely destroyed by the end of the movie. That is not to say that Asgard could not be rebuilt in the future; in writer J. Michael Straczynski’s and artist Olivier Coipel‘s run on the Thor comic, the city of Asgard does rise again on Earth, in the state of Oklahoma.

For now, though, it is gone. Taika Waititi may have filmed the movie as an action comedy, but in a way, it still lives up to the notion of Ragnarok, the day of doom, insofar as it represents a wholesale destruction of the Thor mythos as we knew it.

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