How ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Honors & Deviates from Its Comics Foundation

     September 7, 2017

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On the set, late last year, of Thor: Ragnarok, one name kept popping up in conversation over and over again: Jack Kirby. The renowned artist crafted some of the wildest and most vivid comic-book panels, filling even the edges of the frame with meticulous detail and color. The production design for Thor: Ragnarok seems to have followed Kirby’s vision to the tee – in the production office, an entire wall was filled to the brim with Kirby’s artwork and the set itself looked as if one of his panels had jumped off the page right into fruition. I walked around the set of Sakaar (the alien planet which features prominently in Ragnarok’s Second Act) and was struck by just how bright and detailed everything looked – a cross between Roman architecture and Vegas glitz. Every building and home is painted a different hot color – blue, purple, red, yellow, pink… Heck – I even spotted an alien vending machine in one corner, stacked with rows of weird circular blue candy balls (I think/hope). And just to really bring home the Jack Kirby connection: the crew was setting up a shot on a street serendipitously called…wait for it… ‘Kirby Way’.

It’s not just Jack Kirby that Thor: Ragnarok pulls from though. “I’ll tell you the three things we looked at the most,” producer Brad Winderbaum revealed in between takes, “We’re pulling a lot stylistically from Kirby [but] we’re also looking at the Walt Simonson Ragnarok arc [and]… God of Thunder, the Jason Aaron book.” From Simonson’s Ragnarok, Winderbaum noted that while it’s impossible to tell the comic’s full story within the confines of a ninety-something minute film, “we cherry pick[ed] really fun elements out of it both stylistically and narratively.” As for Jason Aaron’s God Of Thunder, the design for Hela [Cate Blanchett’s villainous character] came directly from the comic. In God of Thunder, “The villain Gorr has the very specific power of being able to manifest an infinite number of weapons. We’ve drafted that idea and are doing a version of that for Hela in our movie.”

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Image via Marvel Studios

While these comic book influences are foundational to Thor: Ragnarok, there’s always a risk at being too faithful to them – a concern, which director Taika Waititi stressed. “I looked at all the stuff that I personally feel are the coolest in the comics,” he said, “But I think you can ruin things by staying too true them. With every comic run, there’s always a retelling…

Case in point: Valkyrie. Traditionally: the character, also known as Brünnhilde, leads Odin’s all female-warrior/task-force – the Valkyrior. In the film, however, Valkyrie [played by Tessa Thompson] has suffered through the traumas of war, giving up her life on Odin’s task force. Per Winderbaum: “We meet [Valkyrie] in a really low place. We’re really [not] trying to create a one to one emulation of Brünnhilde from the comics…”

Tessa Thompson agreed with this assessment — “If you look at [Valkyrie’s] origin in the comics, sometimes she’s on Earth, sometimes she’s in Asgard, sometimes she’s with The Fearless Defenders… It’s all different – so it left us a lot of leeway. The cool thing about working with Taika [Waititi] is he has a healthy respect for the comics but also a total irreverence in the sense that he’s like, ‘Let’s create something new.’… And because it was Valkyrie’s introduction, we really had a lot of space to create ‘our’ Valkyrie.”

Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters on November 3rd and advance tickets are now on sale wherever tickets are sold. For more of our set visit coverage, peruse the links below.

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