‘Thor: Ragnarok': 32 Things We Learned from Taika Waititi’s Commentary
The Marvel machine is always a-whirring, so with Black Panther just behind us and Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon, last year’s Thor: Ragnarok is finally making its way into homes. Taika Waititi‘s sequel picks up with the God of Thunder (who sat out Civil War) after the events of Age of Ultron, when he heads back to Asgard on the eve of the apocalyptic event known as Ragnarok. The film also takes us on a trip around the galaxy to Sakaar, the intergalactic dumping grounds where we meet Tessa Thompson‘s Valkyrie, Jeff Goldblum‘s Grandmaster, and reunite with Mark Ruffalo‘s Hulk. It’s an eccentric, colorful sci-fi adventure that plays like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life, and the whole delightful affair is now available on home video.
Marvel’s Blu-ray releases are always stacked and Ragnarok is no different, packing a whole host of bonus features. There are deleted and extended scenes, an extra goofy gag reel, plenty of featurettes on everything from the ferocious women of Ragnarok to creating Sakaar, and some retro 8bit recreations of the film’s climactic action scenes. You’ve also got the latest Team Thor short, Team Darryl, which picks up with Thor’s unassuming Aussie roommate after the events of Ragnarok, when the Grandmaster answers Darry’s “Roommate Needed” ad. But the best part of any good home video package is an engaging and informative commentary, so how does Ragnarok‘s stack up?
You probably have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get from a Waititi commentary — a bit of insight into his filmmaking process, a regular stream of jokes, and a whole lot of silliness. In that regard, the Thor: Ragnarok commentary certainly delivers. Waititi is entertaining as ever, alternating between insightful inside information on crafting the film’s key elements, ridiculous bits of humor, and entertaining memories from the set. What becomes most evident, however, is how implicitly and thoroughly Waititi put his personal stamp on Ragnarok, from the casting of the smallest bit actors down to details like the names of the spacecraft throughout the film, the filmmaker created a Marvel blockbuster that’s a zany, laugh-a-minute celebration of New Zealand culture. There are also a couple visits from his daughter that are borderline to adorable to survive.
The other thing about a Taika Waititi commentary is you can never know 100% for sure if what he’s saying is true. In between his facts and anecdotes, Waititi is always throwing in some unfiltered silliness. I’ve done my best to differentiate between the two in the list below, but this is also the guy who admits he straight up lied about the film’s runtime pretty much for shits and giggles (jump to about the 33: 00-minute mark here for the receipts), so lord help us all. That said, here are 32 things I’m pretty sure I learned from the Thor: Ragnarok commentary.
- Waititi wanted to open the film with an air of mystery — you don’t know where you are or where the hero is.
- The motion capture for Surtur was performed by Waititi. “The greatest actor in the world, not New Zealand, the world,” says Waititi.
- The horns on Surtur’s crowns were built from an ancient boomerang gifted to the crew while filming in Australia.
- The Shakeweight Skurge plays with is Waititi’s, purchased via infomercial from a hotel in New Orleans when he was filming The Green Lantern. It’s a “DC/Marvel crossover,” Waititi jokes.
- Odin’s cliffside farewell was reshot in additional photography, moving the location from New York to Norway. Waititi says they needed more exposition, primarily about Hela.
- When it comes to design, Waititi singles out Andy Park and his team at Marvel. Their drawings and conceptual were a major inspiration for the costume and set design
- Hela’s weaponry is based on Gorr’s weapons in the God of Thunder comics run. Gorr was known as the God Butcher.
The design of Sakaar is primarily influenced by the “strong lines and bold colors” of Jack Kirby and there are lots of Kirby easter eggs hidden and not-so-hidden throughout the film that manifests in shapes, background designs, etc. There’s a laser gun in the film that is actually the design of a Kirby space station reimagined as a weapon.
- When they arrive in Sakaar, the music changes. It gets more electronic and synthesizer-heavy. Eventually, the more orchestral elements of the Asgardian score and the synth elements of the Sakaar score become interwoven.
- Composer Mark Mothersbaugh wanted to create Jean-Michel Jarre soundscapes. Nothing too modern, using old analog synths, including one he got years ago from Robert Moog himself.
- Waititi recruited sketch comedy actor Steven Oliver to play Cousin Carlo because he’s a fan of the actor’s work on Australia’s Black Comedy television series.
- Ben Cooke, Ragnarok’s stunt coordinator and second unit director, choreographed Hela’s slaughter of the Asgard army.
- Cate Blanchett’s stunts were performed by famed New Zealand stuntwoman and Tarantino regular Zoe Bell.
- Speaking about the death of the Warriors Three, Waititi said, “This is what Ragnarok is, it’s the destruction of everything you’ve come to know and love.”
- The obedience discs seen on Sakaar come from the Planet Hulk comics. Waititi explained that the obedience disk more or less plays the same role as Thor losing his hammer in the first film — it takes away his powers and makes it more believable he could be beaten in a fight. “It’s just more fun to see a character like this on an even playing field,” says Waititi.
- The aliens and characters seen in the background Grandmaster’s lounge are largely Kirby’s designs, some pulled directly from the comics.
- The motion capture for Korg’s scissor-handed buddy Miek was performed by a stuntman who’s an expert in Wushu and other acrobatic fighting styles
Waititi based his performance as Korg on the Polynesian bouncers he’d meet in New Zealand nightclubs — big gentle giants who didn’t want to hurt anyone and could do serious damage if they weren’t so polite and sweet.
- Hela criticizes Odin for his secrets and his shame, and they wanted to visualize how he just keeps covering things up in Asgard, including the mural Hela brings crashing down and the tomb of dead soldiers buried beneath the weapons vault. The real Asgard lies beneath the pretty, carefully constructed lies.
- The scene where Valkyrie opens a bottle with her knife is an homage to the Beth Heke character in Once Were Warriors, who opens her beer with a fish hook.
- Waititi says he designed the Valkyrie tattoo. He immediately followed that by saying he intended to get a tattoo of it on his face after the commentary, so believe what you’re comfortable with.
- Believe it or not, that beer-serving robot seen in the Sakaar bar is actually brought to life with motion capture. The actor behind the so-called Beer-Bot 5000 is Hamish Parkinson, who also appeared in Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
- Valkyrie’s ship is named the Warsong, a name taken from a poem about the Valkyrie.
- The mural in the background of the Grandmaster’s arena suite is an enlarged piece of actual Kirby art.
- The line “He’s a friend from work” came from a kid who visited the set with Make-a-Wish foundation and suggested the line to Hemsworth.
- Two of the nurses tending to Thor after the arena fight are Hemsworth and Waititi’s wives, Elsa Pataky and Chelsea Winstanley.
- The scene in Thor and Hulk’s penthouse was shot on Tessa Thompson’s first day. It was a big, dialogue-heavy, emotional scene. “She just walked in, put her stamp on everything, and she said “here I am” and blew everyone away. She’s such a good actor and she completely owned that character… and she owns the scene.”
- Waititi looked to Withnail and I for inspiration in the Bruce and Thor dynamic.
- The style of lighting in the Valkyrie flashback was designed and invented by two friends of Waititi’s — Stu Rutherford (aka, Stu from What We Do in the Shadows) and Carlo van de Roer. They invented an entirely new lighting rig. Waititi explained that it’s “almost bullet time lighting where you set up an array of lights, like over a hundred lights, all strobes. They’re all going to flash once or twice, they all set off one after each other and in quick succession. Tthe whole thing happens in less than a second and you film those little bits of footage with a very high-speed camera. so instead of the camera wrapping around, like in The Matrix, it’s the lights that are wrapping around so it casts these huge huge shadows everywhere across the walls and it’s an effect that can only be achieved by setting up the lights that way.”
- The Commodore spaceship is inspired by the aboriginal flag, with the colors red, yellow and black. He was struck by the culture in Australia and decided to make the hero’s spaceship the color of the original people of Australia’s flag. “They’re escaping from Sakaar in the Aboriginal flag.” The coloring of Valkyrie’s ship is the colors of the Maori flag — the native people of New Zealand. “Nothing political, just cool,” Waititi says.
- All the names of the spaceships in the final battle — the Commodore, Statesmen, Escort, Kingswood — are all names of Holden cars, a popular brand of cars in Australian New Zealand.
- In addition to doing mo-cap for Korg and Surtur (and some for Hulk during pickups), Waititi can also be seen as the farthest head on the right on the three-headed alien seen in the background of multiple scenes.
Thor: Ragnarok is now available to purchase on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.