To say that Marvel follows a bit of a formula with their MCU films, would be tantamount to saying that the ocean is a bit wet. From the first Iron Man film back in 2006 all the way up to Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier this year, Marvel films, more often than not, feel very similar.
Part of it is the fact that many of their main characters start out as egotistical, too-witty-for-their-own-good, jackasses that people seem to like despite their flaws and only realize they have to change when the villain–who is often just a bigger, badder, version of them–confronts them.
To be fair, the quippy nature of these films is heavily influenced by the one-liner narrative style of the comic books that inspire them, but it does have the tendency to leave the films feeling a bit toothless.
The most common and heavily relied upon element of their formula tends to be the MacGuffin/Infinity Gems. These mystic objects of great power provide a deus ex-machina push that gets the main characters through the plot without having to do too much work of their own accord.
Thor: Ragnarok looks like it’s going to be more on the Guardians of the Galaxy side of the scale, with its retro music vibe and joining up heroes and villains alike to combat a bigger threat. Not to mention the fact that it’s set entirely off-Earth, even introducing a new love interest for their main character, Thor Odinson.
This incarnation of the Asgardian god of thunder first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 back in 1962. At the time, the series was a horror anthology published by Marvel, but was quick to adopt Thor as the driving character of the series. That is to say, Thor and his mild-mannered, human alter-ego, Donald Blake. In an effort to teach his son humility, Odin stripped away Thor’s memories and god-like abilities–storing them inside Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and disguising it as a walking stick–and banished Thor to Earth. Upon striking the stick against the ground, Blake becomes Thor, but reverts to Blake if Mjolnir leaves his hand–except when he throws it since it automatically returns unless somehow interrupted. Check out The Mighty Thor, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks) for this first iconic adventure, as well as the next twenty Journey into Mystery/Thor issues.
Thor was also one of the original founding members of the Avengers in 1970, alongside Ant-Man, Wasp, Hulk, and Iron Man, actually pre-dating Captain America’s involvement with the group. Because of his wide array of abilities–and the fact that Loki’s tricks are a big part of the reason that the Avengers formed in the first place–throughout the years, Thor has become one of the most commonly relied upon Avengers, particularly when there’s something to fight. He’s not the most clever Avenger, but he quite possibly hits the hardest. A hightlight of his time on the team came during the Avengers/Defenders War when Thor faced off against Hulk.
Many elements of Thor’s story changed over time–including the Blake persona which was eventually dropped entirely–but for the most part, the Asgardian mythology of the character has remained the same; Thor is Odin’s son, Loki’s adopted brother/frenemy, and self-appointed defender of Earth. Recently, Thor lost his name, his left arm, and the right to wield Mjolnir, but it was actually the identity of the person who picked up the hammer which caused controversy.
The mysterious woman who took up the mantle and powers of Thor when Jason’s Aaron took over writing the series, was later revealed to be Jane Foster; Thor’s love interest in the first two films, played by Natalie Portman.
On a side note, one of the best comics showcasing their relationship has to be the Thor: The Mighty Avenger miniseries by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. The art is a little irregular, and the story takes place outside of the conventional universe, but it’s a sweet story and really sets up these two characters and builds a solid foundation for their relationship.
As of right now, it seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing anyone but Chris Hemsworth wield the powers of Thor in the MCU, particularly considering the fact that Portman isn’t slated to be in any more movies, however, it’s Aaron’s portrayal of Thor during this time that is of note. This is a Thor that has lost everything that he ever thought mattered and has to take time to discover who he is without Mjolnir. Even in the Norse mythology, so much of Thor’s personality and pride is built on his privilege. Although Thor has been separated from Mjolnir before in both the comics and the MCU films, this is the first time he has really had doubts about his own worthiness. Even as Foster proves herself worthy, Thor finds himself wanting and goes on a quest of self-discovery in Unworthy Thor.
This version of the character is probably much too dark for the MCU, but he spends most of the story fighting to earn back his place as a god and Avenger, which is almost certainly going to be Thor’s goal in escaping his imprisonment in Ragnarok.
Although the film is the third in the Thor trilogy, there’s going to be another Avenger making an appearance. In fact, Ragnarok actually seems like it’s going to be drawing a significant amount of plot from Greg Pak’s Planet Hulk series.
Deciding that they could no longer risk keeping the Hulk and his destructive abilities on Earth, the Illuminati–a branch of the Avengers formed up of various leaders and outsiders to govern the various superheroes around the world–decide to send him to a peaceful planet where he could no longer hurt anyone.
Naturally, that’s not what happens. Hulk ends up flying through a wormhole and lands on the planet Sakaar, in territory under the command of the Red King, where he is forced to become a gladiator, fighting for the amusement of the people. He gains fame and popularity with the people until he eventually faces off with Silver Surfer, who is also being manipulated into fighting. Hulk breaks the compulsion on the Silver Surfer, who in turns breaks the compulsion on all of the fighters, allowing them to take back their freedom and for the Hulk to take control of the Red King’s capital.
It’s still unclear what the circumstances were that led to the Hulk being imprisoned on Sakaar, however, it seems to have been a good way to remove Hulk from the wider MCU continuity. Both Hulk and Thor fighting alongside either team in Captain America: Civil War would have seriously skewed the odds in favor of their team.
Ragnarok seems like it’s going to split a significant amount of time between forcing Thor to fight in the gladiator ring and showing Loki having to protect Asgard from Hela. How they’re going to link of the storylines, we’ll find out, but odds are good they’ll be drawing from the Siege storyline which had many of Earth’s villains teaming up to take over Asgard, including Loki, until he grows a conscience and dies fighting to defend his former home.
Thor: Dark World ends with Loki having somehow replaced Odin, despite his apparent reconciliation with Thor before his “death.” Thor’s probably not going to be happy about the deception when he finds out. But, as always, Loki’s motives will probably play a pretty significant role in the film, so it will be interesting to see what his reasons will be for defending Asgard and how he can twist circumstances to his benefit. For those of you who can’t get enough of the Trickster, check out Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery. Be warned, Loki in the comics has diverged pretty substantially from his film counterpart.
Thor: Ragnarok comes out in the US on November 2nd. Keep checking Hero Index for updates and reviews on all your favorite comics-related news.