A Splendid Makeover of the God of Thunder in Thor Ragnarok

Thor isn’t the sole Marvel character to get a major makeover in Thor 3 Ragnarok.

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Marvel Studios Thor: Ragnarok..Skurge (Karl Urban)..Photo: Jasin Boland..©Marvel Studios 2017

Thanks to ancient and complicated licensing deals with Universal, Mark Ruffalo’s Incredible Hulk is unable to be the protagonist of his own Marvel film. He can, however, co-star in another character’s film—and Hemsworth, for one, welcomed the backup. “I want as much help as I can get,” Hemsworth says of sharing the Ragnarok spotlight with Ruffalo—“especially if it’s a Thor movie. I’m like, ‘Give me Hulk; give me Spider-Man;’ give me someone to help me take the weight of responsibility off my shoulders.” Instead of giving Ruffalo a solo movie to explore a full Bruce Banner arc, Feige and Marvel offered the actor a storyline split over three installments.

“If you had a stand-alone Hulk movie, what would you like to do in it?” Ruffalo recalls Feige and Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito asking him. “I kinda laid out what I thought would be interesting to explore. And they said, ‘O.K., let’s do that starting at Thor 3 and carry that all the way to the end of Infinity War. So, you’ll have a character arc. It’ll be Banner’s tale. It’ll be as if he had a standalone flick, but we’ll bury it in three different films instead.’”

But while Banner makes a significant appearance in Thor 3, the bulk of the screen time belongs to his green alter ego, the Hulk. “It’s hard to do this character in a stand-alone movie,” Ruffalo admitted, “because you’re watching somebody who, for two hours, refuses to do the exact thing that you always want him to do: turn into the Hulk.”

Marvel Studios’ THOR: RAGNAROK..L to R: Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

But as the actor points out, motion-capture technology has advanced significantly since first Eric Bana, and then Edward Norton, played Hulk in tepidly-received solo outings. That technology, coupled with Ruffalo and director Joss Whedon’s initial insistence on 2012’s The Avengers that the Hulk’s face be made to look like Banner, means that Ruffalo can pull off an emotive, funny, and, now, verbal version of the green monster—even outside of marquee action sequences.

With Ragnarok, Ruffalo explains, the hulked-out version of his character can “hold that human interest” for longer stretches. And the character may stay in burly green mode for even longer in the upcoming two-part Avengers adventure. Banner certainly hints that the next time he transforms into the Hulk, as he does at the end of Ragnarok, he may not be able to turn back into his human form. “Wait for the end of Thor 3,” Ruffalo says, gleefully predicting audience reactions to his character being potentially permanently trapped as the Hulk: “Like, what?”

But Ruffalo doesn’t see any of this as a radical departure for Marvel. Rather, he explains, it’s the natural transition for a studio buoyed by a decade of positive feedback:

Marvel’s maintaining and deepening their belief that if we trust the talent and we trust ourselves—which has worked for us, always, across the board now—we can expand this universe in a way that’ll keep it interesting to people. We don’t have to force a tone from movie to movie. We don’t have to force a look from movie to movie. All we have to do is carry those characters with some semblance of the last story, with that in mind, and we could actually even bury ledes as well.

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Marvel Studios’ THOR: RAGNAROK..L to R: Skurge (Karl Urban) and Hela (Cate Blanchett)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

But I contend that it’s exactly how they’ve been making this whole thing from the very beginning, and they’re just becoming more and more confident with that model. It’s having faith in people’s love of these characters, and the comfort level of knowing who they are, but also the excitement of knowing that you’re gonna maybe get something a little different than you’ve expected before. And Guardians of the Galaxy opened up a whole new . . . I felt like that opened up another door in the Marvel Universe, you know?

It could go to space; it could be funny; it could be colorful; it could be—it has a style that’s totally disconnected from the rest of the Marvel Universe, and so on and so forth. I think that opened the door for Taika, you know. So he’s like the natural, next generation of that kind of thinking.

Next, we’ll see these new versions of Thor and the Hulk again in the big team-up movie Avengers: Infinity War, which will have to balance a lot of plot and an unprecedented number of stars along with any experiment in tone. But before that, we’ll also get Ryan Coogler’s dramatic Marvel departure Black Panther. In other words: Thor Ragnarok is the first Marvel film to undergo a major overhaul, but it’s setting the stage for a major influx of wildly different characters.

The way Hemsworth depicts it, the same underdog kind of attitude inspiring Thor and his friends to face against Cate Blanchett’s all-powerful Hela in the last act of Ragnarok inspired the making of the film as well: “There was a sense of, ‘If we’re going to go out, let’s go out swinging.’” And Hemsworth has proven that without that hammer, Thor’s swing is stronger than ever.

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A Splendid Makeover of the God of Thunder in Thor Ragnarok
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