Where’s Odin? That’s a mystery Thor and Loki are currently struggling with while bickering over women, bowling scores, and Loki’s temporary occupancy of an ill-gotten throne. Clues and more constructive arguing lead to Midgard, aka Earth, where they’re guided by the world’s latest Sorcerer Supreme -- the slightly reluctant but always sardonic Steven Strange.
Sorry – Doctor Steven Strange.
The godly half-brothers eventually discover Odin, but he’s in sorry shape, especially for an all-powerful ‘Allfather’ who bore a race of immortal space-Vikings. Yes, the great Odin is now a raving hobo, but he’s happy with this new station. You see, Odin wants nothing to do with all that nonsensical godliness, or the forthcoming end of all things referred to in very hushed tones by usually boisterous Norseman as…. “Ragnarok.” Translated from Old Norse, it means “fate of the gods,” or twilight of the gods.” So, yes, a terrible state one should avoid within the secure confines of a cardboard tent.
Returning to Asgard sans Odin, the brothers behold a swath of untold destruction facilitated by Hela, the Norse goddess of death and appropriately-named queen of “Hel.” Having escaped her eons-long imprisonment, she’s been redecorating in their absence -- and by “redecorating,” I mean slaughtering everyone, including the infinite ranks of formerly fully-limbed Valkyries.
During the battle, Hela destroys Thor’s hammer and casts both he and Loki into the void (translation: outer space). Through a countless succession of wormholes, the universe vomits a tumbling thunder god onto the planet Sakaar, an unruly world that seems especially invigorated by bloodshed.
Sakaar, or at least its gladiator-based economy, is run by The Grandmaster, an enigmatic ‘Elder of the Universe’ with a crippling gambling addiction. With the “procurement” of an Asgardian, The Grandmaster eagerly inserts him into Sakaar’s universally-renowned means of entertainment: lethal -- as in, “to-the-death” -- gladiatorial contests in a massive arena that might be comparable in size to an Earth-based continent like…three-quarters of Australia?
Here’s where it gets interesting. After a few relatively effortless victories in the arena – because he’s still a god -- Thor’s next opponent is... (waaaait for it)….the INCREDIBLE HULK!
Thor is relieved. Heck, he’s flat-out giddy -- it’s a feeling that lasts for fifteen seconds considering Hulk immediately bull-charges the thunder god, initiating a fight for the ages. Who wins? Well, according to Thor, Thor. Does Bruce Banner agree with Thor’s assessment? Marginally.
Apparently, Hulk’s been on Sakaar for a while now, building his reputation as an undefeated gladiator and, perhaps, the “Sakaar Son,” the planet’s oft-promised but never provided savior.
What, exactly, is Hulk doing on Sakaar??
“PLANET HULK,” an acclaimed story arc pulled directly from Hulk’s ongoing comic series, serves as a basis for Hulk’s involvement in Thor: Ragnarok, and an accenting narrative strain which provides the film’s planetary location, arena setting, and several, equally imprisoned supporting characters benefitting from a Hulk alliance (e.g., Korg).
Want to learn more about the epic comic series involving Hulk’s gladiator-like travails on a hostile world?? Read our breakdown of the “PLANET HULK” storyline right HERE. Afterwards, I recommend buying the trade paperback or seeking out the individual issues. Have I mentioned the ‘epic-ness’ of “PLANET HULK?” Well, it’s epic, tragic, and once again…..epic.
Thor needs to get off this planet. He needs to get back to Asgard and stop Hela from invoking Ragnarok. But it’s going to be hard --- hard as “Hel.” He’s going to need help; he’s going to need a team.
Sure, he has Hulk and a few of his “warbound” arena buddies, and yes, even Loki. But he’s going to need more help, considering Hela isn’t the only super-being focused on throat-stabbing existence; she forged an alliance with the Lord of Fire Giants, the great Surtur, who could, all by his lonesome, bring about the end times. So, Hela AND Surtur? Yeah, Thor’s going to need additional support.
How about that comely Asgardian helping The Grandmaster “procure” contestants for the arena? Right, the ex-Valkyrie who really wants nothing to do with her heritage. If only Thor could convince her that Asgard – and by extension, all of existence – is in need of some serious, SERIOUS saving…
Oh, look – he convinced her.
Will Thor and his band of not-so-merry gods, incredible atomic atrocities, and various alien super-beings be enough to turn the tides of universal cataclysm? Heimdall, the all-seeing one, could certainly attest to such knowledge, but the only informative godly soundbite he’s sharing is this ominous, utterly mystifying sentence:
“Coming to a theater near you.”
Thor, god of thunder, son of Odin (Chris Hemsworth): He just lost his hammer and a sizable chunk of his higher-dimensional homeworld, but there’s no time for lamenting: he must escape Sakaar in order to thwart the world-ending machinations of Hela and Surtur. The ‘Ragnarok process’ must be stopped, and Thor’s going to need some serious help to enact said stopping.
Loki, the god of mischief (Tom Hiddleston): Look! It’s Loki! He ended up on Sakaar! How utterly convenient! Yes, he’s a back-stabbing son of a Frost Giant, but Thor’s going to need him to escape this infernal world and seriously mitigate the ‘Ragnarok effect’. Will Loki help, hinder, or utterly infuriate his half-brother to the point of dispensing rage-induced thunderbolts? Woe to anyone who has to derive something genuine from the immortal archetype of unfettered fibbing.
Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo): Last seen piloting an Avengers Quinjet to parts unknown, his craft took a wrong turn through its own succession of wormholes, depositing him on the planet Sakaar. Of course, the means of his arrival are currently speculative – if it follows the “Planet Hulk” narrative, he was unwittingly directed to outer space by a secret fraternity of Marvel’s “finest” heroes (i.e., The Illuminati).
Valkyrie, the disillusioned Asgardian and full-time contestant-wrangler contracted by The Grandmaster (Tessa Thompson): She’s done with Asgard. Done. With. It. And, she doesn’t need some princely, godly pup spilling his morally-compelling platitudes all over her profitable operation. Seriously -- ‘eff him, ‘eff his team of…what did he call them? The “Revengers?” Yeah, ‘eff him, ‘eff them, and seriously and completely double-‘eff Asgard.
The Grandmaster, an ‘Elder of the Universe’ (Jeff Goldblum): He’s been here since the beginning – the beginning of the universe, that is. A being as old as time, The Grandmaster has been entertaining himself with games of chance for untold millennia. His latest gig? A vast arena on a crap-hole planet filled with the greatest warriors inhabiting our infinite universe. And today’s a ‘banner day’, considering the prince of Asgard just landed in a conveniently located Sakaar slum.
Hela, Norse goddess of the underworld (Cate Blanchett): She’s free! She’s angry! She’s growing black, flowing antlers from her cranium and stepping on – and over -- Asgardian corpses while whistling Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Her revenge-plot is simple: bring about Ragnarok, the complete destruction of the Norse pantheon as well as the Nine Realms, with like-minded Norse deities, including…
Surtur, the ruler of Muspelheim, Lord of the Fire Giants (voiced by Clancy Brown): He’s huge. Like, HUUUUUUUGE. As powerful as Odin, Surtur wields a sword forged from universal super-structure. Throughout the storied decades of Thor comics, Surtur has personally initiated a handful of Ragnarok events which, on occasion, led to the successful smiting of Odin. He is, for all intents and purposes, a walking, raging Ragnarok engine.
Skurge, aka the Executioner (Karl Urban): In the comics, Skurge is/was a great Asgardian warrior. Unfortunately, he’s consistently, psychologically enslaved by Amora, aka the Enchantress. Sans an Enchantress, will Hela be his captivating, forcefully influential muse directing him to thwart Thor and facilitate Ragnarok? Perhaps the formerly noble warrior will regain said nobility and enact an 11th-hour save with a pair of M-16s.
Heimdall (Idris Elba): He’s the all-seeing protector of Asgard who keeps watch upon the Bifrost, a glistening, multi-colored space-time bridge. What does he see now? “The endless shadow, the militant dark, and the flickering language of suffering light conveying its death at the end of a star-sharpened sword.” He’s not one to mince words, or pass on an opportunity to be poetic.
Dr. Stephen Strange, aka the Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch): Yes, he’ll help locate Odin, the formerly great and all-powerful ruler of Asgard, but on one very important condition: once Odin is secured, all Earth-bound Asgardians – specifically Loki – MUST vacate the premises immediately and forever. There are no “ifs”, “ands”, “buts”, or “I say thee nays” about it.
Odin, the Allfather (Anthony Hopkins): He’s taking a break. He’s been ‘Odin-ing’ for a looong, long time now and would rather…not. When you live forever, the Odin Sleep eventually loses its regenerative potency. You need to break out of the mold and avail yourself of your godly trappings. Every thousand years or so, before another Ragnarok cycle begs for fulfillment, you need to step down from on high and live as a homeless mortal. It truly cleanses the calcifying infinity of a very old soul.
Sif (Jamie Alexander): Yep, she’s still giving Thor the goo-goo eyes from across the feast plank, but he never reciprocates. Is it because she’s a better warrior? It can’t have anything to do with that Jane Foster woman, can it? She’s a mortal for Odin’s sake! She has absolutely no meat on her bones, or any inclination to slay anything let alone the great and hungry beasts forever imperiling the Nine Realms. How could she possibly measure up to a goddess of war?
Volstagg, one-third of the “Warrior’s Three” (Ray Stevenson): Definitely the larger third of the Warrior’s Three, this boisterous champion of Asgard and never-ending buffets continues to fill his time thusly: eating, laughing, eating, laughing, taking a moment to catch his breath, and eating some more while laughing. Good ol’ Volstagg. Not surprisingly, he’s like a ravening lion in battle.
Hogun the Grim, one-third of the “Warrior’s Three” (Tadanobu Asano): He’s going to do something. Silently. And it will probably include a very large mace. He will also do it while smiling minimally, or not at all. This is the curse of Hogun the Grim – to live an eternity in Asgard without grasping onto one of Volstagg’s punchlines or truly enjoying the splendor of a fine Asgardian mead.
Stan Lee (Chairman Emeritus): An Asgardian mailman? The voice of Mjolnir? An alliterative-spewing Frost Giant? Whatever his chosen cameo, I’m sure it will be clever and clock in at forty-five seconds or less.