The trailer to Thor: Ragnarok is a throwback to 80s film narratives with the exquisitely muscled Action Movie Hero (Chris Hemsworth, he of the trinity of holy Marvel Chrises) being oppressed and subjugated by the Elitist Jerk (The Grandmaster, played with exceptional foppishness by Jeff Goldblum). It’s Doomsday for the idealized society Asgard and a fall back to a Roman-style society of haughty emperors setting the rabble against each other in gladiatorial arenas for sport.
Certainly, nothing reflecting the current energy in our world today.
It all starts with Thor as the Hanged Man (filling in for his dad Odin, who hung on the tree Yggdrasil), suspended in what looks like hell. How did this happen? We flash back to him getting his “hammer” destroyed by literally Hela. Now, according to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, we all know that hammer=penis. So Hela completely emasculates Thor, thus leading directly to the destruction of Asgard (at least in the symbolic language of the trailer).
Thor, thus emasculated, now literally falls into a world of barbarism, and is captured by yet another woman, who takes him to an Elite-type who looks like he just stepped out of The Hunger Games.
The casting of Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster is significant, as he sort of invented a “new” type of protagonist in the Nineties: The Nerd As Hero, in such movies as the Jurassic Park trilogy and Independence Day.
But that was the Nineties.
Because we have re-cycled back to the reign of the Action Movie Hero, the hero who represents the current era (such as it is).
Now our heroes must look like this:
(And if you don’t believe me, go ask Marvel’s vice president of sales)
Where does this leave a fan-favorite character like Loki, who shared, in an anti-hero way, elements of Nerd As Hero? Well, even he looks like a badass motherfucker in this trailer; he can’t afford not to be. But keep in mind that “Loki” actor Tom Hiddleston has recently gone the “jacked” buff action hero route himself with Kong: Skull Island; he knows the score.
Finally, Thor is in the arena—his hair cut short, which is a further symbol of his emasculation, Samson-like. He faces off against who should theoretically be his friend, The Hulk (who, just to drive the late-stage Roman thing home, is wearing a gladiator’s helmet). But instead, he has to fight him in the arena.
Now, here we have two average Joes (in Marvel superhero terms) who are being pitted against each other instead of facing the real enemy. This could be a gladiatorial arena, or the online one. Because we are always served distractions to kill each other over; bread and circuses, clicks and comments.
If only Thor and the Hulk could work together instead of fighting all the time on the Internet…
At any rate, this trailer is chock full of uniquely Trump-era anxieties, within an unabashedly retro-hip narrative (think Guardians Of The Galaxy). I would imagine that a lot of the broad strokes here get nuanced in the actual film. The director of Thor: Ragnarok is Taika Waititi—who starred and directed the cult film What We Do In The Shadows and, for you comic fans out there, also played Tom Kalmaku in Green Lantern.
But what is of particular note with movie trailers is that they often traffic in such broad strokes, trying to encapsulate as much as possible of the current zeitgeist in the interest of selling tickets. And in the current zeitgeist, the 80’s-style action hero is “under attack”—by the aforementioned anxieties, but also possibly (at this point) by a figure he thought was an Odin-type patriarch but turned out to be just another foppish Grandmaster.