Why the Ads for Thor: Ragnarok Have Been So Surprisingly Bright and Fun

The God of Thunder is finally lightning (sic) up

Over the last 10 years, various Marvel Studios executives and actors have been asked why there haven’t been more solo movies for The Hulk.

After 2003’s Ang Lee-directed Hulk was widely panned due to its unconventional approach, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk failed to live up to the Iron Man standard of success, the character has been relegated to supporting status. In fact, after the character was recast (for the second time) and included in 2012’s The Avengers, everyone decided that yeah, maybe he worked better as a teammate than a solo star.

Not knowing what to do with a character hasn’t stopped Marvel from making multiple solo films featuring Thor. As played by Chris Hemsworth, the God of Thunder’s two solo outings to date have been a decidedly mixed bag. 2011’s Thor was a decent bit of drama that mixed comic book pulp with Shakespearean drama, the latter resulting from the influence of director Kenneth Branagh. At the other end of the spectrum is 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, which was dreary and slightly depressing, with a generic “ancient evil threatens the world” story that did no one any favors.

The marketing for the third movie, Thor: Ragnarok, which hits theaters today, promised something drastically different. With director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) at the helm, Marvel has taken a very different tack in the pitch it’s making to the audience. In particular, there are a few ways in which the studio’s tactics are looking to tap into what’s hot, what’s unique and what’s worked about the character’s other movies.

Bright and Funny Trumps Dark and Bleak

As I said, one of the primary issues taken by both critics and fans with The Dark World was that it was just super depressing. Everyone’s Very Serious about the thingee that the elf lord or whatever is trying to steal wait is that really what happened I’m not sure everyone looks alike and I can’t follow this convoluted back and forth from one realm to the next. That came through in the trailer, which never did really find a way to convey the basic story in an easily understandable way. Even Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who was such campy fun in his first two appearances, was a downer, while other characters somberly warned about running out of time as the fabric of reality is about to be torn apart.

By contrast, the Ragnarok campaign has been filled with all colors of the rainbow from the very start. Most of the posters have featured bright yellows and oranges and blues and a title treatment that looks like it was pulled from the box of an Atari 2600 video game circa 1983.

Even before the marketing started, audiences got a sense that the tone of the movie would be different with the release of a short following Thor as he adapts to life with a new roommate.

And while the first trailer seemed at first like it was selling another super-serious story, that perception was broken the minute Thor yells “YES! We know each other. He’s a friend from work!” when Hulk breaks into the arena where they have to fight each other. That humor continued throughout the campaign.

Personal Stakes > End of the World Stakes

The first Thor was essentially an origin story. While Thor himself wasn’t new, he had to prove once more he was worthy of the powers he’d been stripped of. It was a journey of discovery and was sold as such, with a campaign that emphasized both that journey and the magical elements of the world the Asgardians inhabit. The Dark World’s campaign was all about setting up the world-saving battle that would pit Thor against … whoever that was, and was less interesting for that.