Jack Kirby's Influence
Much of the far-flung planet Sakaar, characterized as a dumping ground for the universe, is an homage to artist Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Thor, and his instantly recognizable style. From the architecture to the costume to the vibrant colors, Thor: Ragnarok is a love letter to Kirby's influential work. The Grandmaster's legion is dressed head to toe in Kirby-esque designs that seem to have leaped from the page to the screen.
Contest of Champions
The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) loves pitting "contenders" against his champion, in what he aptly titles the Contest of Champions. You may be familiar with Marvel's mobile game of the same name, but it's origins run deeper than a game.
The 1982 miniseries Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions pitted many of the company's heroes against each other as part of a game conducted between the Grandmaster (played in the film by Jeff Goldblum) and a mysterious figure later identified as Death. Marvel has returned to the premise in comics, on animated television and, most recently, in a mobile video game called -- you guessed it! -- Marvel: Contest of Champions.
Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed there have been two Infinity Gauntlets floating around the Marvel Cinematic Universe: There's one shown in Odin's vault on Asgard in 2011's Thor, fully equipped with Infinity Stones, and the one wielded by Thanos in the post-credits scene of 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. That apparent continuity error is resolved in Thor: Ragnarok when Cate Blachett's Hela strolls through the vault and declares that Infinity Gauntlet, among other items, to be a fake.
When Thor meets Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) on Sakaar, she has ditched her name and is now referred to only as Scrapper #142. That's a nod to the character's 1971 Marvel Comics debut in Incredible Hulk #142. While the movie features a different version of the character than the comic, it's still a nice acknowledgement of her roots.
Grandmaster's palace on Sakaar is actually built upon an enormous totem, which depicts homages to some fan-favorite Marvel Comics that general audiences may not recognize: Beta Ray Bill, the horse-faced alien who was deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir, and later received his own hammer, Stormbreake; the swamp monster Man-Thing; Ares, the Greek god of war and one-time enemy of Thor; and Bi-Beast, the two-headed android that's fought numerous heroes, including the Incredible Hulk.
Those characters have yet to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in their proper forms, but this totem would seem to confirm their existence.
When Thor approaches Valkyrie to join him, Loki and the Hulk to save Asgard, he suggests the team will be called the Revengers, because they're seeking revenge in one form or another. While on the service this seems like little more than Thor's awkward play on the Avengers, the Revengers actually existed, in different forms, in Marvel comics. Most recently, however, the name was used by a group that included Wonder Man, Anti-Venom, Captain Ultra, Goliath, Atlas and Century.
While battling Hela, Thor loses control of the fight and the goddess of death makes a statement by slicing out one of his eyes. While this sounds gruesome, it's both a nod to Thor's now-deceased father Odin and and to writer Jason Aaron's recent run on Marvel's Thor comics, in which a future version of the thunder god is missing an eye.
In 2012's The Avengers movie, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark quips that Thor looks like Patrick Swayze's character in the 1991 film Point Break. There's a callback to that scene in Thor: Ragnarok when the thunder god attempts to gain access to Hulk's crashed quinjet on Sakaar.
Remember that hilarious moment in 2012's The Avengers when the Hulk throws Loki around by his ankle and calls him a "puny god"? Of course you do. Thor receives similar treatment in Thor: Ragnarok when he and the Hulk face off on Sakaar. It comes as Thor tries to make the Green Goliath revert to Bruce Banner by reenacting the steps Black Widow used in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In theaters nationwide, director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Karl Urban as Skurge.