How Thor: Ragnarok Emulates Classic Video Games

thor: ragnarok

WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok, in theaters now.

Each Marvel Cinematic Universe property embraces a different genre. For instance, the Captain America films move between war story and espionage thriller, while Netflix's Jessica Jones leans into noir. It’s part of what makes these franchises feel distinct, yet somehow similar, and the same holds true for Thor: Ragnarok. Not only is the sequel a departure from its two predecessors, which mashed together cosmic adventure and Shakespearean melodrama, it represents something new for the MCU. Sure, it's an action-comedy, in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy, but it also may be Marvel's first attempt at a video game movie.

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To be clear, that isn't saying Ragnarok is based on a video game. Director Taika Waititi & Co. made it clear their inspiration drew from such comic book inspirations as the works of Thor co-creator Jack Kirby, Walter Simonson's seminal run on the Marvel series, and Jason Aaron's God of Thunder. But watching the film, it certainly feels like a video game movie -- or at least one that takes elements of video games from three eras to graft onto its. Namely, the 1980s, the '90s/'00s and today.

The '80s are an easy place to start as, like the more popular games of those days, Thor: Ragnarok possesses a fairly straightforward plot in the vein of Mario or Legend of Zelda: The hero needs to find the MacGuffin that will allow him to defeat the villain. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but just as how those games utilize that simple thread to lead players on an enchanting journey through colorful landscapes, so it goes with Ragnarok. Asgard, Sakaar and the film’s other locations tell stories using their visuals alone, much like Hyrule or the Mushroom Kingdom. This may be a 2017 film, but its production design speaks more to the '80s than to most games of today, really.

Speaking of design, the Thor franchise has always had a bit of a Zelda design approach. Naturally, Asgard serves as the very literal “overworld” for Marvel's god of thunder, his one spot of refuge. (If you’ve yet to play a Zelda, think the Tower in Destiny.) It’s only through the Bifrost Bridge that he can travel to the other Nine Realms -- or “dungeons,” if we’re to continue the Zelda comparisons. Sadly, the mode of transportation used by Thor and the other Asgardians isn’t as fluid as in Zelda or Destiny 2. It’s not explicitly stated, but it seems that, if you’re not already in Asgard, you have to Bifrost back to Asgard first, and then head your desired destination. But the thunder god's internal logic very much fits with Link's, only with more hammers and flying.

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