Please Note: This contains spoilers for Thor Ragnarok
The latest Marvel movie, Thor Ragnarok, has been both a critical and financial success reinvigorating interest in a character who has for the most part not been the most popular of Marvel Heroes. This was done by shaking up the formula and changing what you usually see in a Thor film.
Most of the story takes place off of Asgard, the fictional realm and its capital city based on the realm of the same name in Norse mythology, and includes characters such as the Hulk and Doctor Strange in order to connect it more to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Part of this change was a very distinct change to Thor’s look. Here at 360DegreesofDisney.com our charge is to look at decisions made by Disney executives in one division and try to figure out how they will affect the Walt Disney Company at large.
Thor’s look changes are far from small -- a new haircut, clothing style, powers, and he lost an eye! Not only all of that but he lost his iconic hammer. This could have major ramifications for the Walt Disney Company. Previously the characters have had a standard look. Although things have varied from medium to medium you could see a picture of the character and know who it is. Most Marvel character’s “iconic” versions are a mixture of the movies, comics, animation, etc.
However now Thor looks so different from how he appeared previously that, to many, he will not be recognizable. It seems to be a permanent change so that the “iconic” version no longer represents the movie version. While Marvel can play with their characters looks, changing Thor to such a degree and taking away his iconic weapon seems to be a step too far. Thor has looked different in the comics however these appearance changes have always been temporary and, in any case, do not have the impact on the general public that a big blockbuster movie does.
This particular change, coming out in a big Hollywood blockbuster of a movie, will affect all divisions of the Walt Disney Company. Will the company now have two distinct “iconic” versions of Thor? When ShopDisney creates a new Marvel toy line which version of Thor will they use? In the Disney Parks and Cruise Line how will he appear? Will he need to have two looks? What about touring productions, TV shows, videogames, etc? Quite honestly Thor might have an identity crisis in the coming years should these changes remain.
Can Thor no longer be represented by his iconic hammer? Even just recently on the new Marvel Day at Sea cruise Chip and Dale are DisneyBounding as Thor and Loki. Chip is wearing a shirt with Thor’s hammer on it identifying his DisneyBound as Thor. Will they need to change this now?
Disney has dealt with somewhat similar situations before most especially regarding their recent live action adaptations of classic movies. These however are very firmly established as a separate brand whereas Thor here is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which for many is the iconic version of Marvel. It will be more difficult to ignore a momentous change in a movie that is part of the main Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The other problem is that during the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War film Thor, with these changes, will mingle with many iconic versions of Marvel characters, thus creating even more confusion. This Thor change is a short-term gain for a potentially character destroying long term loss. These changes will cause confusion in the average viewer’s “picture in their mind” of Thor. At this point, there is little that can be done especially since he LOST AN EYE! One supposes that Disney could have Doctor Strange change him back -- however that would most likely cause fan backlash. This is a tough situation that Disney has created. There will be ramifications and it is not clear that Disney executives have actually sorted through all the challenges and potential solutions. One wonders what systems Disney has created internally, if any, to make sure that a decision made in a film, such as the decision to change the look of Thor, will not only generate a quick win for one particular film, but also to assess whether such changes enhance the overall value of the character to the Walt Disney company?
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