How To Prep For 'Thor: Ragnarok' Even If You've Never Seen The Franchise

by Danielle Burgos

If you're a Marvel Universe fan, you're probably counting down the days to the latest entry in the Thor saga, Thor: Ragnarok. It's the third film featuring the God Of Thunder, and directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt For The Wilderpeople) it looks like it'll take a lighter view than its predecessors, Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Though the third film isn't as interconnected as the first two films were, both to each other and the larger Marvel world, you still may want to watch the first Thor movies before seeing Ragnarok just to appreciate the new film's change of pace all the more.

Neither of the first two movies is screening in any major theaters in anticipation of Ragnarok's release, so if you want to catch them on a bigger screen, you'll have to hope one of your friends has a serious projector set-up. It may seem odd to watch a splashy, big-budget blockbuster shrunk down to human scale, but streaming films is the way the majority of us watch movies nowadays, so it shouldn't seem all that unusual to you.

Unfortunately, neither Thor nor The Dark World are currently streaming, but there's plenty of places to rent or buy the movies from if you want to catch up before Ragnarok hits theaters on Nov. 3. Interestingly, the first film Thor is available more places than the series' second entry The Dark World; looks like middle-child syndrome extends to film franchises as well. While both films are available to buy or rent from Fandango, Vudu, Playstation and Microsoft, only the Kenneth Branagh-directed Thor is available through big-time heavy hitters Apple and Amazon. There's something to be said for the weighty heft of Shakespearian thespian direction, apparently.

If you're hoping to look to the comic book series for a sneak preview or catch-up, prepare to be extremely confused — the Thor series is miles away from the contained stories of each film. For one thing, at the moment, Thor is a woman, and the comic series has never sold better for it. See, despite being the God Of Thunder, Thor only wields his magical hammer Mjolner because he's the worthiest to do so. You can see where this is going — when new story writer Jason Aaron and illustrator Russell Dauterman came in, the first thing they thought of was "what if Thor became unworthy?" Sure enough, that's what happened, and long-running Thor comic character Jane Foster picked up the hammer, title, and powers.

This is a completely different world and focus from current films, where Thor was last seen battling dark elves to save Earth and Asgard from a mysterious substance known as aether. In Ragnarok, meanwhile, the big issue is the appearance of Hela, a long-standing Thor character and daughter of Odin (in the comics, she's Loki's daughter). Hela is played by a nearly unrecognizable Cate Blanchett, and the movie also features the ancient Marvel character The Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum, in a battle-royale for the fate of several worlds. The comics, meanwhile, are busy addressing Jane Foster's struggle with breast cancer. The storyline's showing that while her Thor-form renders her immune, it also kills her human self by shunting her chemotherapy chemicals (technically a poison) from her body, leaving her sicker each time she transforms.

Fortunately there's still time to catch up on the previous Thor films, though if you plan on powering through the many entangled branches of the larger Avengers storyline before Nov. 3 rolls around, you might have to make it a movie marathon — it's 12 movies long (14 if you count the easter eggs and character backgrounds from both Guardians Of The Galaxy films). But that's a challenge definitely worth accepting, if you want to be as prepared as possible for Ragnarok.