“Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarök, the destruction of his world, at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela.”
FUN — the word that comes to mind when one thinks of Thor: Ragnarok. Following the previous two Thor films, Ragnarok sets a very different tone. That starts with the screenplay written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, & Christopher L. Yost. I have to say, this was the easiest screenplay to read. A breeze. I flew through it because it was just so much fun.
Here are 3 lessons learned from reading the Thor: Ragnarok screenplay:
- How to properly change character names.
- How to write self-aware humor leading to exposition.
- How to slow down action for moments of character development.
#1. In the following scene, “Scrapper #142” (shortened at times to S142) is changed to “Valkyrie” as new information is revealed, necessitating the shift:
HOW TO PROPERLY CHANGE CHARACTER NAMES — Prior to this scene, the audience is unaware of Scrapper #142’s real identity as an Asgardian warrior part of the “Valkyrie,” which is not her name but since she is the only one left, this becomes her identity for the remainder of the script. I have seen this done in other scripts but typically the shift is subtle, not drawing too much attention. This is a major studio film so it is stated clearly, as if the writers are speaking directly to the reader.
Personally, I like this sense of clarity, though it wouldn’t be fitting for every script. Tone must be taken into account. As “Scrapper #142 becomes more likable, more important, and details about her past are revealed, the shift is represented visually, as if we, the reader/audience, are getting to know her on a more intimate level. Speaking of “intimate”…
#2. In the following scene from Thor: Ragnarok, the God of Thunder speaks with Korg, “a hulking Kronan rock alien” about wishing he had his hammer…the miscommunication is hilarious:
HOW TO WRITE SELF-AWARE HUMOR LEADING TO EXPOSITION — Korg is hilariously played by director Taika Waititi and the above scene is one of those “spit take” scenes that caught me by surprise. Subtle, naughty humor can be found in many children’s movies and helps to keep parents engaged. Though Thor: Ragnarok and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are not classified as children’s movies, they are owned by Disney and are meant to be family-friendly.
This scene toes the line and earned a huge laugh from myself and the audience in the theater. However, it is not purposeless. Thor losing his hammer is a big deal and once the humorous moment is past, Korg goes on to describe Thor’s relationship to Mjolnir (the hammer) and how the loss may have affected him. This is key. Without the line — “Sounds like you had a pretty special and intimate relationship with this hammer and that losing it was almost comparable to losing a loved one.” — much of the audience likely would not have known just how much the weapon meant to Thor, endowing (no pun intended) our protagonist’s journey with more emotional depth.
#3. The following passage from Thor: Ragnarok is a bit longer. Girthier, if you will (alright, I’ll stop teehee), but is worth reading because it is a moving and pivotal moment for our God of Thunder:
HOW TO SLOW DOWN ACTION FOR MOMENTS OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT — Let’s face it, the Thor: Ragnarok screenplay is a badass, testosterone-fueled piece of entertainment. So when they choose to slow down the creative action, it is for a purpose. In the scene above, Thor is being overpowered by his sister, the God of Death, and we cut away to Thor on a cliffside having a short conversation with his father, Odin. This scene is pivotal and Thor’s energy and motivation multiply noticeably.
From a technical standpoint, I learned that less is more. This is a lean script so they simply use the word “FLASH” with a colon to denote a cutaway moment. It works. Communicate with the reader and remain consistent in your choices.
This is a lean script. With less, screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, & Christopher L. Yost say much more. They use sparse phrases to communicate massive amounts of subtext.
One major thing that the cutaway scene of Thor and Odin accomplishes is a return to form after a massive loss. A failure. Thor’s hammer was destroyed. Something he never thought would happen. He feels broken and hopeless. In just a few lines, Thor is inspired by his father and feels more powerful than ever.
These moments are organic and well-written in their simplicity. Pointed. Honest.
Overall, the Thor: Ragnarok screenplay was a blast to read and I learned a great deal about unique storytelling via sparse word choices.
Thank you for reading! Thoughts? Questions? Please comment below and come back soon, friend.