Thor: Ragnarok will find its flaxen-haired Asgardian god of thunder between a rock and a hard place, forced to compete as a gladiator on the planet of Sakaar for the cruel, mercurial whims of the powerful being known as The Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum). As it turns out, that rock isn’t just a metaphor–it’s a person. And he will be played by none other than director Taika Waititi.
Thor: Ragnarok director Waititi revealed during an open house event at Marvel Studios in Burbank, CA that he is doing more than orchestrating the Asgardian action from behind the camera. The director, who is also a veteran actor, is strapping on a mo-cap suit to play the character Korg, a Kronan warrior who serves as Thor’s tour guide once he winds up imprisoned in The Grandmaster’s fighting pits.
Eagle-eyed movie viewers will remember seeing another Kronan warrior in Thor: The Dark World, but this character’s design has been enhanced to look sleeker and more like an agile combatant than a hulking monster-man.
Comic book readers will recognize Korg from the “Planet Hulk” storyline, where he fought alongside Hulk on a gladiator team on Sakaar. You may also remember that Hulk forced Korg to murder his own brother, who had been driven insane, but it sounds like we will be getting a jauntier version of the character here.
Originally, Waititi revealed that because Korg is a big, beefy, rocky character that they wanted a big, beefy, rocky actor like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to play him. “There wasn’t enough salmon or chicken in Australia to sustain him and Chris [Hemsworth],” Waititi jokingly explained as to why that casting didn’t come to pass.
This version of Korg still cuts an imposing figure, wielding a mighty club to dispatch opponents, which we saw in action during a VFX test of the Kronan warrior doing battle in an arena. However, he is meant to serve as a lighter, funnier character who shows Thor the ropes of his deadly new digs. The design has evolved quite a bit from the hulking beast first depicted in Thor: The Dark World, and one of the most notable changes is a rocky mustache that “keeps getting larger” with each iteration, according to Waititi. “I think by the end of this film, you might want to cuddle this guy,” Waititi told the crowd with a laugh.
Korg isn’t alone either; he is accompanied by another character plucked from the pages of the comics, the insectoid gladiator known as Miek. One of Sakaar’s native species, Miek played a substantial role in the events of “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk,” fighting alongside Hulk against his enemies and framing the Illuminati for a devastating explosion that murdered many people Hulk loved. It seems that his role in Ragnarok will be much smaller in scope given the film’s task of truncating and combining multiple storylines. Here, the lacerating larva Miek is a disgusting insectoid creature with a cybernetic exoskeleton that has knives for hands. He doesn’t talk very much because his knife-hands do most of the talking for him.
In a brief scene, we saw Thor unceremoniously hurled into a long, winding corridor that looked like a combination between prison and dorm. Our hero loses his temper, but the wily, calm, and collected Korg immediately pipes up in an effort to calm him down. The voice sounds a bit like a grown-up Ricky Baker from Waititi’s tremendously enjoyable Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which makes it all the funnier to hear it coming out of this stony behemoth.
While Thor runs around what he discovers to be a circular corridor, Korg gives Thor the lowdown on his new situation: he’s going to be forced to fight in a series of gladiator battles until he can challenge and defeat the Grandmaster’s champion. When Thor proclaims that he will slay that champion, Korg remarks that his predecessor Doug said the same thing… and now he’s dead. Considering that The Grandmaster’s champion seems to be Thor’s “friend from work,” the God of Thunder is going to have his work cut out for him.
But at least he’ll do it with the dulcet tones of Taika Waititi by his side.
Thor: Ragnarok opens on November 3, 2017. Find out what else we learned at the Marvel Open House!
Images: Disney, Marvel, Marvel Comics
Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter ( @Osteoferocious).
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