By now you’ve probably seen the new, and totally rad, (if not, what are you waiting for?), but you probably haven’t seen the footage shown exclusively to the fervent masses during Marvel Studios’s Hall H panel. Luckily, I was on hand to witness five-or-so minutes which prove that none of the irreverent sensibilities that made What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt For the Wilderpeople such delights, have been lost in Taika Waititi’s transition to mega-budget movie-making.
The sequence starts the day after Thor’s hammer is destroyed and Hela has overthrown Asgard. The Mighty Thor, luxuriant long hair still intact, wakes up strapped to a space gurney, and is moving helplessly through some vast, infinite space where a cosmic light show fills the darkness with projections of celestial bodies. “Fear not, for you are found,” a soothing but unsettling voice of god says, like some hokey new age therapist. “You are home, there’s no going back. No one leaves this place. But what is this place? The answer is Sakaar.” It’s around this time that the first notes from Pure Imagination start playing, the second film to invoke Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at Hall H (following the ). “Surrounded by cosmic gateways,” the unseen woman continues, “Sakaar lives on the edge of the known and the unknown. It is a collection point for all lost and unloved things, like you, but here at Sakaar you are significant, you are valuable. Here you are loved. And no one is loved more than The Grandmaster. He is the original, the first lost and the first found. The creator of Sakaar and father of the Contest of Champions. Where once you were nothing, now you are something; you are the property of the Grandmaster. Meet the Grandmaster in 10 seconds...”
At this point Thor starts screaming in a way that can only be described as distinctly un-Asgaardian, and seems slightly out of character for the Norse god, but it gets a big laugh. Instantly he appears in The Grandmaster’s chamber. To the ancient one’s left stands his rather stern assistant Topaz (Waititi’s “lucky charm” Rachel House), to his right Scrapper 142, aka Valkyrie. “He’s wonderful. It is a he?” The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) inquires. A brief, and very funny, exchange follows where Topaz takes the chance to literally trash talk Valkyrie, but The Grandmaster is more than happy with the latest contender his scavenger has found stranded on Sakaar’s surface. “Wait a damn minute I’m not for sale,” says a now furious Thor, before breaking out of his wrist restraints. He gets zapped by a device implanted in his neck for his efforts. Valkyrie asks for 10 million credits for her latest discovery, a finder’s fee The Grandmaster is more than willing to fork over. “You’ll pay for this,” says a barely conscious Thor. “No I got paid for this,” quips Valkyrie.
In the next scene a freshly sheared Thor is tossed into a circular cell with Korg – a purple-ish rock creature played by Waititi himself. Despite his monstrous appearance, Korg speaks in an incongruous Southern Pacific lilt that Waititi compares to a Polynesian bouncer. It’s adorable and hysterically funny. “Allow me to introduce myself I’m Korg, I’m kind of like the leader in here and I’m made of rocks as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you,” Korg says, striking a quick friendship with the only other living person in his holdings. “I tried to start a revolution but didn’t print enough emblems… as punishment I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator,” Korg, a serial waffler, continues. “I’m actually organising another revolution, do you reckon you’d be interested?” Thor runs off camera but appears, impossibly, on the other side of the room. “Yeah, this whole thing is a circle. A sort of freaky circle,” Korg continues, before Thor notices a dead body slumped against the wall. It’s Doug. “Everyone who fights the champion perishes,” Korg explains. This doesn’t deter Thor who outlines his plan to “Fight him, win, get out of this place.” The scene ends with Korg calling out, “See you later new Doug!” And waving goodbye. I’d put good money of Korg stealing the entire film.
Next we get a new glimpse of the main event, as the camera pushes through a colossal crowd and reveals an aerial view of the Grandmaster’s staggering arena – like the Roman Coliseum turned up to 11. As Thor steps onto the battleground The Grandmaster gives him a rousing introduction, “Making his first appearance, the Lord of Thunder!” But the crowd is here to see their Incredible Hulk, who bursts through his metal door like it’s made of tracing paper. After a familiar gleeful greeting, Thor asks “Where have you been? Everyone’s been worried sick about you!” Before updating the not-so-jolly green giant on his own state of affairs. “Yeah, you know, I’m just kind of doing my own thing now. I’m not really hanging out with the Avengers anymore, it all got very corporate.” Cut to the new trailer. If there’s one thing this footage proves, it’s that is on track to be the funniest Marvel movie yet.