BURBANK, CA — When it was revealed the assembled press on the Disney lot were about to take a real tour of Marvel Studios Monday afternoon, it was easy to guess at least one filmmaker or star would be part of the mix. That turned out to be none other than “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi.
The New Zealand filmmaker, who is best known for helming the indies “Hunt For The Wilderpeople” and “What We Do In The Shadows,” appeared in a large editing room where he screened a scene from ‘Ragnarok.’ The third installment of the “Thor” franchise finds our God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) forced to fight his old friend the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiator-type showdown run by the ruthless Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). The movie is known to take elements from the popular “Planet Hulk” storyline from Marvel Comics, and before the scene began, Waititi revealed that not only was there a secret character that hadn’t been announced yet, but that he was playing him.
“His name is Korg, like the piano. He’s a Kronan,” Waititi says. “[At] the beginning of ‘[Thor: The] Dark World,’ there’s a Kronan there, this is a kind-of relation to that guy. He’s not as tall; he’s about 8 feet tall, and, well, he’s made of rocks. He is one of the characters featured in Planet Hulk storyline with another character called Miek, who we’ll also include in the film. We’re borrowing those…storylines and putting them at the arena, [the] contest-of-champions thing that the grandmaster Jeff Goldblum runs on the planet Sakaar, [in] which the Hulk is the main champion.”
The design for Korg looks very similar to the gigantic rock creature Thor easily took out at the beginning of the aforementioned ‘Dark World,’ but with some intentional modifications.
“We weren’t sure what to do with the eyes,” Waititi admits. “He is one of the few characters to befriend Thor on the planet and he helps him out, sort-of explains how things go, and becomes an ally to Thor. Obviously, he’s tall and made of rocks. It’s very hard to create a character that you want to relate to and really like at the door without the seeing the face [and] capturing the expression in a really authentic way to the actor [portraying him].”
As for Miek, like Korg, he was played by a mo-cap actor, but he won’t have any dialogue (a change from his depiction in the comic book).
“He’s sort of an insectoid with a crab mouth, he has a cool exoskeleton with knife hands, he’s basically larvae-kind-of-shaped thing,” Waititi says. “Ironically he’s way more graceful than Korg.”
Waititi plays Korg with his own voice, and that means he doesn’t sound as gruff and ominous as you’d expect a creature made of rocks to actually sound. That was a very intentional choice.
He notes, “We wanted to change the idea of the obvious choice of how the character would sound. You’ll notice he’s huge and heavy[, but] he’s a very light soul. He’s very lovable, and we wanted to create something that’s light and has [a] good element of humor to it. Being made of rocks, we probably should have gotten someone like The Rock to play him, but there wasn’t enough chicken or salmon in Australia to sustain both him and Chris.”
The 41-year-old actor usually puts himself in his films and says if he wasn’t playing Korg — which required him to be on set in a mo-cap suit — he “would’ve wedged myself in there somehow.
“I’m better suited at, like, a character who is kind of meaningless that doesn’t have much impact on the story, but is fun and [in] a couple of small good…scenes,” Waititi says. “That’s kind of the thing I wanted to bring to it, and also a sense of balance in trying to create something that’s not just brawl all the way through. [We want to] have a balance of playfulness and comedy.”
The footage shown was pretty short and finds Thor thrown into a room where he first meets Korg and Miek. He quickly discovers that it’s a circular hallway/room that won’t take him anywhere and it’s an excuse for the friendly Korg to chat with him. Waititi also showed some rough CG animatics that displayed Korg’s brute fighting style and Miek’s more graceful moves.
Notably, there was a question regarding the fact Goldblum is not in full blue-skin makeup as the Grandmaster, the look the character has had for decades. Waititi joked that that’s because he already appeared as a blue alien in the cult 1988 comedy “Earth Girls Are Easy,” but it appears it was really so the actor would simply be more recognizable to audiences.
“Thor: Ragnarok” opens on Nov. 3.