Exploring Soundtracks: Thor: Ragnarok

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In light of the recent passing of Stan Lee, I found it difficult to turn my mind away from the Marvel universe. It’s amazing to think that one man’s vision over fifty years ago is still shaping the worlds of people today. So, with that in mind, I thought it best to return to one of the few Marvel soundtracks we’ve yet to cover.

“Thor: Ragnarok”, directed by Taika Waititi, follows the prince of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth) as he attempts to stop the coming of Ragnarok, and the destruction of his home. But before he can, he first has to escape the trash world of Sakaar and the clutches of the eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). To escape, he attempts to enlist the help of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), which proves more challenging than he could have anticipated.

Immigrant Song

“Thor: Ragnarok” opens with Thor trapped in a cage, and facing the fire demon Sutur. This is a perfect opening in so many ways. First, we get Thor giving a quick recap to the audience, until its revealed that he’s actually been talking to a skeleton locked up with him the whole time. But that’s just a nice throwaway gag from the hilarious Waititi. The real meat of the opening scene kicks in only moments later.

As Thor fights Sutur and his army of skeletons and monsters, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” bursts out of the speakers. This alone was a huge accomplishment on the part of Marvel. Led Zeppelin has a history of being very protective over their music rights, and very few movies have included any of their songs.

It took the movie to get nearly all the way through production before Waititi was able to secure the rights. To do so, they sent the band a teaser trailer synced with “Immigrant Song”.

“When we had the first cut of the trailer and showed Led Zep they understood how perfect the song was for this character,” Waititi said. “I think it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t start the conversation with them really, really early on”.

“Immigrant Song”‘s driving guitar, squealing vocals, and lyrics alluding to Norse mythology make it the perfect song to introduce Thor. In fact, it fits so well, that it comes back in during the film’s action-packed climax. I guess if you’re going to dish out the cash to secure Led Zeppelin, you’d better make the most of it.

Score

While “Immigrant Song” may be the musical highlight in “Thor: Ragnarok”, it didn’t make it on to the film’s soundtrack. I don’t know how much that would have cost, but apparently enough to leave it out.

“Thor: Ragnarok”‘s score was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, the former lead singer of Devo. Mothersbaugh wasn’t a stranger to scores before “Ragnarok”, either. He has scored half of Wes Anderson’s films, “The Lego Movie”, and the animated television show, “Rugrats”. I’ll admit, it’s a strange background to come from, but “Thor: Ragnarok” wanted to break the mold, and needed a score to support that.

Mothersbaugh included 80’s synth sounds combined with a full orchestra to produce a score that fits the combination of genres found in “Thor: Ragnarok”. The titular track, which comes in shortly after “Immigrant Song”, crescendos into a motif heard throughout the album.

The tracks accompanying scenes in Asgard are more heavy on orchestral arrangements. But once we enter Sakaar, the music changes, reflecting how very different this new world is from the one Thor is familiar with. “Where Am I?” and “Arena Fight” could easily fit on the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack. And “Sakaar Chase” provides the perfect backdrop for a high speed, action-packed, video-game-esque flight. It’s weird, fun, different. Which is everything that “Thor: Ragnarok” is. You really couldn’t ask for a better fit here.

 Tracklist

While I’d love to dive into a deeper look at the score in its entirety, I also have to work within my limitations. So here’s Mark Mothersbaugh’s full tracklist for “Thor: Ragnarok”.

So go ahead and give it a listen, remember the film, and remember Stan Lee.

  1. Ragnarok Suite
  2. Running Short on Options
  3. Thor: Ragnarok
  4. Weird Things Happen
  5. Twilight of the Gods
  6. Hela vs. Asgard
  7. Where am I?
  8. Grandmaster’s Chambers
  9. The Vault
  10. No One Escapes
  11. Arena Fight
  12. Where’s the Sword?
  13. Go
  14. What Heroes Do
  15. Flashback
  16. Parade
  17. The Revolution Has Begun
  18. Sakaar Chase
  19. Devil’s Anus
  20. Asgard Is a People
  21. Where To?
  22. Planet Sakaar
  23. Grandmaster Jam Session
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