How ‘God of War Ragnarök’s’ Thor Was Inspired by The Hulk

God of War Ragnarök” is one of 2022’s most explosive video games. Focusing on Norse mythology, the game features the folklore’s most iconic figures such as Heimdall, Freya, Odin and Thor.

Thor, in particular, has received tons of attention due to his prominent role in the game and overall popularity in pop culture. Thor has many layers to him, both physically and emotionally. Variety sat down with narrative director Matt Sophos, art director Raf Grassetti and voice actor Ryan Hurst to talk about how Sony Santa Monica approached the god of thunder.

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When the general audience thinks of Thor, people would most likely think of the Marvel comic books or Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There, he’s a benevolent being, but in “God of War Ragnarök,” he’s depicted as a ruthless killing machine. Sophos says that this route fits in with the story the team was trying to tell.

“We did the flip of everything that Marvel has done, where all the Æsir gods are the bad guys, and all the Giants are good guys,” he says, referencing that Jötunheim’s Frost Giants were portrayed negatively in the MCU.

Sophos continues, “Almost everything we know about Norse mythology, the gods were way grayer than in a lot of popular depictions, especially the MCU.” He brings up Thor’s two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. In one tale, Thor sleeps over at a peasant family’s home and allows them to eat his goats. As long as nothing happens to the goats’ bones, Thor can resurrect them with his hammer, Mjolnir, without any problems.

However, when one of the children breaks a ham bone, the resurrected goat returns with a lame hind leg. As punishment, Thor takes away both of the family’s children and makes them his servants forever.

“Yeah, that’s actually how they pitched the story to me,” says Hurst, who voices the formidable god in “Ragnarök.” “They said, ‘We want you to play Thor. How do you feel about goats?’”

Hurst explains that one of the main inspirations for his Thor was actor Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in “No Country for Old Men.” “He was a powerful being that harbored forms of regret that manifested in his voice,” he says.

Surprisingly, Hurst brings up the Hulk as another source of inspiration. He says that both characters have uncontrollable amounts of rage and anger, sometimes not knowing where to direct them. They also love the art of fighting. “There’s some of that, that comes in through the saying, ‘Hulk Smash,” but in a more layered way.” He continues, “The way that I interpreted it is that you need access to superhuman amounts of strength, rage, and unpredictability.”

Thor and Kratos in "God of War Ragnarök"
Thor and Kratos in "God of War Ragnarök"

As for Thor’s design, most of the Æsir gods in general were created to be taller than Kratos. “We knew that he needed to be as impressive as Kratos, if not more,” says Grassetti. Making Thor as big as he is was all about him having a looming presence.

Sophos adds, “We wanted that imposing nature from Thor. We set the precedent in the last game when you first saw one of Thor’s sons, Magni, who was also really big. You extrapolate that out to Papa, so he’s going to be big.”

Before 2018’s “God of War,” the previous games in the franchise used Greek mythology. Grassetti explains that the biggest difference between designing Greek and Norse gods is that, historically, the latter were not nearly as flashy. There was a delicate balance between making the Norse gods look impressive, but also not throwing something like gold-plated armor on them.

He says, “When we’re designing these gods, and knowing where we’re going with the franchise being a lot more down to earth, these gods just live with mortals. But they still need to look like gods.”

One of the most iconic parts of Thor’s design is his exposed belly within his upper body armor and shoulder pads. This contrasts the MCU’s Thor, in which Hemsworth typically sports chiseled abs — Thor’s initial design stirred up controversy with those who were expecting something similar.

“I reduced a lot of graphic shapes into something that was readable from afar. Obviously, the belly being so iconic to what he is, we needed to make sure he’s proud of that,” Grassetti explains.

What makes Thor stand out is how he contrasts with Kratos. For example, Thor is left-handed while Kratos is right-handed. Additionally, Kratos can recall his Leviathan Axe weapon when he throws it like a boomerang, and it’ll come back to his hands. However, while Thor can do the same, he also tends to travel to the hammer instead — throwing it to a destination and then jumping there.

At the same time, Sophos says that Thor is a clone of Kratos. Thor believes himself to be an irredeemable person as he’s done horrible things like killing a bunch of Giants. Similarly, Kratos started his new family after killing all of the Greek gods in the franchise’s previous games.

“He’s just trying to hold on to what he has left in the family that he has together,” Sophos explains. “He’s trying to be better, but he ultimately doesn’t believe that he can be, because he’s had a father in Odin, who told him he can’t be anything more than what he is, just this blunt instrument to be used when Odin needs something killed.”

He adds, “What if Thor made a different choice? Maybe he doesn’t have to be that way. If Kratos can try to be better, can Thor try to be better?

Sophos is looking forward to seeing how players react to Thor in “God of War Ragnarök,” especially as Marvel already set expectations. “I hope we surprise people in ways that they didn’t see coming, but realize it couldn’t have been any other way with the Thor in our game,” he says. “I’m so thankful to get Ryan to come in and play this character because he breathes so much life into someone that could be one note.”

Hurst adds, “I’m very excited for people to finally get to purchase [this game] all around the world.”

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