The Marvel Cinematic Universe has featured its fair share of entertaining side characters, from Ant-Man’s excitable Luis (Michael Peña) to Thor’s exuberant Darcy (Kat Dennings). But both characters don’t hold a candle to Korg (Taika Waititi), a genial gladiator who wants nothing more than to lead a resistance.
His presence in Thor: Ragnarok adds a child-like tenderness to a film that’s already brimming with whimsy and color. As loaded as the film is with talent, Korg stands out thanks to his delightful earnestness. Chris Hemsworth was funny as a dumb but well-intentioned jock, but Korg is on another level.
And that’s saying a lot, because Jeff Goldblum was utterly fantastic as the Grandmaster. But it’s Korg who I can’t stop thinking about.
The first impression we get of the rock beast is memorable:
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Korg. I’m kind of the leader in here. I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors! Just a little Rock, Paper, Scissors joke for you.
It goes on like that, with Korg stealing every scene he’s in, whether he’s talking to Thor about Mjolnir or telling Loki to piss off. Much of why Korg works so well is because of director Taika Waititi, who has built a reputation for his brand of weird, off-beat humor.
Waititi explained Korg was based on the intimidating but amiable Polynesian bouncers he ran into in New Zealand. That inspiration is a major part of Korg’s charm. You’d think an 8-foot alien made of stone would be loud and vicious, much like Bruce Banner’s Hulk. But Korg is a gentle giant, one whom, it seems, is just happy to be alive. (And if there’s a revolution to be had, he’s there.)
When Thor is imprisoned before his battle against Hulk, Korg describes why he’s a gladiator on Sakaar:
Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that? Do you reckon you’d be interested?
There’s such a likable sincerity to how Waititi delivers Korg’s lines. That humor shines through in the director’s other works, including What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He’s mastered the sort of deadpan humor that avoids being impudent toward other characters and the audience.
Which is why Korg works so well. We have a mental image of what he should be. (And, to be fair, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the comics.) But, come to find out, the cinematic version perfectly works as someone who is pure and so good-natured. He’s very easy to root for.
For all the gravitas in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Korg adds joyful levity not even Baby Groot can touch. The good news is Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige has already admitted there are future plans for Korg and Miek, the weird blade-bug that silently stands by Korg’s side. (And who Korg mistakenly kills because, you know, Rock beats Scissors.)
Thor: Ragnarok would have been perfectly serviceable without Korg—the cameo early on is hilarious. But, thanks to Korg’s warmth and charm, the film stands out as one of Marvel’s best.
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