Semiotic Analysis of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok Movie Poster
In this blog post I will be analysing the Marvel movie poster Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017), using semiotic analysis as described by John Hartley (2011, pp. 232-233). I will be unpacking the denotative and connotative meaning of the poster to reveal the underlying ideology that informs the construction of the text. It is my contention that the movie poster for Thor: Ragnarok is that some of the signs/terms used in the poster are based off Norse Mythology as well as the 70s/80s. I will be discussing the meaning of the following; the title, the title’s typeface/style, positioning of characters/actors and colours used throughout this marvellous movie poster.
When reading the title, it leads me to believe that the film will be centred on gods and demons, but when blended with the images it portrays a different persona. The language used for the title for this movie poster is Thor: Ragnarok. Extending deeper into the meaning of these words leads us to deduce that both these words originate from the Norse Mythology. So, what is Norse Mythology, McCoy states “is set of religious stories the Vikings told one another. These myths revolved around deities (gods/goddesses) with fascinating and highly complex characters, such as Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki.” Now we know what Norse Mythology is, let’s explore what Thor and Ragnarok mean. The term Thor in the context of Marvel is a superhero but in Norse Mythology and stated by the Oxford Dictionary he is the God of Thunder. It is believed that the Norse Mythology meaning of Ragnarok is that the Vikings deemed it to be the end of the world in which gods/goddesses’ fight giants. By just examining the title we as a viewer get the impression visually that this film could be the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Going further into the title, let’s discuss its’ typeface. As we can see, the typeface gives the impression that it is a futuristic film. This is represented by the straight horizontal bold lines and the silvery sky appearance of the text. Inspecting how the typeface (font choice) is presented illustrates this feeling of Norse Mythology/Viking type throughout the text by using these colours symbolises heaven in the clouds. See below image of an example of Norse/Viking type and the Thor: Ragnarok Type.
Comparing both images of the old Norse type and the Thor: Ragnarok type side by side. It can be seen that there are many similarities that Marvel have kept with the style of the old font. Like the Serifs and the curves some of the characters have. The word Thor has a yellowy/golden style to it. This could represent wealth and royalty for this character. In Norse Mythology, Thor is the son of Odin, who is the King/ruler of Asgard, which in turn positions the character Thor in great wealth. Reviewing the typeface of Ragnarok, you can see that it has multiple lines through the bottom with a gradient running from top to bottom. The colours of this gradient are blue to white then to purple/red with a bright streak through the middle of the word. This gives the viewer a 70s/80s feel as this type of style was used a lot for disco signs/posters in that period. See below for a relevant example.
The positioning of the characters on the poster is important as it can determine the roles of each character in the film and the significance that each characters part plays as well as ascertain the viewer’s judgement towards this film. We as the audience can see two female characters and multiple male characters throughout the poster. This shows us that the film will not focus on the female characters and gives us the impression that the film is centred on the male characters. One of the female characters can be seen near the top between Hulk and Thor. The black clothing worn alongside her posture gives the perception that she is powerful, mysterious and evil compared to the other female character that is set secondary on the poster and placed down the bottom. Even though this second female character has a fierce pose it still leaves us feeling that she is inferior. The same thing can be said about the male characters. The placement of Hulk at the top centre along with his stance makes the viewer have the sense of power, strength and anger. Thor, on the other hand, has a pose that communicates to the viewer his power, strength and wisdom. The smaller each character becomes on the poster the less important they are and the less involvement they have in the storyline of the film.
The vibrant colours that are used throughout the poster could have a deeper meaning. Warm colours like reds, yellows and orange are used as well as cool colours like blues, greens and purples. When looking at the warm colours it can be felt that these represent war as red and orange could indicate bloodshed. The cool colours could represent the isolation that space perceives to us as well as how cold it can be. According to the website Colour Wheel Pro each colour has its own meaning. Used correctly they can have a massive effect on our judgment towards this movie poster. Red means energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire and love. Orange means enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement and stimulation. Green means growth, harmony, freshness and fertility. Blue symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth and heaven. Black is socialized with power, elegance, formality, death, evil and mystery.
Now knowing what each of the colours represents, we can go deeper into each individual colour. Red shows us that there might be a war but also a great strength and/or power within the film. Orange spectacles that some of the characters display determination, encouragement and enthusiasm as well as success. Green illustrates that there may be a growth and harmony between certain characters. Blue exemplifies that there is trust, loyalty, faith and confidence between characters throughout the picture. Black categorises the female character or any other subject to be evil, powerful and creates mystery as well as signifying death lurking around them.
In this blog post, I have explained how the Norse Mythology is favourably presented in the movie poster for Thor: Ragnarok. I have discussed how some of its signs and symbols have been lifted from the 70s/80s era. Clearly revealing how the title, title’s typeface/style as well as the positioning of characters both supported and challenged the dominant ideologies around Norse Mythology. This included how the colours can be interpreted which depicts the storyline to the audience before viewing the film.
- Color-wheel-procom. (2017). Color-wheel-procom. Retrieved 7 November, 2017, from http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html
- Hartley, J.H. (2004). Communcation, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts. (3rd ed.). USA and Canada: Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 31 October, 2017.
- McCoy, D.McC. (2012). Norse Mythology for Smart People. Retrieved 31 October, 2017, from https://norse-mythology.org/
- (2017). Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 31 October, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/thor
- Dictionary, O. (n.d.). Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from Oxford Dictionary: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/thor
- Hartley, J. (2004). Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: Key Concepts. USA and Canada: Taylor & Francis.
- McCoy, D. (2012). Thor. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from Norse Mythology for Smart People: https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/thor/
- McCoy, D. (2012). Norse Mythology. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from Norse Mythology: https://norse-mythology.org/
- Pro, C. W. (n.d.). Color Meaning. Retrieved November 7, 2017, from Color Wheel Pro: http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html