Asgard vs Wakanda: 1/3 – Culture

Asgard – beautiful as the sea, but with the depth of a puddle.

Asgard, the Realm Eternal. Muspelheim, the fiery realm of Surtur the Fire-Demon. Jotunheim, home of the Frost-Giants. Svartalfheim, the Dark World. These realms, along with the many others, should have been the easiest things to make interesting. The fact that there are so many races and landscapes to explore in the Nine Realms and beyond spark the imagination with ideas for how different cultures evolve and interact with one another.

Yet I remember far more about the culture and sub-cultures of Wakanda than every culture in the Thor trilogy combined.

I remember the Challenge Day, where the King-to-Be is challenged for his birthright at Warrior Falls. I remember the Jabari, the traditionalist outsiders of Wakanda who reject the vibranium to live as their ancestors did in the mountains. I remember the other visually-distinct, if simplistically-named, tribes of Wakanda, each with a different role in preserving and advancing their society as a whole. I even remember the charge of the Dora Milaje, raising their spears in the air to the shout of “Phambili!”

Jabariland – home to the Jabari, whose bark and bite are both equally terrifying.

There are many reasons for this to be the case, but I feel that the biggest one is that the filmmakers of “Black Panther”, particularly director Ryan Coogler, treated the country of Wakanda almost as a character itself. Like a character, it has an arc, going from an isolationist nation who will abandon a young orphaned boy in Oakland to keep their country hidden, to a nation opening itself up to the world to improve both itself and other countries. This also acts as a defining arc for T’Challa’s story, but I think you can also see many citizens of the nation change as well, particularly Okoye. Early in the story, when Agent Everett Ross is injured protecting Nakia, she questions T’Challa’s decision to bring a foreign intelligence agent within their borders. But by the end of the film, she has seen the troubles wrought by Wakanda’s lack of interference in the outside world and even accompanies T’Challa to the United Nations during the film’s mid-credits sequence. With each character in the film having their own views about how Wakanda should be ruled, you see a grander view of the country itself through the eyes of its people.

Also, like a character, you are given the chance to learn more about Wakanda and, therefore, care about what happens to it. While their names are almost comically simple, the different tribes of Wakanda do give viewers insight into various sub-cultures and hint as to how they affect the country as a whole. The Border Tribe protects the border and maintains the illusion of Wakanda as a third-world country. The Mining Tribe mines the vibranium ore from the earth beneath them. The Merchant Tribe sells goods, likely having to sell them to the outside world while keeping their true origins a secret to avoid suspicion. The River Tribe…lives on the river, I guess. Yes, it sounds a little too straightforward, but it does give you an idea of how each tribe fits into the grand scheme of things and what their roles are in their society.

Now, back to the Thor franchise.

Jotunheim – crumbling, empty, and colder than conservative healthcare policies.

For me, Asgard never once reached this level of cultural depth. The only thing we know about Asgardian culture is that its people live for thousands of years with enhanced physical abilities, they are obviously inspired by Norse culture, and they love to fight, feast, and frolic. We only get hints of its history in all three movies, with the only thing of major significance being Hela’s revelation that Odin had conquered the Nine Realms through violence and warfare in one scene in “Ragnarok”. Other than that, there’s very little to learn here. If all you can say about their culture is that they like to smash their mugs before demanding another one, then you’re not building your world properly.

The other realms get it even worse. Since the filmmakers decided to focus on Earth so much in the first two films, for some unknown reason, we only got hints at the other worlds. “Ragnarok” was the only one to give us anything memorable, with the deliciously hellish design of Muspelheim and the admittedly creative planet of Sakaar. I will give the first film some credit for having the design of Jotunheim give us some visual backstory. We know that Odin had waged a war against the Jotuns years ago, but when we finally see Jotunheim, we see it as a broken, frozen world with tattered ruins that hint of a glorious former civilization that was decimated by violence. It’s just a shame we never got to see more of it, or at least learn more about it. But with that said, at least the design work gave us something to work with.

What I will not excuse is the lack of creativity that is the namesake of “Thor: The Dark World”: Svartalfheim, the Dark World itself.

Svartalfheim – yup, this is the Dark World the movie’s named after. Riveting, ain’t it?

When you hear someone say “the Dark World”, your mind immediately begins to spin with ideas of horrific nightmares and eerie darkness. When you learn that it is the home of the Dark Elves, whose leader sacrificed his own citizens to devastate the Asgardian army, you also begin to think of what the ruins of this civilization could be, like what they had done with Jotunheim in the previous film. Now that you have thought of all those imaginative things, I would like to ask you to throw those ideas away, because all you’re going to get is a dark sky and sand. That’s it. The only person who would be scared of that would be Anakin Skywalker, who, as we all know, does not like sand. The whole Dark Elf debacle in “The Dark World” is an article unto itself, so I’ll end that here before I start rambling too much.

My point is that it’s very strange that the Nine Realms never felt nearly as believable or garnered nearly as much investment as Wakanda. Drawing upon the resources of Norse mythology should have been the grandest sight in cinema history. However, thanks in part to a tendency to focus on the mundane more than the fantastic in its first two films, the Thor franchise never reached those heights of magnificence. It’s one of the many aspects that took Thor three films to get things right, while Black Panther only needed one.

Muspelheim – probably the coolest-looking locations in the Thor movies. Surtur’s interior decorator isn’t half bad, as far a satanic hellholes are concerned.

“Black Panther” vs “Thor”: Why Wakanda Succeeded Where Asgard Failed

With “Black Panther” currently killing it at the box office, and rightly so, I thought it was time to point out something I noticed while watching it. While I have various opinions about each of the Thor films, I realized that “Black Panther” had some similarities in concept. Where they differed was in execution.

Essentially, I felt more attached to and interested in Wakanda in one film than I did with Asgard in an entire trilogy.

My next few posts are going to be about this topic. I’m not saying I’m just going to bash the Thor films for the sake of bashing them, especially considering how I only really dislike “Thor: The Dark World”. (I thought the first film was decent and “Ragnarok” was pretty awesome.) I’m simply trying to analyze what “Black Panther” did that made Wakanda seem more real and detailed than Asgard or any of the other nine realms.

Keep an eye out for my next few posts. I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks after reading them.

Hello, Fellow Nerdlings!


Good morning, day, afternoon, or night, depending on your geographic location! You may call me the ÜberNerd, and welcome to my blog. I’ll be honest with you guys…this is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, so bear with me while I figure a few things out. So if you notice a lack of content here…in that there’s nothing posted besides this bit of rambling lunacy…don’t panic. I’ll be sure to post some bit of pointless nonsense here eventually.

For now, let me introduce myself.

I am your typical nerd, geek, outcast, etc. On top of that, I love to ramble on about subjects other people might find inane: movies, shows, comics, games, music, etc. Even my friends, most of whom are quite nerdy themselves, often come to me for questions on subjects they are somewhat knowledgeable of. Because of this, I started calling myself an Encyclopedia of Useless Information. But that was neither short nor catchy enough to make a decent username, so I went with the ÜberNerd. (Maybe I could call my autobiography “The Encyclopedia of Useless Information”?)

As you can clearly tell from this post, I tend to ramble, and yet with half the people who talk to me politely telling me to shut the hell up and the other half looking at me dead-eyed while slowly begging for death’s cold embrace, I figured I should find a better outlet for such ramblings. (That massive cluster of words that you’ve just read is what I like to call…a sentence.)

Therefore, I’ve decided to start here. So if you are into anything nerdy, such as Marvel & DC Comics, Game of Thrones, The Witcher, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Breaking Bad, Harry Potter…or many thousands of other things, then I hope you feel welcome. If you’re not into anything like that…well, I certainly don’t hope you feel unwelcome, but I am curious as to why you’ve stuck around this long.

Now then…I think I’ve run out of things to say, and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me carry on. So rather than boring you with five thousand more words concerning how I was effected by growing up in a town so small and so redneck that the police sirens were banjos, as I am quite capable of doing, I’ll simply say this: