It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Beverly Hills, California. A perfect day to meet a few superheroes at the Montage Hotel. Surrounded by writers, hosts, and other press colleagues, the anticipation was evident. The cast of Thor: Ragnarok had arrived and the conference was about to commence. Moderated by Entertainment Tonight’s, Kevin Frazier, he began by asking star Chris Hemsworth, “What makes this Thor different from the others?” Hemsworth credits director Taika Waititi. “I think we all had a vision, and an idea, and a want to do something vastly different than what we’d done before, and take it to a different place. And that meant kind of doing away with what we knew, and just reinventing it, and it all came from his crazy, wonderful brain and his inspiration, and him pushing us every day on set, and constantly encouraging us to improvise, and explore, and take risks.” Chris added, “It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had on a set.”
In comparison to Thor and Thor: The Dark World, the view and cinematography are different, and this is in great part thanks to Taika’s fresh eye. However, having a badass female villain and heroine, has a lot to do with the anticipated success of the continued franchise. Cate Blanchett is Hela and Tessa Thompson is Valkyrie. Two new additions, who along with Rachel House (who plays Topaz) make the female presence bold and monumental. On playing the villain that is Hela, Cate spoke candidly. “I didn’t do enough of it,” she said. “It was hugely enjoyable for me. And apart from working with these guys, obviously, the chance to finally, in my deep middle age, to get fit, and to wear that much lycra was really exciting for me.” Blanchett worked with Chris’ trainer, Luke Zocchi for 20 minutes a day, “which doesn’t sound like much, but my god, it was intense.” She expressed her gratitude and admiration for her stunt double, Zoë Bell who she described as “an extraordinary actress in her own right, and director in her own right.” Cate later added, “She [Bell] was a great action director.”
Opposite to Hela was Valkyrie. A female hero who joins Thor in defeating the great villain, Hela. If your familiar with the comics, you may recall Valkyrie being of different descent. This led a member of the press to ask the following question. “Did you have any pressure playing a character that was mechanically white in the comics, and bringing that character to life?” Tessa replied gracefully and honestly. “I just figured like, you know, this thing that I’m tasked to do with any character that has its own iconography is to capture the spirit of the character. And I think the spirit of all of us, at the risk of sounding, you know, cheesy, has very little to do with what color we are. So I just didn’t really invest in that.” What Thompson did focus on was the “particulars of Valkyrie had more to do with, like mass and size. For example, I thought, like ‘Oh, I’m - I’m short,’ you know. Or like, ‘I’m not buff enough.’ Or how - you know, she’s arguably as strong as Thor. How do I stand, you know, next to a person like Chris Hemsworth and feel, and feel like that’s true.”
Along with Hela and Thor, The Hulk comes along to help save Asgard in Ragnarok. On the other end, Loki complicates a few things for the gang, but we also see him develop from the Loki he used to be. This installation of the film penetrates the relationship between him and his brother. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) pointed out the “Thor has evolved, and grown, and matured; and Loki in a way is stuck in his struggles of the past. And that’s, in a way, that’s the challenge for Loki in this, is that he’s got to confront the fact that time is moving on, and people change, and - so I don’t know.” Withholding himself from spoilers, Tom concluded, “We’ll see. There’s room to grow, and I’m still here. And we’ll see where he goes next.” An addition to the cast is Skurge, played by Karl Urban. On training for his character, the actor said, “The working out schedule was rather intense. In fact, Taika came to me and he said, ‘Listen, you need to tone it down. You can’t be bigger than Chris, okay?’” In between laughs, Urban added, “I just had the most amazing time working on this film.”
There’s also a lot of humor and bonding between Thor and The Hulk. Mark Ruffalo talked about the possibility of expanding into a stand-alone Hulk film. “I would love to do a Hulk movie, and I think we all would love to do one. But about a year ago, before I even had this part, or were talking about doing this - it was well over a year ago, Kevin had asked me to come over and have a script meeting. And basically he sat me down and he said, ‘What would you like to do if you had a stand-alone Hulk movie?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do this, this, and this; and this and this - and then this. And then this, and this, and this, and then it would end like this.’ And he’s like, ‘I love that. Let’s do that over the next three movies, starting with Thor 3 and carry it on through Avengers 3 and Avengers 4.’ And so that’s my stand-alone Hulk movie.” Producer Kevin Feige (and president of Marvel studios) explained, “A stand-alone I think would be great, but for the time being, Hulk’s presence in these movies, and certainly now, as Mark has talked about, what we’re going to be able to do with his character arc over these three movies is super exciting.”
A fun and popular mark is the music of the Marvel universe. Thor: Ragnarok takes off with the element of music that escalates quite uniformly with the story. Taika Waititi mentioned composer and singer-songwriter, Mark Mothersbaugh, “which we were extremely [lucky] to get him, and do the score.” Waititi also pointed out the music for Sakar, the planet where the adventure unfolds. “The music that I wanted to look at for Sakar was heavy metal-like album covers and stuff. Also, I was trying to dive into like those spray paint things you see on Venice Beach of like, pyramids, and like seventeen moons and you know, like kind of just good fantasy music with synthesizers, and arpeggiated rhythms.”
The colorful and musical planet of Sakar is led by Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum. He elevates the humor and embodies a particular character in his career. “I like the character, of course, and the opportunities in the character. Joining a group like this, a cast like this is a dream come true. Working with Taika, that was my first, you know, connection point to the movie. We had a meeting, and hit it off, and he said what we were gonna do, and improvise, and have fun. But then, you know, Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito, and Victoria Alonso, and Brad Winderbaum - the whole upper tier of creative leaders, do something unique. They know how to make these epic productions, and popular movies, but they want to make good movies. And they somehow uniquely know how to do them, that feels to me like an actorly, workshop-y, character-y, improvisatory, delightful experience - and make a movie that I think skins the cat like this is just - I’m grateful, overwhelmingly grateful.”
The franchise continues to surpass expectations with its universe and its characters. A thought that is less discounted than ever, given the slowly-escalating female momentum in hollywood, is the probability of an all female Marvel film. When Tessa was asked about a chance to see her in a Valkyrie solo film, Kevin Feige quickly responded. “Pretty good idea.” Both Tessa and Chris agreed with Feige. She added, “Recently, I marched up with a couple other women that work in Marvel, and we were like, to Kevin, ‘What about a movie with some female superheroes - just like, all of them.’” Kevin commented, “It was a pretty amazing moment to be somewhere and have your shoulder get tapped, and turn around, and every female hero we have was standing there going, ‘How about it?’” Kevin did tell us he replied to this group of females, “yes”. It may be so that the possibility of a an all-female hero film is not too far away from the Marvel Universe future.
Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters November 3.