A Thor thing
It was time to put new life into the character, the film’s star says
MARVEL’S latest and potentially greatest film in the stand-alone franchise about the Norse God of Thunder, Thor: Ragnarok, is the screen industry’s equivalent of the ANZUS Treaty. The blockbuster sees some of the finest movie talents in Australia, New Zealand and the US band together to secure the future of the Thor titles, much the same way the treaty, signed in 1951, united the nations in the interests of the security of the Pacific.
While the role of Thor catapulted Byron Bay’s most famous resident, Chris Hemsworth, to international fame, the Aussie actor admits he had grown tired of the role after 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. That all changed when award-winning stand-up comedian turned filmmaker Taika Waititi signed on to helm his first Marvel superhero film.
“I certainly wanted to do something different with the character,” Hemsworth says. “I was kind of sick of what I was doing and sick of myself in the role.
“I met with Taika and he felt the same, he said ‘yep, I’m sick of you too, so let’s get rid of everything we know and recreate it’.”
Attracted Down Under by Hemsworth’s desire to make a movie in his backyard and generous state and federal government incentives, Thor: Ragnarok employed more than 1000 Queensland cast and crew and injected an estimated $142 million into the state’s economy.
Waititi led what was from all reports a fun-filled six-month shoot on the Coast, his trademark humour and creative vision energising cast and crew both on screen and on set.
“I knew that Chris was funny, but I don’t think they’d exploited that enough,” Waititi says of his vision for the franchise.
“And my idea of a superhero movie probably comes from ’80s movie stars like Bruce Willis and (Harrison Ford as) Indiana Jones, even Kurt Russell in his prime. I wanted Thor to become more like them, great at the action, but also funny.
“I wanted to make him the most interesting character in the film. There’s no point in calling a movie Thor if he’s not the coolest thing in it.”
Thor: Ragnarok finds Thor (Hemsworth) imprisoned on the other side of the universe and in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilisation.
Before Thor can deal with the all-powerful new threat posed by the franchise’s first leading female villain – the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett) – he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest against his former ally and fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
“I think the best villains are always those that you kind of love and hate what you do, but you sort of understand them,” Blanchett says of Hela. “There’s some logic to it.”
The film sees Hemsworth, Blanchett and Ruffalo joined by Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Karl Urban as Skurge, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Anthony Hopkins as Odin.
In Marvel’s finest traditions, the film also features plenty of cross references and surprise cameos, including a guest appearance by Sam Neill and a cameo by Waititi as a new rock-shaped CGI Marvel Cinematic Universe character called Korg (introduced by Marvel in a 1962 comic book).
Waititi, whose indie films include Boy, What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, was destined for big things long before he accepted his Marvel mission to breathe new life into the Thor franchise – one it appears he’s executed to perfection.
The director and actor says he was blown away by the response to the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles.
“I’m relieved that people love it. We had a great premiere in LA ... they laughed in the right places, were quiet in the right places, so for two years’ of hard work, we did all right.”
Thor: Ragnarok opens nationally on Thursday.
◗ Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok.