THOR: RAG­NAROK

Thor! The Hulk! Valkyrie! Loki! Doc­tor Strange! It’s the Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley All-InWrestling All-Stars! Oh, close enough, isn’t it?

SFX - - Contents -

IT'S the end of Thor’s world as he knows it, and he’s feel­ing… well, a lit­tle worse for wear, ac­tu­ally. As­gard and its peo­ple are on the brink of oblit­er­a­tion, Mjol­nir has been shat­tered into a mil­lion pieces, and Thor has suf­fered a nasty in­jury that will likely leave a gnarly scar. For­tu­nately for the God of Thun­der, he has friends (from work).

It’s Septem­ber 2016, and SFX is on the Queensland set of Thor: Rag­narok, the film putting the ro(c)k ’n’ roll back into the se­ries af­ter the dis­ap­point­ment of The Dark World. At one end of the Bifrost Bridge Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, his hair shorn and one sword in each hand, is stand­ing shoul­der to shoul­der with his adop­tive brother Loki (Tom Hid­dle­ston), war­rior woman Valkyrie (Tessa Thomp­son) and a mean, green Avenger. They’re about to throw down with the woman re­spon­si­ble for Thor’s mis­for­tunes – Hela, the God­dess of Death (Cate Blanchett). All roads, it seems, lead to the rain­bow bridge.

“Thor goes on this grand cos­mic ad­ven­ture [in Rag­no­rak],” says pro­ducer Brad Win­ter­baum. “And by the time it all wraps up, you have el­e­ments from ev­ery sin­gle place he’s been. Ev­ery­thing co­a­lesces into this grand fi­nale that’s pretty amaz­ing.”

“Pretty amaz­ing” could ap­ply to al­most ev­ery­thing SFX sees on the stag­ger­ing

Rag­narok set. While gods and mon­sters are on a cig­a­rette break, we’re taken on a whistlestop tour of As­gard. Ev­ery inch of the city’s cen­tral plaza has been built on the open air back­lot. The 100 x 50m set took four months and 450 con­struc­tion work­ers to erect, and ex­tends to two floors. There’s even a stream run­ning through the mid­dle of it. It’s here that Rag­narok’s story be­gins. Pick­ing up two years af­ter Thor set out to track down Thanos and the In­fin­ity Stones at the end of Age Of Ul­tron, he’s changed by his time on the road. Sens­ing that some­thing is rot­ten in the state of As­gard he re­turns home to find that Loki has re­placed Odin (An­thony Hop­kins) on the throne – an act with apoc­a­lyp­tic con­se­quences. “It turns out Odin had a lot of strate­gies in place to keep the uni­verse at ease,” Win­ter­baum ex­plains. “Hela is the worst prob­lem that Odin had been keep­ing at bay. She’s from a time long be­fore Loki or Thor were born. And with Odin no longer king of As­gard, she’s able to at­tack.” The sur­prise at­tack leaves count­less dead, and the adop­tive broth­ers stranded on a planet that brings some­thing strik­ingly new, but re­as­sur­ingly fa­mil­iar to the MCU: Jack Kirby. It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that step­ping onto Rag­narok’s Sakaar set is like step­ping into a Jack Kirby il­lus­tra­tion. And with good rea­son:

the Sil­ver Age artist was the key in­spi­ra­tion for the film’s ma­jor new lo­ca­tion. Patch­work walls burst with colour. All reds, blues, greens and yel­lows; not a muted magnolia or glum-grey in sight. Lu­di­crously de­tailed ma­chines dis­pens­ing food line the streets. Ev­ery stall in the mar­ket­place is fully stocked. But it’s all rub­bish, lit­er­ally.

“We imag­ine Sakaar as kind of a toi­let uni­verse,” laughs Win­ter­baum. “It ex­ists in the mid­dle of space, and is sur­rounded on all sides by worm­holes. Ba­si­cally, if you’re trav­el­ling in­ter­galac­ti­cally and any­thing goes wrong, you’re go­ing to be spat out on this planet.”

SPACE ODYSSEY

A new planet and a new Thor re­quired a new way of think­ing. In re­sponse Win­ter­baum turned to an un­likely source: Taika Waititi, the di­rec­tor of ri­otously funny indies in­clud­ing

What We Do In The Shad­ows. The ir­rev­er­ent film­maker saw an affin­ity be­tween his sen­si­bil­i­ties and the MCU’s most far-out char­ac­ter. “If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll see all the other things like de­mon armies and gi­ant fire beasts,” says Waititi. “They’re on dif­fer­ent plan­ets, and there’s space­ships and there are laser guns and there’s a woman with antlers on her head and there’s a gi­ant wolf. That re­ally crazy mix of things made me feel like this is ac­tu­ally the per­fect project for me.”

“What we have is a quin­tes­sen­tial Taika Waititi movie that is funny and light-hearted, but also has mo­ments of real grav­ity and melan­choly,” Win­ter­baum con­tin­ues. “It’s a very suc­cess­ful idea for Marvel as a stu­dio, be­cause we’re deal­ing with the end of the world, but the ex­pe­ri­ence is very hu­man and re­lat­able… sorry, I’m just paus­ing to watch Tessa Thomp­son be a badass.”

Win­ter­baum’s mo­men­tary lapse is en­tirely jus­ti­fi­able. Valkyrie is the film’s ma­jor new hero, the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of an an­cient race, wiped out by Hela. Thor and Loki idolised her as chil­dren, but their first meet­ing is un­der un­usual cir­cum­stances: af­ter crash-land­ing on Sakaar, Thor is cap­tured by Valkryie. “Valkyrie is one of the most ex­cit­ing as­pects of the movie,” says Win­ter­baum. “She’s not only a great dra­matic ac­tor, but I’m re­ally sur­prised by how good she is at the com­edy and the ac­tion. I think we’re re­ally build­ing a fu­ture Marvel hero.”

Valkyrie is a “scrap­per”. Her job: to de­liver com­bat­ants wor­thy of the arena to Sakaar’s ruler, the Grand­mas­ter. Jeff Gold­blum’s glam god is an an­cient be­ing and the brother of Beni­cio del Toro’s Col­lec­tor. De­spite his supreme power, the Grand­mas­ter is more in­ter­ested in glad­i­a­to­rial com­bat than ga­lac­tic dom­i­na­tion. Thor is thrown into the arena, and would win on any other day. But to para­phrase Tony Stark, the Grand­mas­ter has a Hulk. And it turns out he couldn’t be hap­pier off world. “He fi­nally feels ap­pre­ci­ated on Sakaar for what he is – a big killing ma­chine,” Win­ter­baum says. But this new­found fame isn’t the only rea­son Hulk hasn’t trans­formed back into Ban­ner

in two years. “To get to Sakaar was such a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence that now his body is frozen in the Hulk po­si­tion,” Win­ter­baum ex­plains. “And the one thing that scares Hulk is Bruce Ban­ner.”

gi­AnT sTeps

Also new for Rag­narok: Hulk speak now. “He’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to talk quite a bit,” Win­ter­baum con­firms. “He cer­tainly knows how to get his point across, and he’s smarter than you would ex­pect him to be.” Rights is­sues mean Rag­narok may be the clos­est we get to an­other solo Hulk film. But Marvel’s done the next best thing by, in part, adapt­ing cel­e­brated comic arc Planet

Hulk. “Re­ally, what we have in this film is a two-han­der ad­ven­ture story bro­ken up into three main sec­tions: Thor and the Hulk; Thor and Bruce Ban­ner; and Thor and Loki.”

Ah, the Trick­ster. Hela may be Rag­narok’s heart of dark­ness, but you can never rule out an 11th hour be­trayal by Thor’s de­ceit­ful adopted brother. “What makes Loki a very in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter is that he’s very du­plic­i­tous,” Win­ter­baum says. “He’s al­ways in it for him­self, play­ing both an­gles. But even though he acts self­ishly, and he can be mur­der­ous, there’s al­ways a glim­mer of hope that he’s go­ing to do the right thing. Only time will tell.”

Only time will tell if Rag­narok can live up to the prom­ise of those in­cred­i­ble trail­ers, as well. And while a cameo from Sor­cerer Supreme Doc­tor Strange may in­di­cate some ma­jor MCU crossovers ahead of next year’s Avengers:

In­fin­ity War, Waititi fo­cused on get­ting his film right first and fore­most.

“Per­son­ally, I’ve tried to not have any­thing to do with what’s out­side this film, be­cause I don’t want to think of my job as cre­at­ing an episode,” Waititi states. “Each film has to be its own stand­alone piece of cin­ema.

“At the end of the day Thor is one of the weirder char­ac­ters in the MCU. And that’s what at­tracted me to it: the idea of what is essen­tially an alien who dresses like a Vik­ing. A space Vik­ing on a cos­mic ad­ven­ture with the In­cred­i­ble Hulk.”

Thor: Rag­narok opens on 24 Oc­to­ber.

Loki goes fist to fist with war­rior woman Valkyrie.

Thor was good with a magic ham­mer, crap with Sat Nav.

Stand aside, Thor, and let Valkyrie get things done.

Karl Ur­ban gets some cool head tats for the role of Skurge.

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