The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - By Mered­ith Wo­erner

Thor: Rag­narok gives the

Marvel uni­verse a cre­ative spin with a fresh look, sound and ad­di­tion of new char­ac­ters

Thor: Rag­narok might be the third ti­tle in the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse about the god of thun­der, but this colour­ful de­vi­a­tion is no mere knock­off of its pre­de­ces­sors. Gone are the golden tur­rets of As­gard, over­thrown by the god­dess of death (played by Cate Blanchett), whose 80s metal band swag­ger de­buted at Comic-con, set­ting fans on fire. The se­ri­ous Nordic cos­tumes have been elec­tri­fied with Jack Kirby-in­spired cos­mic blues and reds. And in­stead of lean­ing on choral an­thems, the new score will usher in a synth sym­phony chan­nelling the hyp­no­tis­ing sounds of Jean-michel Jarre. The driv­ing force be­hind th­ese elec­tric, retro-tinged changes is di­rec­tor Taika Waititi, best known for writ­ing and di­rect­ing the cult come­dies Hunt for the Wilder peo­ple and What We Do in the Shad­ows.

Rag­narok, which opened yes­ter­day, finds Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) im­pris­oned on the planet Sakaar, where he must fight to sur­vive in the Grand­mas­ter’s glad­i­a­tor games. It’s the stuff of life and death. But Waititi didn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s still en­ter­tain­ment.

“If we were tak­ing things a lit­tle too se­ri­ously, I would say, ‘Never for­get that we’re mak­ing a cos­mic ad­ven­ture with a space Vik­ing,’” said the di­rec­tor by phone. “That sort of cap­tures it all. We’ve got the In­cred­i­ble Hulk, and a gi­ant woman with antlers. We’ve got aliens and space­ships. It’s al­most like a bunch of kids were asked what they wanted to put into a movie, and then

we just did that.”

And while it’s easy to get caught up in the whirl­wind of Waititi’s aes­thetic changes (Thor cut his hair!), per­haps the most ex­cit­ing ad­di­tion to the Marvel uni­verse is the new cast mem­bers, who feel like they were plucked from a late night, In­ter­net fan cast­ing ses­sion. All your faves are in this flick.

Jeff Gold­blum, Tessa Thomp­son, Karl Ur­ban, Rachel House and the afore­men­tioned Blanchett are all part of Waititi’s “space Vik­ing” opus.

So we rounded up the new­bies to find out who they’re play­ing and what it’s like be­ing on team Marvel.

Jeff Gold­blum (Grand­mas­ter)

“I’m the

Grand­mas­ter,” Gold­blum said. The ac­tor, who sports a bold blue lip in the movie, de­scribed his time on set as a “golden mem­ory” but was hes­i­tant to re­veal too much about his big char­ac­ter de­but. “If you fol­lowed the comic books (then you know that) he’s one of the el­ders in the uni­verse. His brother is the Col­lec­tor, im­mor­tal, has fought and beaten death, has su­per­pow­ers ga­lore, and his games are a play­ful, play­ful sort.”

Cate Blanchett (Hela)

When asked why she wanted to play the big bad in Thor: Rag­narok Blanchett was di­rect: “A) It was Taika. B) It was the god­dess of death. And C) There’s never been a fe­male Marvel vil­lain.”

Call­ing the shoot an “ex­er­cise in tone,” the ac­tress re­vealed that her big­gest strug­gle trans­form­ing into

Hela was try­ing to feel pow­er­ful and cred­i­ble as a vil­lain — while wear­ing a mo­tion­cap­ture suit. “The head­dress is such a huge part of when she comes into the height of her pow­ers in the film,” Blanchett said. “I only wore that re­ally in the photo shoots. I had to sort of imag­ine what it was like be­ing a rein­deer.”

Karl Ur­ban (Skurge)

Ev­ery great bad­die needs a good lackey; en­ter one tat­too-headed Skurge. The As­gar­dian war­rior has been op­er­at­ing the Bifröst Bridge in the ab­sence of Heim­dall (Idris Elba).

“Then Hela turns up, and Skurge quickly re­alises that he ei­ther has to join her or die,” Ur­ban said. “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s bright enough to make the right choice for him. He’s a sur­vival­ist.” Tessa Thomp­son (Valkyrie)

An elite war­rior of As­gard “who has sort of lost her way” is how Thomp­son de­scribes her char­ac­ter. The ac­tress and Waititi wanted to

deviate from the comic book ver­sion of Valkyrie, and in­stead cre­ate a more timely char­ac­ter.

“There’s an un­fair po­si­tion that women are some­times put in, in the con­text of su­per­hero movies and ac­tion movies where at once they have to be very strong and fierce, but also sexy,” Thomp­son said. “Ob­vi­ously, it’s still a su­per­hero movie and so you’ve got to fig­ure out when you need to stand with your hands on your hips and what makes sense. But we wanted to cre­ate a char­ac­ter that oc­cu­pied her own iconog­ra­phy.”

“There’s one word I hate in all scripts in Hol­ly­wood at the mo­ment in de­scrib­ing women, and that is the word “badass.” That word has just crept into ev­ery script that is pushed around this town now. It’s ter­ri­ble, be­cause it doesn’t mean any­thing. It’s a dumb male writer’s way of say­ing, ‘Ah, uh, she’s like, she, uh, she’s tough.’ Then straight after that it’s like, ‘She’s badass, but she’s got a beauty about her. And she’s sexy. Un­con­sciously sexy.’”

Rachel House (Topaz) She’s Waititi’s “good luck charm.” House has been in nearly all of the di­rec­tor’s films. House’s char­ac­ter here is yet an­other great war­rior who works for the Grand­mas­ter as a sort of body­guard.

“She’s a lit­tle bit strict with him at times,” said House. “But she’s also quite petu­lant, when he shows his af­fec­tions to­ward other peo­ple: not happy, very pro­tec­tive and eas­ily jeal­ous.” Taika Waititi (Korg)

Pulling dou­ble duty, Waititi plays the 8-foot­tall Kro­nan war­rior made of pur­ple rocks. Korg was orig­i­nally sup­posed to have only a few scenes, but Waititi man­ages to flesh him out (via mo­tion-cap­ture suit) sub­stan­tially.

“You’ve got to un­der­stand that Taika Waititi the ac­tor is an in­cred­i­ble per­son to work with,” the di­rec­tor ex­plained. “When Taika Waititi the di­rec­tor comes across some­one like that, it just seems ap­pro­pri­ate to give that ac­tor a bit more time to show what they can do. I did that, and my the­ory was cor­rect. I was, he was that good. As an ac­tor, I highly val­ued Taika Waititi the di­rec­tor, who was very gen­er­ous to me in giv­ing me a few more takes than ev­ery­one else, and re­ally let me show what I can do.”

Rachel House as Topaz, Jeff Gold­blum as Grand­mas­ter and Tessa Thomp­son as Valkyrie in the movie.

Di­rec­tor Taika Waititi (cen­tre) has brought in a hu­mor el­e­ment to the cur­rent Thor in­stal­ment.

Karl Ur­ban as Skurge and Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Rag­narok.

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