It’s pretty much safe to say that Thor: Ragnarok will be a game changer, as it not only takes the Thor franchise in a new direction but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. And a lot of that is thanks in part to Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige giving director Taika Waititi the freedom he needed to tell the story that he wanted to tell while also being confined to the rules of the MCU. The sequel is a bombastic thrill ride from start to finish and is finally a Thor movie that everyone can enjoy.
We were recently invited to sit down with our fellow journalists to talk to Feige and Waititi, as well as stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Karl Urban (Executioner), and Rachel House (Topaz). During the event, we learned about the Taika effect, missing Asgardians, Hulk finally getting some dialogue, what the newcomers have to say about joining the universe, and much more. Read more below about the top ten things we heard at the Thor: Ragnarok press conference.
10 – Thor: Ragnarok is Different Thanks to Taika
Hemsworth credited Waititi for making Thor: Ragnarok different from the others. Which is very true given the heavy metal vibes seen in the marketing campaign. It’s fun and full of zany energy, none of which is wasted. “We all had a vision and an idea and a want to do something vastly different than what we’ve done before and take it to a different place,” said Hemsworth. “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.”
Feige said that they wanted to build on what the previous Thor films had done. “If you look at the movie, it’s got the epic action. It’s got Thor arguably more powerful than he’s ever been in any of the films, with his powers going up against the Hulk, but at the same time embracing what Mr. Hemsworth does better than anyone up until now has ever been able to see, which is his acting chops expands to comedy in an amazing, in an amazing way,” said Feige.
The Marvel Studios president credits Waititi for giving the cast the confidence they needed to explore taking the film in its new direction. “I knew my strengths were just like tone, character, and you know, relationships, and things, and I had to ignore the scale of this monster, this beast, you know it’s a huge film,” said Waititi.
9 – Bringing an Independent Sensibility to a Major Blockbuster.
For Waititi, who has directed some fantastic indie Kiwi films like What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok is some new territory. However, given that Marvel has given the keys to some unknowns, it comes as no surprise that they would ask Waititi to direct such a huge film. At least for some of us. Waititi thought Marvel had lost their minds offering him to direct Thor: Ragnarok. “I knew scripts centered on tone, character, and relationships. But I had to ignore the scale of this obviously huge film,” said Waititi. While he recognized that there were going to be people constantly looking over his shoulder, he reminded himself that the most important thing is what’s inside the rectangle, “usually it’s two or three people trying to remember their lines,” said Waititi.
Rachel House joked that Waititi came onto set better dressed. “Usually we’re running around in the mud, and the snow, and the rain. So it was wonderful to come in each day and see Taika in a suit and Italian leather shoes,” said House.
8 – Where is Lady Sif
There will be times where actors have to multitask. Going from television to Broadway or Broadway to film, or some combination. So when Feige was asked about where Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) was, he gave a very fitting MCU answer. “If she had been on Asgard, she might not be alive,” said Feige. He got even vaguer by throwing in an answer from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “That’s a good question, for another time,” Feige chuckled.
7 – Hulk’s Future
Getting a Hulk standalone film is a lot harder than it sounds. Due to studio rights, seeing Hulk in his own film will be nearly impossible. However, that hasn’t stopped the fans or even Ruffalo from asking for one. “I’d love to do a Hulk movie, and I think we would all love to do one,” Ruffalo said. “About a year ago, Kevin asked me to come over to have a script meeting. Basically, he sat me down and asked me, ‘What would you like to have Hulk do if he had a standalone Hulk movie?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do this, this and this. And this and this. And then this. And this. And then it would end like this.’ He said, ‘I love that, let’s do that over the next three movies starting with Thor: Ragnarok and carry it out over Avengers 3 and Avengers 4.’ And so, that’s my standalone Hulk movie,” said Ruffalo.
The actor joked that Waititi would take all three films and cut it into one movie and that it would be on the DVD.
Feige then got serious by saying that’s exactly what happened in the meeting, “but for the time being, Hulk’s presence in these movies and certainly now as Mark as talked about – what we are able to do with this character over these three movies is super exciting.”
One thing you may notice is that the Hulk has more dialogue in this film than he did previously. Banner is something else entirely, but in Thor: Ragnarok, Hemsworth and Ruffalo got to improvise their way through the dialogue. “We got to invent this chemistry, and build this new version of the Hulk that is more articulate,” said Hemsworth. “There is just so much more room for humor and fun that the character embodies.”
6 – Jeff Goldblum and Karl Urban Joining the Marvel Universe
For Jeff Goldblum, joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe family is fantastic. The actor who plays Grandmaster said that joining a cast like this was a dream come true, and complimented Waititi. “He was the connection point for the movie, and we hit it off,” said Goldblum. He also credited Feige, Louis Esposito, and Victoria Alonzo for their amazing work and collaboration to create something unique and epic. “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,” he added.
“I just had the most amazing time on this film,” said Karl Urban, when asked about his experience working on Thor. “Like Jeff said, I feel very blessed to be a part of this family. I had the opportunity to work with Taika, who was supported by the team at Marvel and encouraged him, to bring, to allow him to do his thing. It was a real rarity. I really appreciated the environment that Taika created on set. It was fun, we got to play music. It was just wonderful. It felt like everybody had your back.”
However, there was a bit of a workout problem, as it started to look like Urban was getting more muscular than Hemsworth. “Taika came to me and he said, ‘Listen, you need to tone it down. You can’t be bigger than Chris, okay?’” said Urban.
5 – The Epic Australian and New Zealand Rivalry Lives On in Thor: Ragnarok
For a film that sees its heroes and villains fighting over the throne of Asgard, Blanchett, who plays the villainous Hela, says there was a lot of healthy competition on set. Hemsworth joked that is the reason why they didn’t sit next to each other during the press conference, and Blanchett added it is also the reason why Ruffalo is always in the middle. To which the actor joked “I am sick of it.”
But part of that healthy competition stems from the friendly rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. While Hemsworth is an Australian native, both Waititi and Blanchett hail from New Zealand, which made for a pretty interesting production. “We’ve had a very intense rivalry between our two nations for thousands of years,” said Waititi. The director said the real reason why they did the movie was to bridge the gap between the two nations and used the movie to announce that the war between the two must end.
4 – Blanchett Being a Badass with Sugar Packets
Blanchett sounded just a little bit disappointed that she didn’t fight Hemsworth enough, despite the usual epic battle between the title character and the lead villain. “I wanted to do more,” said Blanchett.
The actress said she got fit for the role with the help of Hemsworth’s trainer. While she only worked with him for 20 minutes a day, she described the workout as intense. But as hard as the workouts were, playing the goddess of death who could manifest weapons out of thin air proved to be much harder, well at least when it came to not making those noises. That’s where Blanchett’s stunt double, Zoe Bell (The Hateful Eight, Grindhouse), came in.
“I manifest weapons, and I had to throw them, and I could see Taika’s disappointment as I threw it, I said, ‘Ha.’ And I had to stop making the noises, because I’d go, ‘Ha.’ And so I had to close my mouth.” said Blanchett.
So Bell suggested that Blanchett put some sugar packets in her hand, something Blanchett admits was “deeply humiliating.” But throwing the sugar packets helped the actress give the performance some tangibility and made it that much more real. “She was a great action director,” said Blanchett. “So I moved from the humiliating to the exhilarating in a matter of five days.”
But one thing the actress is upset about is a line that did not make it into the film. During the press conference, the actress recalled a moment of improv involving herself, Hemsworth, and Waititi. “I’m the Goddess of Death,” she said. Then added “‘and what are you the God of, again?’” And Chris had said, ‘I’m the God of…’ and Taika said, ‘Dumbos.'”
As for becoming the character, Blanchett said she looked at two things: the comics and the fan base. “There’s all these Hela fangirls, with extraordinary makeups online,” said the actress. “So we were thinking about what she would look like visually. So I went to that, the visual rather than the textual.”
3 – Loki’s Redemption Song
Loki fans have seen hints of humanity in the god of mischief, and while he has done a lot to quickly revert back to his deplorable ways, in Thor: Ragnarok, you might finally get to see a Loki who is looking to be just a part of the family. “It is about the development of the relationship between Thor and Loki as brothers,” said Hiddleston. “Thor has evolved and grown and matured, and in a way, Loki is stuck in his struggles of the past. In a way that’s the challenge for Loki, that time is moving on and people change.”
However, as we all know, Loki wastes any chance for redemption if it only serves his own interests. Even the actor was unsure if Loki could change for the better. “I don’t know. We’ll see. There’s room to grow. And I am still here. I am not going to spoil anything.”
2 – Easter Egg Hunt
As with any Marvel film, there will be Easter Eggs. It all just depends on how well Marvel hides them. But perhaps the most interesting place to find one of them is in the trash piles of Sakaar. Feige hints at the possibility of there being one somewhere in the stacks of garbage, but fans will have to look no further than the sides of a building – trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers, so you’ll know the building when you see it.
But for Waititi, he took the concept quite literally. He joked that fans would have to look for an actual Easter egg in the rubble.
1 – Thor and the Case of the Missing Hammer
Very early in the Thor: Ragnarok trailers we see that Hela destroys Thor’s hammer, his signature weapon that helps the god of thunder fly through the air and summon thunder. So losing that weapon puts everyone’s favorite Asgardian at a huge disadvantage. However, it would also help put him on a new journey. One which Hemsworth knew was coming. “I wanted it to be unfamiliar,” said Hemsworth. “So we took away everything we knew from the hammer to the costume to the hair, and it allowed me and forced me to move differently.” But it looks like the actor isn’t going to miss Mjolnir that much, as he has one of his own that sits on his toilet.
Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters on November 3, 2017