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An Introduction to THOR: RAGNAROK’s Hela and Valkyrie

Thor‘s movies have brought us fearsome foes like Frost Giants and Dark Elves, and lovable heroes like the winsome Warriors Three, and a band of eccentric Earth-based scientists. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In Thor: Ragnarok, our godlike Avenger returns with a new adventure that teams him up with the legendary warrior Valkyrie against the Goddess of Death Hela. A year ago, Nerdist traveled to Australia to visit the set of the third Thor installment, and learn about these new additions to the MCU.

Who is Hela?

From her Mjölnir-crushing introduction in Thor: Ragnarok’s awesome trailer, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has had MCU fans howling in anticipation of the Goddess of Death’s brutal invasion of Asgard. Executive producer Brad Winderbaum declares her “one of the best villains we’ve had, maybe the best.”

“Cate’s is the first female villain [in the MCU],” director Taika Waititi said, “And if I’m honest, for me, the most interesting villain they’ve had, because she is multidimensional. She’s layered. She’s troubled. She’s really funny.”

Thor headliner Chris Hemsworth echoed this sentiment, saying of the Academy Award-winning Blanchett’s performance, “It’s so far from anything I’ve seen before, and as intimidating and scary as it is interesting and empathetic.” Though vague on Hela’s motivations, Hemsworth admitted of them, “You’re kind of like, ‘Ah, she’s got a point, maybe?’ And then you’ve got to remind yourself, ‘She’s trying to kill us all!'”

“Hela is the most interesting villain the MCU has had.” Taiki Watiti

This version of Hela is distinct from her comic book incarnations, having plucked a power from a villain from the Thor: God of Thunder comicGorr (The God Butcher) has a very specific power set of being able to manifest an infinite number of weapons, ” Winderbaum explained, noting that Hela in the books “can do all sorts of things,” like kill people with her very touch. But to give her powers a focus, the filmmakers awarded “a version” of this weaponry-spawning power to the character. So, in a sense, she’s a one-woman army.

Waititi summed up the threat of Hela, saying “Thor has never fought anyone tougher than this lady.”

Who is Valkyrie?

Joining Thor in his fight against Hela is the mighty Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Long ago, she was part of what Winderbaum calls Odin’s “SEAL Team 6.” But thanks to a nightmarish defeat at the hands of a certain grim goddess, Valkyrie is now in hiding on Sakaar, working as a bounty hunter who goes by SR-142.

In the comics, Valkyrie and Thor have a personal history, but Thompson told us, “Thor in the movie is a Valkyrie fan, which I think is such a nice thing for this male character to have been a fan of these female warriors.” Hemsworth concurred, saying of the pair’s introduction on the Grandmaster’s turf, “It’s like Thor’s meeting his hero, you know? And he’s absolutely smitten by her, because of her history and being Valkyrie and all of that.”

“But she’s also this beautiful woman,” Hemsworth continued, “So he’s kind of caught off guard. And she could have him if she wanted. So I think he hasn’t come up against that very often. It certainly wasn’t the case with Jane (Foster, Thor’s love interest in Thor and Thor: The Dark World). It’s a whole different sort of affection and love there.”

“Thor is meeting his hero and he’s absolutely smitten.”  Chris Hemsworth

Thompson laughed off the description of her character as a love interest. Focused on her role as Thor’s teammate in saving the day, she said, “From the jump, Marvel and Taika really wanted Valkyrie to exist in her own plain and to offer something really strong and fresh and new.”

A self-proclaimed “nerd,” Thompson recognizes some fans might be irked by her character’s departures from the comics. But she noted those weren’t the movie’s only inspiration. “Norse mythology is mystifying and fantastic and totally confusing, but you can draw a lot of inspiration from it,” she said, “But the exciting thing for us was to create a Valkyrie that is kind of a combination of all those things. And if you look at her origin in the comics, sometimes she’s on earth. Sometimes she’s in Asgard. Depending on if she’s with the Fearless Defenders or if she appears in Thor, it’s kind of all different. So it left us a lot of leeway.”

Many fans won’t care much if Valkyrie’s origin matches the comics, or what color her hair or skin is. They’ll just want to be sure this bodacious Asgardian kicks ass. Hemsworth assured us she does, summing Thompson’s performance up with one word: “fantastic.”

Thor: Ragnarok opens November 3rd. Advance tickets are now on sale wherever tickets are sold. Look for more from Nerdist’s set visit soon.

Images: Marvel Studios

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