11 things to know about Marvel's latest movie, Thor: Ragnarok, before you watch it

This third foray into Thor's solo films is being hailed as the best MCU movie yet, and maybe because the studio changed things up a little. Here's what you need to know

Karly Cox |

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"What are you the god of again?"

1. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the “end of days”, a series of events, including a huge battle, which result in the deaths of many of the gods, and the subsequent rebirth of a new, fresh world.

2. While the previous two films were pretty evenly split between the gods’ realm, Asgard, and Earth, in Ragnarok, Marvel wanted “to take Thor in a new direction and put him into outer space with as little time on Earth as possible,” says Waititi. We guess there’s not going to be a reunion with Jane, then. Most of the action takes place on Sakaar, a distant planet built on chaos and indulgence, which hosts powerful warriors in regular, deadly gladiatorial contests. It also happens to be where the Incredible Hulk ended up after he flew off at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron

3. New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who is half Maori, made the most of his pull as the director of a massive Hollywood picture to ensure indigenous Australians and New Zealanders were given exposure to the industry. He told Australian radio show Triple J that he had invited up-and-coming directors to the set to shadow him, and had cast Aborigines and Maoris as extras. He also explained what uniquely Aussie item inspired one of the spaceships …

4. Waititi is known for casting himself in movies he writes and directs, starting with his 2007 feature-length debut, Eagle vs Shark. In Thor: Ragnarok, he plays Korg, an eight-foot-tall warrior made of purple rocks.

“When we were writing the story, I asked myself, ‘Who do I want to play?’” Waititi says. “What kind of character have I not done yet? What would be interesting to me? What would be fun? I like playing characters who sort of provide a little texture and make it a bit more interesting to watch. I knew I had never played a guy who was made of rocks.

5. The baddie, Hela, is the first female villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett was the production teams first choice to play the character. When she agreed, they were pretty stoked; as producer Kevin Feige put it, “I pinch myself every time I say it - we have Cate Blanchett starring as the villain in Thor: Ragnarok.”

There was eager anticipation on both sides. The famously sophisticated Blanchett said:  “I was trying to play cool but I was so excited because you don’t get offered these things very often.

“I’ve had incredible fun playing with Hela because I think her capabilities are so surprising and so unusual. She’s not simply sinister. She also sometimes doesn’t want to kill people. There’s a bit of mischief in there and playfulness. I hope audiences are in for a roller coaster ride with Hela.”

6. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was an Antipodean production, rather than a Hollywood film. There’s a whole lot of Aussie and Kiwi stuff going on. Like the director, Karl Urban comes from New Zealand; Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett are both Australian; much of the film was shot in Australia’s eastern state of Queensland, in particular in Brisbane and Gold Coast, and at several sites on New Zealand’s South Island; and the weapons were co-designed by Weta Workshop which was responsible for the Lord of the Rings sets, costumes, weapons and creatures.


7. Stan Lee and his long-time co-creator Jack Kirby (whose style influences much of Ragnaroks aesthetic) introduced The Mighty Thor to Marvel Comics readers in 1962, in the sci-fi anthology Journey into Mystery. Marvel Comics still publishes Thor adventures: the most recent was last yearThe Unworthy Thor, and Ragnaroks storyline was influenced by two series: Thor: God of Thunder (2012) and Planet Hulk (2006-7).

8. Karl Urban’s character Skurge is basically bald in the comic books. And Waititi wanted to be as accurate as possible – even if that meant becoming a temporary hairstylist. Urban said, “As soon as I arrived on the Gold Coast, they brought me from the airport to the studio and Taika was waiting there with a pair of scissors and proceeded to remove every single hair on my head.” That’s commitment.

9. The fight between the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has featured in several of the movie’s trailers, but the two actors were not actually ever together when it was shot. It was physically impossible to shoot, because of the size difference between the characters. VFX supervisor Jake Morrison explained: “Hulk’s eight-foot-six. But he’s not just eight-foot-six.  He’s also about one and a half times the width of a normal human, even someone as muscular as Chris.” Instead, they used a much shorter stunt double - four foot two - for Thor, and a six foot six stunt double for Hulk. And for some parts ... well, listen to Ruffalo explain. 

10. The Hulk speaks! Like, more than just one-liners! Executive producer Brad Winderbaum explains, “In the comics, The Hulk actually talked very early on. He always had a very caveman syntax, but was always a character that could express himself even in the most basic possible terms. It wasn’t new in the history of this character to give him a voice. But it’s certainly something that we hadn’t done in the films as yet. He’s always said little one-liners here and there, so you get a sense that he understands the world around him and could articulate himself.  But he certainly never did it as much as in this film.” 

11. Basically, Thor’s main superpower is his hotness. Even the filmmaker and cast acknowledge that. “Thor stands for all that is good. He has very strong moral conviction. He knows the right thing to do,” says Waititi. But confirming what many of us felt, but didn’t think was appropriate to say, he adds: “Let’s get straight to the point ... he’s good looking. And he’s got a fantastic body.”

Even Oscar-winner Sir Anthony Hopkins weighed in. “It takes a lot of hard work to build up like that. I get exhausted just looking at him. He really does look like a god. Like a Nordic god!” We basically were making an academic observation, then.

In Anthony Hopkins' own words: he really does look like a god.
Photo: Disney