It's a Thor thing: Why Ragnarok is something to marvel at

21st October 2017 7:00 AM
FRIENDS FROM WORK: Avengers Thor and The Hulk face off in Thor: Ragnarok. FRIENDS FROM WORK: Avengers Thor and The Hulk face off in Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel

MARVEL'S latest and potentially greatest film in the stand-alone franchise about the Norse God of Thunder, Thor: Ragnarok, is the screen industry's equivalent of the ANZUS Treaty.

The blockbuster sees some of the finest movie talents in Australia, New Zealand and the US band together to secure the future of the Thor titles, much the same way the treaty, signed in 1951, united the nations in the interests of the security of the Pacific.   

While the role of Thor catapulted Byron Bay's most famous resident, Chris Hemsworth, to international fame, the Aussie actor admits he had grown tired of the role after 2013's Thor: The Dark World. That all changed when award-winning stand-up comedian turned filmmaker Taika Waititi signed on to helm his first Marvel superhero film.   

Director Taika Waititi pictured on the set of Thor: Ragnarok with Chris Hemsworth.
Director Taika Waititi pictured on the set of Thor: Ragnarok with Chris Hemsworth. Jasin Boland

"I certainly wanted to do something different with the character," Hemsworth says.

"I was kind of sick of what I was doing and sick of myself in the role.  

"I met with Taika and he felt the same, he said 'yep, I'm sick of you too, so let's get rid of everything we know and recreate it'."   

Attracted Down Under by Hemsworth's desire to make a movie in his backyard and generous state and federal government incentives, Thor: Ragnarok employed more than 1000 Queensland cast and crew and injected an estimated $142 million into the state's economy.   

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok.
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok. Jasin Boland

Waititi led what was from all reports a fun-filled six-month shoot on the Coast, his trademark humour and creative vision energising cast and crew both on screen and on set.   

"I knew that Chris was funny, but I don't think they'd exploited that enough," Waititi says of his vision for recalibrating the franchise.   

"And my idea of a superhero movie probably comes from '80s movie stars like Bruce Willis and (Harrison Ford as) Indiana Jones, even Kurt Russell in his prime. I wanted Thor to become more like them, great at the action, but also funny.   

Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok.
Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel

"I wanted to make him the most interesting character in the film. There's no point in calling a movie Thor if he's not the coolest thing in it."   

Thor: Ragnarok finds Thor (Hemsworth) imprisoned on the other side of the universe and in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilisation.    Before Thor can deal with the all-powerful new threat posed by the franchise's first leading female villain - the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett) - he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest against his former ally and fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  

Cate Blanchett and Karl Urban in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok.
Cate Blanchett and Karl Urban in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel

"I think the best villains are always those that you kind of love and hate what you do, but you sort of understand them," Blanchett says of Hela. "There's some logic to it."  

The film sees Hemsworth, Blanchett and Ruffalo joined by Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Karl Urban as Skurge, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Anthony Hopkins as Odin.   

"This movie is about just breaking free of the forms and rules and so I got to break free from what we thought Hulk was to a slightly more fleshed-out character," Ruffalo says.   

Mark Ruffalo (as Hulk), Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok.
Mark Ruffalo (as Hulk), Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel

In Marvel's finest traditions, the film also features plenty of cross references and surprise cameos, including a guest appearance by Sam Neill and a cameo by Waititi as a new rock-shaped CGI Marvel Cinematic Universe character called Korg (introduced by Marvel in a 1962 comic book).   

Waititi, whose indie films include Boy, What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, was destined for big things long before he accepted his Marvel mission to breathe new life into the Thor franchise - one it appears he's executed to perfection.  

The director and actor, who played Hal Jordan's friend, Tom Kalmaku, in DC Universe's Green Lantern (2011), says he was blown away by the response to the film's world premiere in Los Angeles.  

"I'm relieved that people love it. We had a great premiere in LA ... they laughed in the right places, were quiet in the right places, so for two years' of hard work, we did all right."   

Thor: Ragnarok opens nationally on Thursday.