Not keen on resting on their laurels for too long, Marvel Studios dropped a bombshell today with the first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows), the third Thor solo movie is among the most anticipated blockbusters of the year, not just because it involves Jeff Goldblum’s introduction to the MCU, but because it’s been setup as a landmark chapter in the cinematic universe. Pairing Hulk and Thor together in an intergalactic buddy-cop-esque adventure, the movie will follow Thor trying to prevent the end of days coming to Asgard, as well as find out about the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet, which was why he left Earth at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. All in a day’s work for the son of Odin.
The trailer doesn’t shy away from teasing all the intense action audiences can expect, with most of the new cast-members getting at least a second for themselves. In addition to building on the humor of the well-received Team Thor teaser we got last year, there’s a distinctly Guardians-esque feel to this trailer, with lots of spaceships flying around and wide open astral spaces. It’s certainly not all laughs though, with the introduction of Hela being presented with some genuine gravity – not hard when her first introduction to fans shows her breaking Mjolnir with one hand. Thor and Hulk blasting through space together (once they settle their differences in the space coliseum) will be a fun time, but this is going to be a bumpy ride for all involved.
Let’s have a look at what events and characters the trailer teases for Earth’s Mightiest buddies.
Destruction of Mjolnir
Instantly gaining the award for “Best Villain Introduction Yet,” Cate Blanchett’s Hela and Thor are facing off as the trailer opens, with Thor throwing his trusty Mjolnir towards her, only for her to catch it, and then smash it with one hand without breaking a sweat. Oh dear.
Thanks to some concept art Marvel revealed with an Avengers: Infinity War tease earlier this year, we already more or less knew that Mjolnir wasn’t making it past Ragnarok. Fan speculation had surmised that perhaps the hammer would get destroyed or taken from Thor once he becomes somehow unworthy. At the very least, it was thought this would be a big climactic moment – an end-of-second-act tragedy as the weapon that has seen Thor through so many great battles is eviscerated before his eyes. However, Mjolnir being dismantled is only the first of Thor’s problems, it seems.
Another fan theory has been that Mjolnir contains an Infinity Stone and, among the massive blue flash of lightning, there’s no confirmation there was an Infinity Stone inside, but the camera doesn’t switch back to Hela after the handle hits the ground either. With what we see, it’s just as believable that she destroyed the hammer as a show of strength rather than to take an Infinity Stone, so that theory remains in the air (unlike poor Mjolnir).
The main villain of the picture, Hela is a classic adversary of Thor from the comics. As appointed by Odin, she is Asgardian Goddess of Death, and she rules over Hel and Niflheim, the Asgardian afterlife for those who die unworthy. She is generally obsessed with ruling over the dead of Asgard in totality, so she attempts to take over Valhalla as well, which is how she usually comes into conflict with Odin and Thor.
According to Blanchett, in Ragnarok Hela is trapped in the afterlife until she is accidentally freed, and decides to take down Asgard as a means to make sure she isn’t put back there. This explains the conflict at the beginning, with Thor trying to capture her again, and it explains how Thor gets discarded, as without Mjolnir there’s not much stopping her just throwing him to one side. Interestingly, there’s quite a lot of emphasis put on Hela in both her more humanoid incarnation with the regular looking armor, and her Hel form with the massive spikes and skin-tight bodysuit.. A couple of moments tease that Hel will be explored in some detail too, including Hela battling with Valkyrie (which we’ll come back to).
Asgard is Dead
Along with Mjolnir getting smashed, Asgard itself is covered in a blanket of flame about half-way through, making it blatant this film is going to be a very bad day for any and all Asgardians. The synopsis revealed in January stated that Thor was in a race against time to stop the Ragnarok from bringing the end of days to Asgard, and the trailer makes that very apparent.
Hela is seen challenging an army of Asgardians, proclaiming that this is “Asgard is dead” and bringing forth a wave of fire. Several times the trailer moves back to Asgard showing a city in ongoing conflict. Both Loki and Heimdall make an appearance, the former beside the Grandmaster a little later, the latter somewhere else surviving for himself. Loki’s appearance is the most interesting, as it hints that while he may not have directly released Hela, he likely makes it easier for her to take over (he was masquerading as Odin at the end of Thor: The Dark World) and uses to make an easy escape. Loki enjoys anarchy, and what’s more anarchic than the queen of the underworld making a mess of Asgard? A Loki close-up also makes it seem he’s quite enjoying his decision, too.
Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie gets almost as much screentime as Thor, which is no surprise to fans of the comics as Valkyrie (or Brunnhilde, as is her real name) is a mainstay of Thor’s realm. Valkyrie led the Valkyrior to choose slain warriors to join Valhalla, an occupation she excelled at until Odin cut ties with Earth, limiting her selection pool to only Asgardians and leaving her rather bored. She wanted more adventure, eventually getting it from Amora the Enchantress before the Enchantress turned on her and imprisoned her in crystal.
Here, Valkyrie is more stripped back. Kevin Feige has confirmed she was in previous employ of Asgard – a fact that Thor tries to use to bond with her, but to no avail as she’s resentful of her time there and would rather move on. On her travels away from Asgard, she encountered Sakaar, the gladitorial planet run by the Grandmaster. Deciding to stay, she works with the Grandmaster to find combatants for his Coliseum, leading her to capturing Thor and forcing him into the main event.
Her time with Valkyrior isn’t directly mentioned, but the brief shot we get of her flying toward Hela in combat on her flying horse Aragorn does go a long way to confirming she has power and dominion in the underworld. Similarly, she’s seen falling through the air in Hel with her signature blue cape, Hela defeating her possibly what drives her away from Asgard (and causes her to help Thor in revenge).
In among the skirmish and shots of war and conflict, Skurge, played by Karl Urban, makes a brief appearance. Sometimes known as the Executioner, Skurge is an anti-villain of Asgard, often fighting Thor as a pawn of Amora the Enchantress or Loki. The one major instance he works with Thor is, conveniently, to stop Ragnarok by travelling through Hel to stop Naglfar, the ship of the dead.
The son of a frost giant and an Asgardian, Skurge is known for his above-average strength and usually wields a double-bladed axe – think Marvel comics by way of Warhammer 40,000 and that’s Skurge as a character. Sporting a pair of assault rifles here, comics fans will recognize that as possibly a reference to Skurge’s final battle, where he used a gun after sacrificing his axe. It’d be tragic that Karl Urban’s time in the MCU would be so limited, but it’s the end of days so nobody is truly safe.
The Grandmaster and Planet Sakaar
The planet Valkyrie brings Thor to is known as Sakaar, a planet-sized fighting arena run by the Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum. The Grandmaster is one the elders of universe, though his exact origins are unknown. Famed as a gambler and manipulator, he has ties to Thanos, the Collector and Death, among most of the other grander characters in Marvel’s canon – some already present in the MCU, some not.
Employing the Valkyrie as his recruiter, the Grandmaster sits atop his throne, waiting for interesting combatants and participants to excite him. The Grandmaster plays the role of incidental match-maker when his gladiator arena brings together Thor and Hulk for an epic fight to the death, the Hulk being his current champion. With his connections to the Collector, there is a high chance that Ragnarok has at least one direct mention of something connected to the Guardians of the Galaxy, as they dealt with the Collector in their first adventure. Aside from that, the Grandmaster’s presence is a wildcard that the trailer wisely keeps hidden.
Hulk Armor and Planet Hulk
Aside from seeing Jeff Goldblum make his MCU debut, the biggest treat for fans in this trailer is seeing the Hulk in his full Planet Hulk garb. After flying away at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hulk has somehow found his way to Sakaar and made a career as a very success prize fighter. In Planet Hulk, a 2006 comic event in which the Avengers send Hulk off-world, the green machine winds up on Sakaar in a weakened state and is forced into battling to appease the Red King. Gradually, Hulk raises an army he calls the Warbound to eventually overthrow the Red King, and raises a family before returning to Earth.
In Thor: Ragnarok, the Red King has been replaced with the Grandmaster, and most of the other Planet Hulk plot-points seem to have been discarded. However, Hulk in his armor is what’s sure to delight most fans, with teases going back as far as comic-con last year that we’d get the iconic look in full. The setup is obviously mostly just an excuse to put Thor and Hulk together, but there’s some hope we’ll at least a brief glimpse of Hulk beating up aliens gladiator-style.
From Hulk’s gladiator armor, we also get another piece of fan-service – Thor’s trusty helmet makes a proper appearance. The headgear is synonymous with Odinson in the comics, and has been something somewhat missed in his MCU counter-part. It isn’t something essential to the character, but it is something that serves as a fun piece of history to see finally represented on-screen. Marvel has an occasional habit of making fun of a character’s original look (most recently in Netflix’s Luke Cage), and seeing them acknowledge the history of someone like Thor is a nice piece of fan service. Thor: Ragnarok is a film that’s going to lengths to be a big, fun Marvel adventure, and it’s more than a little reassuring that the filmmakers are willing to bring some comic book canon along for the ride.