Director Taika Waititi has revealed that Thor: Ragnarok was almost very different - it almost destroyed Valhalla, not Asgard. In other drafts, Thor successfully saved the day, but Marvel felt they had to fulfill the promise of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods.
Thor: Ragnarok essentially relaunched the entire Thor franchise, and it did so by tearing down everything that had been built before. The old supporting cast were discarded without a second thought - in Jane Foster's case, with a throwaway line about a mutual breakup. Thor lost his hammer, and an eye. And, most dramatically of all, the film came to a close with the destruction of Asgard.
Speaking on The Empire Film Podcast (via Webbed Media), Waititi revealed that the movie almost went in a completely different direction. "There were versions of the story in the very beginning were we weren’t even on Asgard," he explained, "we would spend a lot of time in Valhalla. Actually went to Valahalla and had this big showdown there but that idea only lasted a couple of weeks."
In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the Hall of the Dead, the place where the souls of valiant warriors go for peace. It's traditionally associated with the Valkyries, whose role is to scour battlefields and guide the souls of the fallen to Valhalla. Marvel's comics have traditionally treated Valhalla as a sort of "afterlife dimension," with Valkyries able to travel between the realms of the dead and the living. It's surprising to hear that Marvel toyed with introducing Valhalla itself in the MCU, and in that version it seems safe to assume there would have been a lot more Valkyrie warriors. There may also have been potential for some surprising cameos; after all, any soul that has died in battle could've been transported to Valhalla.
Ultimately, though, Marvel chose to ditch that idea - and they made the right choice. As Waititi hints on the podcast, the reality is that the film's title of "Ragnarok" is something of a promise. Ragnarok is the Twilight of the Gods, associated with the destruction of Asgard and the beginning of a fresh cycle for the Norse gods. In thematic terms, it would have been very strange indeed to set Thor: Ragnarok on Valhalla, not on Asgard.
As Waititi notes, his vision of Asgard was unlike anything seen in the MCU to date. He viewed Asgard through a colonial lens, and suggested that "this entire empire, this entire world was built on the spoils of other battles." The gilded exterior of Asgard concealed the darkness of its past; that was neatly symbolized when Hela tore down Asgardian artwork to reveal an image of her conquest beneath it. This revelation transformed the fall of Asgard into an opportunity to put the past to rest, to begin a new cycle that did not involve conquest and barbarism at all.
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