Marvel's version of Thor may be a god of thunder, but Thor: Ragnarok will see him humbled, cast off, and practically destroyed by Hela - the greatest villain he's ever faced. At first glance, that might seem like a hard distinction to actually make, considering the enemies that Thor has faced and defeated in his career to this point. Whether it's Frost Giants, Asgardian Destroyers, Chitauri invaders, Dark Elves, or even his brother Loki, Thor has prevailed without any serious injury or damage (being a god has its privileges). But Ragnarok is going to change all that.
The trailers for Thor: Ragnarok have shown Hela in action, revealing there's more than Cate Blanchett's acting abilities fueling the villain's ferocity and intimidation. But when we got to see Blanchett's take on the 'goddess of death' in person during Ragnarok's production, the director explained just how formidable a opponent she would truly be. And in a movie where Thor and Hulk finally battle Surtur, that's saying something.
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We had the opportunity to see Blanchett's performance of Hela in the film's final fight sequence, demonstrating how she was more than capable of defeating the Valkyries - a highly-stylized flashback sequence impossible to miss in marketing. Yet the sequence hints at two important truths about Hela in the MCU: that she's more than lethal in a fight, and that she hails from a time and place far beyond anything Thor has ever encountered, let alone opposed. It's for that reason that director Taika Waititi claims Blanchett's antagonist is, at least in his opinion, the most "interesting" villain in the Marvel Universe so far:
Kate is the first female villain. And if I’m honest for me, the most interesting villain, that [Marvel has] had. Because she’s multidimensional. She's layered. She's troubled. She's really funny. And you know, it's not just like ‘[evil laugh] Now if I can finally get the thing, then this will happen!’ There’s a little bit of that, but there's so many other things going on for her. So I think it's going to be really satisfying for people.
She's amazing. Her character, you know, she is very tough. Amazing powers. She IS Hela, and she wears the cowl, and she has the antlers, and she looks amazing in the concept art and stuff. Thor in the films has never fought anyone tougher than this lady.
Since most of Hela's superpowers will be the product of CG post-production (just like her headdress and cape), we didn't get the chance to see them in action on set. However, the trailers and marketing released since have shown it clearly, as storms of blades firing in all directions as if conjured from thin air. But without spoiling any of the action we witnessed, let's just say Thor may not be ready for an enemy who makes his best attacks seem absolutely harmless.
If those effects make Hela seem dangerous, it's Blanchett's portrayal that makes her a new level of adversary for a Marvel hero of Thor's cosmic caliber. And without his hammer at his side, swords won't help Thor much in taking on the woman who has mastered death itself. For all the Frost Giants, Asgardian Destroyers, and Chitauri Leviathans Thor has dropped in his day, producer Brad Winderbaum explains how the filmmakers had to power Hela down from the comics - instead granting her powers seen in the enemy of Jason Aaron's recent God of Thunder comic series:
A lot of the design of Hela is a combination of early Jack [Kirby] stuff... We're also looking at God of Thunder, the Jason Aaron book... especially [Hela's] power set. The villain Gorr has a very specific power set of being able to manifest an infinite number of weapons. We've drafted that idea and are doing a version of that. Not exactly, but a version of that for Hela in our movie. Because in the books Hela can kind of touch people and they die, and sometimes she can do all sorts of different things, and we really tried to specify and narrow into very specific skill sets.
How Hela stands up to Marvel's newer, better, funnier Thor remains to be seen - especially after his supercharged lightning makeover seen in Ragnarok's second trailer. But the filmmakers are heavily suggesting that Thor will need to rely on more than his muscles to bring her down. Like the surprise return of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, perhaps? Do you think he'll be able to beat her in combat with the help of his father's weapon, as shown in the above image? Or does this sound like a job for Valkyrie instead? Leave your own predictions in the comments.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017