Thor: Ragnarok, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sends the godlike hero on a quest to save... well, pretty much everything. Ragnarok is the Asgardian apocalypse, and that's probably something that Thor wants to prevent since Asgard is where he keeps all his stuff.
Unfortunately for Thor and his work buddy the Hulk, who returns to the MCU after disappearing at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, their adventure will send them up against enough major villains to fill two Batman films. That might also be fortunate, though, since Thor and Hulk really like to punch people. Either way, they're definitely going to be busy.
The main baddies we've spotted in trailers are Cate Blanchett's Hela and Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster, but we've also caught glances of Fenris Wolf, Skurge, and Surtur.
If you aren't familiar with all these characters -- or you are, and you'd like a quick review before you see the movie this weekend -- we've got you covered. This is a lot of new faces to take in, after all.
Here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About Thor: Ragnarok's Villains. Be warned, however, some of these facts could be spoilers.
15 Hela rules over death in two realms
Prophecy informs so much of what happens in Asgard that we wonder how they get anything done. We’d constantly be wondering if that squirrel we just saw was an omen that the ancients foretold.
When Hela was born, the Asgardian goddesses of destiny and fate knew she was going to be trouble, so Odin decided to keep her so busy that she’d never think of starting anything.
He decided to make her a goddess and give her reign over death in two of the Nine Realms-- Hel and Niflheim. Odin would still steward the souls of Asgardians and Earth people, and that might be where the conflict started.
First, if you think someone’s going to be a danger to you later on, it might not be a good idea to promote them and give them more power. Also, if you insist on doing that, it’s probably not a great idea to put them in charge of the garbage realms while you keep the cool ones. That has a way of fulfilling those prophecies you’re trying to thwart.
14 Surtur is a fire demon from Muspelheim
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, as in Norse Mythology, contain nine main planets (or realms, depending on how fancy you’re talking) with the branches of the cosmic “tree” Yggdrasil connecting them. These worlds contain a variety of species and cultures that occasionally decide to fight each other, and that’s how Thor movies happen.
These Nine Realms (Alfheim, Asgard, Jotunheim, Midgard, Muspelheim, Nidavellir, Niflheim, Svartalfheim, and Vanaheim) aren’t the only planets in the cosmos, obviously, but they are the only ones with a spac tree running between them. We’ve seen about half of these worlds over the last two entries, and Ragnarok will show us a couple more.
One of these is the fire level, Muspelheim, which is full of lava and demons. And the one in charge is Surtur. who has some issues with his neighbors in Asgard.
13 Fenris Wolf is Loki's... son?
We don’t really see the resemblance, either. However, in the comics, the giant, lupine creature see Hulk battling in the Ragnarok trailer is the son of the trickster god. That’s also the case in Norse mythology, and the actual mechanics of how it’s possible might surprise you.
Loki had a fling (or several) with giantess/witch Angerboda who, like the trickster, can change her form. That’s already pretty confusing for us, since we aren’t really clear on whether Loki actually turns into different things or just creates an illusion that made people think he’s Odin or Captain America.
Apparently, Fenris is a wolf because his parents were wolves when he was conceived, so we’ll just assume that Loki is a literal shapeshifter because the alternative is just too weird to imagine.
12 Hela is also Loki's daughter (kind of)
This one’s a little easier to imagine since neither Loki nor Hela have any problem with burning Asgard to the ground. However, they do have different reasons. It’s a little more complicated than that, however, because Hela’s father is not necessarily “our” Loki.
The confusion comes because of what Ragnarok actually is. It’s not just the end of Asgard and the death of its residents. It’s the final stage in an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth. The realm lives, dies, and begins anew on a cycle that works out even in the long run but is kind of a downer for the people who die at the end.
Hela’s father, in some versions, is a previous incarnation of Loki before the last Ragnarok. Also, because she was off reigning over the dead in a different realm when things went all Michael Bay, she survived the transition.
11 Grandmaster once held the Mind Infinity Gem
Ragnarok’s Grandmaster presides over the gladiator games in which Thor and Hulk become participants. However, this is a slight bit of slumming for the character, who used to hold one of the most powerful objects in the comic book universe.
He had the Mind Gem before Thanos showed up and beat it out of him. He used it to augment his already considerable mental powers, which he used to… play and win at games. We can’t help but feel like Thanos was doing the Gem a favor by putting it to an actual, practical use, even if his goal was to murder the universe.
We’ve already seen this Infinity Stone in the MCU. It gives Loki’s staff the ability to bend people to its owner’s will in The Avengers. In Age of Ultron, the artifact finds a new home in Vision’s forehead. Also, it shoots lasers-- mind lasers.
10 Skurge is also known as the Executioner
Three characters in the comics have used the name “Executioner,” but Ragnarok features the first — and best — one: the Asgardian warrior Skurge.
The book version of this character earned his nickname for his battle prowess and another, more obvious reason that we’ll get to later. He’s typically a villain with some occasional moments of goodness, and he did some light minion work for several better known bad people. They include Enchantress whom he was in love with, but she just wasn’t that into him, Baron Zemo, and Mandarin.
Like Loki, Skurge becomes an occasional ally to Thor, but they don’t really trust each other. That’s fair because while you definitely want someone named “Executioner” on your side, it might be a little hard to predict how that’s going to play out.
9 Odin imprisoned Surtur inside the Earth
We don’t think this is how things played out in Ragnarok, but it’s a super crazy story anyway.
In Surtur’s first appearance in the books, Odin goes out to stop him from allying with trolls against Asgard. They fight for a little while before the fire demon takes off and flies straight to Earth. It’s Odin’s favorite planet for some reason, despite the fact that nobody lives there yet to worship him.
This happened so long ago that the moon didn’t exist yet, and Surtur fixes that continuity error by hurling a chunk of the planet into space. Odin harnesses the electromagnetic forces of the cosmos and forces Earth to spin with Surtur inside, and he gets trapped like that carnival ride where you stick to the wall.
The beef between Odin and Surtur in Ragnarok was because of a different ancient quarrel.
8 Grandmaster is a brilliant strategist and game aficionado
We’ve already mentioned that the gladiatorial combat in Ragnarok seems to be a stop down for Grandmaster since the comic book version had an Infinity Gem. However, that’s also because the “games” themselves seem slightly beneath him.
Grandmaster is big on strategy, and while one-on-one combat surely has its moments, it’s still pretty straightforward. In the books, the guy made a point to travel the universe and visit other civilizations specifically to learn every game of chance and skill possible so that he could, as his name says, master it.
The movie version of the Grandmaster is happy just to watch people punch each other. However, maybe it’s all part of a brilliant plan to do… something, and perhaps it's this something that definitely requires that he sit in a skybox and make people kill each other.
7 Skurge has a magical axe
Skurge backs up his title of “Executioner” with his signature weapon, an enchanted axe that can cut through anything. We do mean anything here-- the magic chopper can sever the bonds uniting the Nine Realms. Or so Skurge claims, but we’re not about to disagree with him.
During one storyline, Hela manipulates the Executioner by having Mordanna disguise herself as the Enchantress to get him to go along with her plan to destroy Asgard. However, Thor’s half-brother, Balder, puts him onto the deception, and luckily, Skurge believes him, but he has to make sure.
That’s when we learn that the axe can “cut through any disguise,” which is certainly a neat trick when you’re talking about magical illusions and not, say, a rubber mask or some silly glasses. We’re pretty sure any axe would be enough to cleave those.
6 Fenris Wolf is necessary to start Ragnarok
Hela and others have tried repeatedly to bring about Ragnarok. Their methods may have changed over the years, but their plans usually have one thing in common: Fenris Wolf needs to be there.
When he’s not helping to usher in the Asgardian end times, Odin usually keeps the giant wolf chained up. The chain is, itself, magical, composed of impossible, nonsense ingredients. And, like everything else in Asgard except, strangely, Skurge’s axe, it has a name: Gleipnir. The dwarves of Nidavellir forged it, and it’s made of mountain roots, bird spit, the breath of a fish, and other things that apparently existed until they all went into this project.
The reason any plan to destroy Asgard involves Fenris Wolf is because he has a couple important jobs to do, according to legend.
5 Prophecy says Loki will release Surtur to start Ragnarok
Along with Fenris Wolf, Surtur is another creature that’s necessary for Ragnarok to happen. This is according to things that ancient beings said a long time ago, anyway, and these things tend to shake out exactly as described, even if someone has to make them happen on purpose.
However, if you’re trying to destroy Asgard, you could do worse for an ally than the guy that Odin imprisoned inside the Earth like a sock in a washing machine. That guy’s probably got some beef. He and Fenris probably have a lot to talk about, considering how many times the Asgardians keep locking them up to keep them from murdering everyone and ending the world.
If they weren’t so busy doing those things, they’d probably become good friends, and we would absolutely watch a buddy movie about a wolf and a fire demon.
4 Grandmaster is immortal
If that blue stripe on Grandmaster’s face looks familiar, but you can’t put your finger on it (seriously, don’t put your finger on it. He hates that), we can help you out.
Grandmaster is the same species as the Collector, who appears in Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re Elders of the Universe who, in the comics, came to exist shortly after the universe began. Several of them owned Infinity Gems, and when Thanos went to acquire them for himself, he had a bit of a job of outsmarting them.
His being billions of years old probably explains why Grandmaster is bothering with the gladiator bit, however. Odds are he’s simply run out of games to learn, and he probably doesn’t have access to a PlayStation 4 all the way over there on Sakaar.
3 Skurge destroyed Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead
Remember Skurge’s magic axe? It’s so powerful that he used it to cut reality and destroy an object that its creators had been working on since time began. So that’s pretty rude, Skurge.
Naglfar is a supernatural craft that legend says is made of dead men’s fingernails because “wood that is also, somehow, a ghost” just wasn’t spooky enough. It’s been under constant construction for billions of years, probably because of their choice of building material, and when it’s done, the shades will sail it to Asgard to destroy the realm.
Unfortunately for that plan, Skurge’s reaction to that whole deception with Mordanna was to hurl his axe at Naglfar, slicing through reality and destroying the thing. So now all those ghosts have to start gathering fingernails and start over completely.
2 Fenris Wolf swallowed Asgard's sun and moon
If you’re wondering why Fenris Wolf always has to be around for Ragnarok to happen, this is the reason.
Fenris’ job during the Twilight of the Gods is to eat the sun and moon. That seems weird, but the act symbolically ending time while literally destroying the thing responsible for life to exist and the moon because why not; it’s there.
He succeeds in this role in the final part of the 2004 Ragnarok miniseries. Thor lets this happen once he finds out that the apocalypse has happened several times before and is just the natural order of things. He learns not to fear or resist it, which gets way easier once he knows that he’ll just be reborn after the whole thing is over.... which he is.
1 Hela and/or Loki are usually behind Ragnarok
Maybe the Ragnarok movie changed this up (and maybe it doesn’t? Spoilers), but considering Loki’s previous appearances in the MCU, we wouldn’t be gobsmacked if he and Thor’s alliance was short-lived and a huge trick. He is basically the god of tricks, after all.
Hela and Loki have more or less split Ragnarok-bringing duties in the comics. Hela had that idea with the ghost ship and tricking Skurge, while Loki once found a powerful forge and had Surtur make a whole bunch of Mjolnirs with which to arm his forces. At the end of that story, Thor rips Loki’s head off so he can watch helplessly while his plan works all too well.
We’d really like to believe that we can actually trust Loki this time, but we’ve been hurt before...
Can you think of any other facts about the Thor: Ragnarok villains? Let us know in the comments!
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