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Haircuts. Swords. Goth eye shadow. All of these elements are part of Thor: Ragnarok. So WTF is this movie about?
When we last saw Thor, he was flying off to figure out who was manipulating the Avengers at the end of Age of Ultron. Eventually, he hears rumblings of trouble in Asgard: His evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has been impersonating their missing father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Loki’s rather lax governing leads to the reemergence of an imprisoned Hela (Cate Blanchett). Thor’s initial encounter with Hela gets him blasted to Sakaar, a barbaric planet ruled by the charming but nefarious Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a tough, hard-drinking warrior hiding out on Sakaar brings the god to the Grandmaster. “Thor is a bit of a fanboy for the Valkyrie, the elite women warriors,” Hemsworth says. Thor is then forced into becoming a gladiator, which leads to his haircut and the loss of his trusty hammer. (His replacement weapons include a pair of swords seen on EW’s cover.)
Sakaar’s most popular and successful gladiator? Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk. Comics fans will recognize this plotline as part of the popular Planet Hulk series. “He’s much more of a character than the green rage machine you’ve seen in the Avengers movies,” Ruffalo says of this new Hulk. “He’s got a swagger. He’s like a god.”
Once Thor and Hulk unite, Ragnarok becomes a sort of road-trip film, with director Taika Waititi drawing inspiration from movies like 48 HRS., Withnail and I, and even Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The director particularly wanted to show off Hemsworth’s comedic abilities, only recently exploited in films like Vacation and Ghostbusters. “He’s so good and underutilized in that department,” Waititi says. “He’s legitimately one of the funniest things in this film.”
Fans will also see some familiar faces, like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange. The New York-based sorcerer met with Thor in the post-credits epilogue of Doctor Strange, and he will help the Asgardian locate Odin. Teases Feige, “There’s not a whole lot that takes place on Earth in this film, and that’s one of the things that does.”
The events of Ragnarok will also help set up Marvel’s biggest Phase 3 installment, Avengers: Infinity War, the first half of which is due in May 2018. But Waititi is adamant that his film will not only stand on its own, it will reinvent the franchise. “A lot of what we’re doing with the film is, in a way, kind of dismantling and destroying the old idea and rebuilding it in a new way that’s fresh,” he says. “Everyone’s got a slightly new take on their characters, so in that way, it feels like [this is] the first Thor.” Just with a little less hair.