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Valkyrie is Thor: Ragnarok’s breakout star and marks a major moment for Marvel

Tessa Thompson rules all

Thor: Ragnarok Valkyrie
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok is one of the most diverse films Marvel has released over the past decade, and serves as a star-making turn for actress Tessa Thompson, who ushers in a new female-focused era for the studio’s Cinematic Universe.

During a recent press conference, questions about what Marvel’s inclusion of Thompson’s Valkyrie and Cate Blanchett’s Hela as major characters mean for women in future Marvel movies. Thompson is pushing to get solo films for female characters in the MCU, and between the positive early reviews for Ragnarok and predicted box office revenue, Marvel executives seem ready to listen.

"Recently, I marched up with a couple of other women that work in Marvel," Thompson said, "and we went to Kevin, ‘What about a movie with some female super heroes? Like all of them?’"

Through some nervous laughter Feige confirmed the moment, adding that he had to offer his approval.

“It’s a pretty amazing moment when your shoulder gets tapped, you turn around, and every female superhero we’ve got says, ‘How ‘bout it?’,” Feige said. “I said yes.”

Thompson then dropped a reference to Lady Liberators, a ‘70s team-up featuring characters who already exist in the MCU including Black Widow, Wasp and Scarlet Witch, which made Feige break down laughing, calling out the “deep cut.”

Feige didn’t address the question of when an all-female cast may get their own superhero movie, but he’s aware this has been something demanded by actors and fans alike for years. A Black Widow movie starring actress Scarlett Johansson has been asked about before, with Feige committing to the idea, but nothing has come of it in the past decade.

Still, Thompson sees Raganarok as a win for women — and women of color — who want to be taken seriously in major superhero movies. In the comics, Valkyrie is portrayed as a white woman. Thompson told a story about diving into Norse mythology for the role and discovering "it didn't make any sense." When she saw reactions online to her casting online, in part to do with her race, Thompson said she found similarities between the baffling nature of the commentary and the mythology she had been studying.

"Someone said online that this was white genocide. And I find that reaction just as baffling as Norse mythology,” Thompson said. "The thing that I’m tasked do with any character that has its own iconography is to capture the spirit of the character and the spirit of all of us has very little do with what color we are.”

Thompson’s casting was a large discussion point during the conference. The newer actor, best known for her role in Justin Simien’s 2014 comedy, Dear White People, Thompson said that her biggest concern about the role was that Valkyrie is supposed to be just as strong as Thor.

"How do I sell that, looking like I do, and standing next to Chris Hemsworth,” Thompson said. “Which is not a question that ever once felt unsold within the viewing of the film.”

Valkyrie, within the narrative of the MCU, was a member of a female-only elite defense force that protected Asgard. As the only survivor of that army, the concept of launching a ladies only Avengers film — especially in a world that keeps demanding more opportunities for Black Widow — seems like an easy sell.

Thor: Ragnarok will be released on Nov. 3.