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Thor: Ragnarok: Here’s what’s going on

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What the Hela

Marvel Entertainment

If you’re here, you’ve probably seen the first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. Sit down. Take some deep breaths.

It’s true, this isn’t really anything like any of the Thor movies that have come before it. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has short hair, for one thing. Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett are here to ... do the things that Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett do best. It’s a lot to take in. But there’s plenty here that comics fans may find more familiar than most.

Let me put on some Zepplin and go through some of the broad strokes.

WOAH, who is Cate Blanchett playing?

Cate Blanchett (and some impressive wardrobe work) as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel Entertainment

That, folks, is Hela, ruler of Hel and Nifleheim, the goddess of death. (Not to be confused with Hel, the actual Norse goddess of the underworld that she is based on.) The hat is a whole ... thing.

Appointed by Odin to rule over the dishonorable dead, Hela has consistently striven against Asgard for control over the honorable dead in Valhalla. In our trailer today, it looks an awful lot like she finally succeeds, overthrowing Asgard and shattering Mjölnir, Thor’s iconic hammer.

That seems ... bad

Yup! But Thor losing his hammer is a pretty familiar plot point for the guy — just like in his first movie, Thor. But most recently, and perhaps most infamously, Thor has spent a pretty long time without the loyalty of Mjölnir in the comics, after finding himself unworthy — and therefore unable — to wield it. While Mjölnir chose a new person to gift with the thunder god’s power, Thor palled around with an axe named Jarnbjorn for a while. We’ve also seen him with an axe in preliminary photos from Ragnarok.

What on Earth is the Hulk doing in this?

Marvel Entertainment

OK, buckle up. There’s a huge chunk of comic precedent for finding the Hulk in the middle of a intergalactic gladiatorial arena. In the 2006 The Incredible Hulk story arc, Iron Man, Black Panther, Mr. Fantastic, Namor the Submariner and Dr. Strange decided that Bruce Banner posed too great a threat to life on Earth to allow him to remain.

So they put him on a rocket and they shot him into space. Though they had intended the ship to strand him on a peaceful but uninhabited planet outside of our solar system, it instead entered a wormhole and crashed on the planet Sakaar. Upon his arrival, Hulk was enslaved to the gladiatorial arenas of the Red King, where he had a series of totally rad rebel gladiator adventures, became a planetary folk-hero, fell in love, overthrew the Red King and was named king in his place. He and his wife, Caiera, had a baby and everybody lived happily ever after.

(They super, super didn’t, but let’s move on.)

What on Earth is Jeff Goldblum doing in this?

Jeff Goldblum playing Jeff Goldblum playing the Grandmaster, “one of the oldest living beings in the universe”
Marvel Entertainment

Having the time of his life, clearly.

If you’re thinking that he reminds you of Benicio del Toro’s the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re not wrong. The Collector and Goldblum’s character are both Elders of the Universe, a race whose civilization developed when the universe was new. Goldblum is playing an obscure character known as the Grandmaster, an ancient, ancient being who has mastered all the games of skill and chance of every race in the multiverse, and who once played a game against Death itself to win immortality for the Elders.

With Hela playing a major role in Ragnarok, perhaps that connection may even become a plot point.

Anything else I should know?

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Marvel Entertainment

Meet Valkyrie, the leader of an elite strike force of winged-horse-riding warrior women, tasked by Odin with ferrying the souls of fallen warriors to Valhalla. Loosely based on the mythological figure of Brynhildr, she’s got a bit of a complicated publication history. In her first appearance, she was simply a disguise worn by the Enchantress to tempt the women of the Avengers with extreme feminist propaganda. (It was 1970, though that’s not much of an excuse.) By 1973, she was a fully-fledged superhero, and in Ragnarok she’ll be played by Tessa Thompson (Creed, Selma, Dear White People).

Belying the wild content of the trailer, there is a portion of this movie that takes place on Earth, in Midgard, potentially with a cameo from Doctor Strange. More on that connection here.

Also. Look at Idris Elba, reprising his role as Heimdall.

Marvel Entertainment

I just think we should look at him.