'Thor Ragnarok' Set Visit: Everything We Learned About The Cosmic Sequel

Back on September 14, 2016, myself and a group of online reporters found themselves hopping through space from the golden realm of Asgard to the vibrant, space trash city called Sakaar. No, we didn't figure out how to traverse the galaxy, but we did make quite the long journey down to Brisbane, Australia to visit the set of the Marvel Studios sequel Thor: Ragnarok.

As we've seen in the trailers for the latest adventure following the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), this time we find Thor a little out of his element. First, his trusty hammer Mjolnir is broken by Hela the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett), who has also started a reign of terror and destruction throughout Asgard. Then he's been captured by a bounty hunter named Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) on a strange planet called Sakaar, given a haircut and forced to compete in gladiatorial combat against Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), which is controlled by a man called The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who's hanging around with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). That's the gist of what we already know about the movie. Would you like to know more?

Below, read out full Thor Ragnarok set visit report with tons of new details about the movie, but beware of potential spoilers.

Thor Ragnarok - Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Thor Has Been a Lone Gunslinger for Two Years

For all the fans who have been wondering why Thor wasn't around to get involved with the skirmish in Captain America: Civil War, the events of Thor: Ragnarok hold the answer. When we catch up with Thor at the beginning of the movie, he's been away on his own for two years, but he hasn't been sulking. Instead, he's been trying to track down the puppet master behind some of the recent near-world-ending events, and looking for the Infinity Stones in order to prevent the doomed future he saw for Asgard and his people in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This has sent him across the cosmos on a number of adventures that have branched off from his original quest.

Unfortunately for Thor, despite these adventures making him a much more confident traveler of the galaxy, with Earthly sarcasm to spare, his latest endeavor has found him captured in Muspelheim, one of the Nine Realms of the universe, ruled by the fire god called Surtur. We've seen Surtur in a quick shot from the end of the most recent Thor: Ragnarok trailer with Hulk jumping toward the massive, fiery, horned god, but that's a sequence that isn't part of Thor's entanglement in Muspelheim early on in the movie, and is likely part of the climax in some capacity.

Thor Ragnarok - Chris Hemsworth as Thor

What is Muspelheim?

As glimpsed in the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, Muspelheim is very fiery and dark, looking very much like Mount Doom. Production designer Dan Hennah explained even more about the design of the realm, saying that it was essentially a Dyson sphere, a cosmic entity that completely encompasses a star and captures most or all of its power output. Muspelheim has been drawing power out of a dying star for a long time now, and that's what keeps the dragons and demons who live in this realm energized.

Somehow, Thor makes it out of this nightmare realm.

Thor Ragnarok - Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Thor Returns to Asgard, Where Loki Has Been Living it Up

Without learning too many specifics, we found out that after being stuck in Muspelheim, Thor finally makes it back to Asgard and is reunited with Odin. However, as we know, the Odin in Asgard is not the real king of the realm that we know. Loki dispatched with Odin, and the god of mischief impersonated his adoptive father in the final scene of Thor: The Dark World, sending Thor on his way after he turned down the chance to inherit the mantle of king.

Producer Brad Winderbaum revealed that Loki has been living it up since then as the ruler of Asgard. However, Loki soon discovers that there are things he was not prepared to deal with. It turns out that Odin was doing more than anyone had thought to keep certain threats at bay. Very quickly we see that Asgard cannot stay safe while Odin is away, and that opens up a window for Hela to wreak havoc on the realm.

We were told something spoilery happens in Asgard, and I feel like it might be Thor discovering Loki's deception and promptly forcing the mischievous brother to accompany him down to Earth so they might find their displaced father. That would leave Asgard open for the taking. But there's also a chance that the spoilery event could be Hela's arrival in Asgard, thereby putting the two brothers on a path to find their father to restore order. Either way, the gods of mischief and thunder are going to the Big Apple.

Thor Ragnarok

Thor and Loki Hit the Road

Set photos from awhile back revealed Thor and Loki wandering the streets of New York City, or rather the streets of Brisbane, Australia standing in for New York City, and our set visit confirmed that Thor and Loki end up here after reuniting in Asgard. In fact, Thor was seen on set wearing the exact same clothes as he was in the Doctor Strange credits scene, where the god of thunder has an exchange with the Sorcerer Supreme about his brother Loki. But more importantly, that scene ended with Doctor Strange offering to help Thor find his father Odin so that they can all go back to Asgard.

Another set photo glimpsed previously showed Anthony Hopkins as Odin looking like a hobo on the streets of New York City, so whenever we find the king of Asgard, he's probably not in the best shape. At some point, the two brothers will surely find their father, but I'm betting that getting back to Asgard won't be easy. This could be when Hela shows up on Earth. After all, we saw a piece of concept art awhile back featuring Hela in a city alley with Thor and Loki, still in Asgardian garb, looking up at her with trepidation, not to mention the fact that the scene where Hela destroys Mjolnir appears to be happening in a city alley.

Perhaps just as Thor, Loki and Odin are about to head back to Asgard by way of the Bifrost Bridge, Hela arrives to stop them and destroys Mjolnir. Somehow they still end up making a run for it back to Asgard by way of the Bifrost Bridge, but end up knocked off their path (as we glimpsed in the most recent trailer) and stranded on the planet Sakaar. Again, there's a lot of speculation here, but all this comes from trying to piece together little tidbits we learned on the set and details that have surfaced elsewhere.

Thor Ragnarok

What is Sakaar?

The trailers for Thor: Ragnarok have shown us that Sakaar is a planet ruled by Jeff Goldblum's The Grandmaster, and it's surrounded by wormholes that are constantly dropping trash all around the planet. It's considered the toilet of the universe, according to producer Brad Winderbaum, and production designer Dan Hennah says, "It's a bit of a sewer," and it's made of almost entirely of space waste, kind of like a space Las Vegas.

The society on Sakaar is a bit hedonistic, as the city where The Grandmaster resides is obsessed with the gladiator matches he puts on. That's where The Incredible Hulk has become a favorite gladiator champion, having been in the form of the big guy for two years (as we learned at Comic-Con this past summer). The Grandmaster and the rest of Sakaar's inhabitants don't even know about Hulk's alter ego, Bruce Banner.

Thor Ragnarok - Thor and Bruce Banner

How Did Hulk End Up on Sakaar?

Speaking of Hulk, just how the hell did he end up in Sakaar anyway? Well, it turns out one of those rumors about Hulk flying a quinjet into space were true, even if it didn't lead to a solo Planet Hulk movie as some thought. Somehow, Hulk's quinjet that he took off in at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron ended up in a wormhole that took him straight to Sakaar, and the rest is history. Keen-eyed fans will spot Thor and Bruce Banner inside the quinjet during their discussion about who won the gladiator match in the most recent trailer.

But he's not the only immigrant of sorts that you'll find on Sakaar.

Thor Ragnarok - Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie

Who is Valkyrie?

Tessa Thompson is playing Valkyrie, a staple character from the Thor comics.

In the comics, Valkyrie has a variety of iterations with different beginnings. Sometimes she's on Earth, other times she's in Asgard. Sometimes she's working with the Fearless Defenders, other times she's fighting alongside Thor. Because there's no definitive version of Valkyrie to draw inspiration from for her introduction, that gave director Taika Waititi, writer Eric Pearson, and actress Tessa Thompson a decent amount of leeway to shape the character in a way that best suited the movie they were setting out to make.

Valkyrie is an expatriate who has been banished from Asgard and separated from the tribe of warriors she once fought with, known as Valkyrior in the comics. They're like Odin's SEAL Team Six. We don't know exactly why she was banished, but it may have something to do with the first time Hela was a threat to the universe, where Valkyrie and her fellow warriors may have failed to defeat the goddess of death themselves, as illustrated in the trailers

Because of this, she's been away from Asgard for quite some time, though we don't know exactly how long. Producer Brad Winderbaum told us, "Valkyrie, as we meet her in this film, definitely has suffered the trauma of war and we meet her in a really low place." She's been working as a bounty hunter known as SR-142 (likely a nod to the character's iteration as an adversary in The Incredible Hulk #142 in August of 1971) on the planet Sakaar, finding contenders for The Grandmaster's gladiator matches, including Thor himself.

Thor Ragnarok - Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie

When we meet Valkyrie, her look will be similar to the one fans know best from the comics, but later in the movie she'll be wearing more classic battle armor, the kind that she would have worn when she was flying on winged horses with her fellow female warriors, as we've seen in some gorgeous shots in the trailers.

Tessa Thompson was very meticulous when it came to bringing Valkyrie to life, right down to how the character would be speaking. Thompson is American, but mostly everyone in the Thor franchise speaks with some kind of British accent with some kind of Asgardian spice to it. That was something Thompson couldn't resist bringing to her character, especially since it's made clear in the comics that she speaks with a different dialect thanks to the format of the text in the comics indicating as much. Despite advice from Taika Waititi and even Sir Anthony Hopkins telling her that it wouldn't make a major difference in the character, Thompson's nerdier sensibilities took over and she and dialect coach Andrew Jack came up with something that simultaneously honors Asgard by sharing similarities with Thor's accent, but also feels distinct from it since she's been away from there for so long.

Thor Ragnarok

Thor is a Valkyrie Fanboy

Instead of just being a love interest for Thor, the character of Valkyrie serves another role for the god of thunder: one of his heroes. Chris Hemsworth explained to us what it's like for Thor to meet Valkyrie:

"Yeah, it's like Thor's meeting his hero, you know. He's absolutely smitten by her because of her history being Valkyrie and all of that. But she's also this beautiful woman so he's kind of caught off guard. She could beat the shit out of him if she wanted, so I think he hasn't come up against that very often....So that was again another, how can we make that different from the previous one."

For all you Thor and Jane Foster shippers out there, with Natalie Portman not returning for this film (or seemingly any future Marvel movies), there will be some closure. Hemsworth says that they have some "respectable fun" with how that relationship may have come to a mutual end.

Jaimie Alexander as Sif in Thor The Dark World

Where Are Lady Sif and the Warriors Three?

In the previous Thor movies, the god of thunder had his trusty pals Lady Sif and the Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg) to help him out. However, we've yet to get any official confirmation that they'll be appearing in Thor: Ragnarok. Thankfully, producer Brad Winderbaum seemed to confirm their presence in some form. When one reporter mentioned the seemingly lack of these characters in the movie and asked if we would at least know what happened to them, Winderbaum said, "That's not necessarily the case, and yes."

That sounds like we'll see Thor's four friends return to the big screen, but part of me wonders if they won't last long. Winderbaum also mentioned that much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier took some safety options away from The Avengers in Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok will take away some of the protections Asgard has had over the years. So while we might see Lady Sif and the Warriors Three appear, there's a chance they might be killed by Hela.

Thor Ragnarok - Korg

There's a Gladiator Riot on Sakaar

At some point, Thor, Valkyrie, Loki and Hulk will need to make it off Sakaar, but how will they ever escape The Grandmaster? How about a gladiator riot? During our set visit, concept art indicated that there would be a riot of some sort in the center of the Sakaar city where the gladiator matches take place. The line-up of gladiators is a mix of colorful, armored aliens and robots, which should make for quite the action sequence. It's the perfect distraction for our heroes to make their escape, and it might even serve a greater purpose that helps Thor and his friends.

We've seen shots of Korg (a motion capture alien character played by director Taika Waititi) screaming and blasting away at Hela's Berserker army as they attack. Loki can even be seen in the background of the shot of Korg from our Thor: Ragnarok trailer breakdown. Beyond those two characters, there appear to be other gladiators fighting in this sequence, and I'm thinking that since Thor helped these gladiators escape The Grandmaster, they're paying him back by helping him fight to save Asgard.

Thor - Midgard Serpents

Midgard Serpents

Concept art also seemed to hint at the presence of Midgard serpents somewhere in the movie as well. In the comics, the Midgard serpent is a massive sentient animal that is actually the offspring of Loki and the Frost Giant descendant and sorceress Angerboda. Known by the name Jormungand, the creature was banished from Asgard by Odin, only to grow bigger and become so big that it could wrap itself around a planet. We're not sure if we'll see Midgard serpents used that way if they end up in the movie, but they could very well be a trick Hela has up her sleeve, especially since we've already seen Fenris Wolf fighting Hulk in the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, another one of Loki's children that he had with Angerboda in the comics.

Thor - journey into Mystery

Which Comic Stories Are Influencing the Movie?

There are three primary comic influences on Thor: Ragnarok, as indicated by producer Brad Winderbaum.

First, there's the Journey into Mystery comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that first introduced Thor to the world. The influence of this particular comic book arc is mostly tied to the incredible artwork that Jack Kirby did for Thor's stories. You can see his penchant for vibrant colors and trippy, detailed settings all over this production.

Next, there's Walter Simonson's Ragnarok storyline for obvious reasons. While it may not follow the storyline of the proposed destruction of Asgard strictly, they're using it to cherry pick some of the more fun elements from that story to bring into the movie, both stylistically and narratively.

Finally, there's Jason Aaron's God of Thunder. Perhaps the largest influence from that particular book is the lifting of certain traits from the villain Gorr to be used with Hela. Gorr has the ability to manifest an infinite number of weapons, something that we've seen Hela do, both in flashbacks to battling Valkyrie and her female warriors riding on flying horses and in the final battle with Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk in Asgard.

Thor Ragnarok - Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster

There May Be Some Interesting Guardians of the Galaxy Connections

We're not sure how extensive these next tidbits might be in the movie, but since we saw them among the wall of concept art and more in the Thor: Ragnarok production offices, we thought they were worth noting.

First of all, there was one piece of concept art that prominently featured the Milano, which is Star-Lord's ship from Guardians of the Galaxy. Considering the Avengers: Infinity War footage shown at The D23 Expo and San Diego Comic-Con featured Thor crashing into the windshield of the Milano, it wouldn't be a surprise for us to encounter the ship at some point in Thor: Ragnarok. In fact, we might even see that scene from the Infinity War footage play out in the movie, perhaps as a credits scene.

Another interesting Guardians of the Galaxy connection comes from The Grandmaster. One piece of concept art showed the Sakaar ruler meeting with The Broker (Christopher Fairbank), the prickly character who Star-Lord was trying to sell the mysterious MacGuffin orb to in the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Since The Grandmaster is the brother of The Collector (Benicio del Toro), and both are said to be celestials (just like Star-Lord's father Ego), perhaps The Grandmaster is also in the hunt for Infinity Stones like The Collector was.

Speaking of which, a prop list in the production office listed one curious item of note: a Xandarian Cube. Is there a chance this item is something The Broker sells to The Grandmaster? We've already seen one cube that had an Infinity Stone in it, so it would stand to reason that a Xandarian Cube might have another one it it as well.

Thor Ragnarok - Cate Blanchett as Hela

Hela Has Some Kind of Secret, But What About Her Future?

Cate Blanchett is becoming the first major female villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, we can't run any of her thoughts on the role because her interview is still under embargo by Marvel Studios and Disney. But Tom Hiddleston offered up an interesting tidbit about how Thor and Loki perceive her as a threat:

"I think she and every other character completely underestimates her power, and they underestimate the secret she has which blindsides them all, the idea that she has been lying in wait all this time for the stage to be set for her return. She is invincible, she is all powerful, and so everything about her is surprising to Loki and Thor."

What could this secret be that blindsides everyone? Is Hela possibly not as evil as she seems to be? Could she have a good reason for taking on the mantle of the goddess of death? That's something we'll have to find out in Thor: Ragnarok.

As for Hela's future, producer Brad Winderbaum wouldn't confirm or deny whether she'll be part of the role Thanos has to play in Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers 4, but he tapdanced around the question by saying:

"Obviously we always think about the movies as standalones, even if they do set up a movie down the road or pay off something from a previous film. What we hope, if we do our jobs right, is that Hela is one of the best villains we've had, maybe the best, hopefully. Cate has been delivering an incredible performance. She's really scary and really charming. She's very easy to watch, very fun to be around. But very murderous and horrible at the same time. You're right that those are things that Thanos values.  But when and how she plays into the future of the universe is uncertain now at this point."


Those are the most important details we learned from the set of Thor: Ragnarok. Stay tuned for more coverage from the set, including our full interviews with director Taika Waititi and cast members Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett.

Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters this fall on November 3, 2017.