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.

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