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Directed by Taika Waititi, who plays Gork the blue rock Gnome of giddy and farce, Thor Ragnarok is about the hammerless-wielding Lord of Thunder…I mean God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) and his rag, tag and bobtail team of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the formidably fierce Amazon warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and a menagerie of interplanetary gladiators, battling Thor’s older sister, Death Goddess Hela (Cate Blanchett, first lead villainess in Marvel cinema), while trying to prevent her from Ragnaroking Asgard into the doomsday annals of nothingness. Many say that blood is thicker than water…I say, not in the river of deceit or in this case Thor’s thronal seat.

Thor Ragnarok (2017)

thor ragnarok

Ragnarok, which means end of days in Norse mythology, is wild and wooly with a wicked waft of wacky in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG; 2014). Yet it’s funnier to the nth degree as silly sight gags, comedic rhetoric riddled with snide remarks, off the wall banter and asinine pun-ishment, where their quirky quips and slapstick barmy makes these eccentric superheroes accessible and more lovable.

Based on the exceedingly popularity of DC comics’ Gal Gadot starring Wonder Woman, which puts DC one-up over MCU (Marvel Comic Universe), and due to the solid global twitter following of Zoe Saldana as Gamora from GOTG and a seemingly overnight similar twitter reaction to Tessa Thompson’s gritty and rugged charm, the pressure is on for MCU to deliver a stand alone female superheroine film.

Thompson is at the forefront of pushing MCU toward developing a female-focus era at the studio, which should especially include hiring more just as qualified as men, females in their Los Angeles based comicbook editorial department, as during a Thor Ragnarok press conference Thompson shared, “Recently, I marched up with a couple of other women that work in Marvel and we went to Kevin (Feige, Ragnarok‘s producer) saying, ‘What about a movie with some female superheroes? Like all of them?'”

thor ragnarok

Through some nervous laughter Feige confirmed the moment, adding that he had to offer his approval saying, “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?’. I said yes.”

Since Thor Ragnarok‘s U.S. opening weekend far surpassed the opening of Wonder Woman and GOTG, and was on par with GOTG2, Thompson’s push for solo films for female characters at MCU now challenges Stan Lee’s recent comment that he stands up for diversity and inclusion at Marvel sharing, “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin. We don’t have room for hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”

With her enchanted sword Dragonfang in hand, while riding her winged horse Aragorn and being of one of the most powerful Asgardians to ever live, Valkyrie may be the front runner for MCU’s first stand alone superheroine origin movie.

thor ragnarok

In regard to being Valkyrie on Thor Ragnarok, a character presenting Thompson with challenges that she readily embraced, and to expand on her fighting style, she ardently shares, “This has been the most physical I’ve ever been in my life. My costume is leather, I’ve got daggers and a cool kind of ninja hairstyle. Then when we see her in her more classic look, it’s a head-to-toe, space-age warrior goddess, steel-strong look.

“Valkyrie’s an elite fighter. Even if she’s out of practice, she’ll say she’s rusty, yet she’s an incredible fighter, as strong as Thor. Although hammerless, she wields a sword like nobody’s business and is incredibly agile. So we wanted a fight style that we haven’t seen before and to make it different from the way most women fight in film. You’ll see upright and graceful moves, while being really close to the ground and scrappy.”

The Fights of Thor Ragnarok

thor ragnarok

Off the bat, VFX supervisor Jake Morrison explains, “Thor’s third installment is different and so in this intergalactic road trip, I think that every frame of the film, at some point goes through the VFX department and there’s a lot more acting in MoCap (motion capture) suits.”

As one would expect, the fight between Hulk and Thor is technically impossible to stage as a real fight because of the physical discrepancy between Thor and Hulk, who’s eight-foot-six, and one and a half time wider than the muscular Hemsworth. The key is to make the battle feel real like when a punch really lands, the reaction has to be appropriate, genuine and not look over-animated.

To do this they cast a four-foot-two stunt double to MoCap Thor and found a way to  superimpose a six-foot-six Hulk stunt double thus having the correct height dimension relationship between the two and shoot the fight from a MoCap point-of-view.

thor ragnarok

Morrison adds, “Chris learned Thor’s fight parts and we shot him on the arena blue screen set behaving as if Hulk was there. We already had the MoCap capture data from the fight we did in miniature. We targeted that and put Hulk on screen. Now we have a realistic fight that couldn’t be staged in the real world and it happens on a gargantuan scale.”

As expected, there’s a lot of combat in the film and as described above, the main heroes are often using well rehearsed fight movements and then CGI animated combatants are added in during post, the most obvious occurring during Idris Elba‘s swordfights.

thor ragnarok

However, some of the compelling fights with Thor and Valkyrie (the actors or their stunt doubles) against MoCap and non-MoCap (actors in costume) stuntmen are exponentially enhanced with interesting virtual camera choreography mixed in with a wire-stunt, acrobatic move or a spin ‘n pose to camera. Someone has been studying Hong Kong’s far out Fant-Asia style films. However, what they can’t do is stick to real physical combat between real actors and stuntman, and do so without cheats and/or tom foolery.

Just watch Jet Li‘s League of Gods (2016), a Thor-ish film loaded with SPX places,  creatures and even a Hulk look-alike. Yet regardless, whenever there’s martial arts, the fights are physically real, shot wide angle with actual stuntmen in costumes, often times doing many techniques per shot and using occasional wire-gags, all to make the action look and feel authentic within their CGI world.

If Valkyrie ever gets made and Thompson and Feige want scrappy, intense raw energy fights that no American female has done, I’ve three suggestions for the filmmakers and Thompson: watch any of hapkido-expert Angela Mao Ying‘s 1970s films (bar Enter the Dragon); check out the late ’70s and early ’80s movies of Hong chuan stylist Hui Ying-hong; and the one must see film, which features one of the best martial performances by a non-martial artist, Chia Lin, in the purely coincidental title, The Avenger (1972).

MARVEL
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