Filming on a brand new Marvel Studios film is underway in Australia, and boy does Thor: Ragnarok sound like a treat. Marvel made a swell move in setting What We Do in the Shadows filmmaker and New Zealand native Taika Waititi to direct, and given that Waititi’s latest film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is another swell effort from the filmmaker that highlights his sense for character, scale, and timing, he marks an incredibly exciting addition to the MCU stable of directors. But then Marvel went one better, not only setting Mark Ruffalo to co-star alongside Chris Hemsworth in the film as Hulk, but filling out a terrific ensemble that includes Cate Blanchette as the villain, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum, and Creed standout Tessa Thompson.
Thompson’s casting is arguably the most exciting, as the actress broke out in a big way in Creed and will be bringing to life a fantastic comics character by the name of Valkyrie—a sort of feminist warrior. However, there’s one major change between Thompson’s Valkyrie and the Valkyrie in the comics. In the canon, Valkyrie is white, but Thompson is of mixed race. During a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Waititi addressed the casting of Thompson and said they intentionally wanted to cast a wide net in filling out the ensemble:
“Right from the start we wanted to diversify the cast, and it’s hard when you’re working with Vikings. [Laughs.] You want to be more inclusive and provide a broader representation. And at that point, you have to look at the source material as a very loose inspiration. And then take it from there and go with your gut. Say, ‘You know what? None of that stuff matters. Just because the character was blonde and white in the comic book. That doesn’t matter. That’s not what [that character] is about.'”
Indeed, many forget that Marvel Studios has yet to do a direct adaptation of any comics arc. Their fidelity to the source material isn’t fanatical, it’s spiritual. They excel at bringing these characters to life in ways that please diehard fans of the comics not because it’s exactly what they read, but because the essence of the characters remain true to the spirit of the source material. Waititi elaborated, saying Thompson was hands-down the best person for the job:
“People forget that. Die-hard fans will say, ‘That’s not really authentic to the comics,’ but as soon as they watch the movie, and they’re involved in the story, and actually what’s happening, everybody forgets. The fact that we even have to keep having this conversation is ridiculous, because we keep forgetting. Unless it’s the topic of the film, it just shouldn’t even be — what do we even care?”
I think the story is king, and you want the best person for the job. And Tessa tested against — we cast a very broad net, and Tess was the best person.
While the Thor movies thus far have been a bit of a weak spot for the MCU, I’ve got high hopes for this one. Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters on November 3, 2017.