[This article contains spoilers.]
An unexpectedly funny and genuinely impressive addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Ragnarok blends epic mythological battles with Taika Waititi’s wonderful sense of humour. It is a delightful film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and offers excellent chemistry between pretty much every character.
The primary conflict in the film is caused by Thor’s older sister Hela, played by Cate Blanchett. Having been imprisoned by her father for millennia, Odin’s death released the powers that bound her, giving Hela the freedom to return to Asgard and attempt to reclaim the throne from her brother.
Still driven by a violent ambition once fostered by her father, Hela wants to return Asgard to its past incarnation as a nation of brutal conquerors. The fight between Thor and Hela is enormous. It rages across planets. It puts the life of every Asgardian, soldier and civilian alike, at risk.
Over the course of multiple films, Thor has clashed with his adopted brother Loki. But for all the damage and death Loki has caused, Thor makes an effort to forgive his brother each time.
Thor: Ragnarok marks the first and only time he fights with his sister. She did not last long enough to get a second chance. But there’s really no reason why Loki should get so many chances to betray his brother, while Hela doesn’t. If anything, she’s more deserving of an attempt at redemption.
Here are 8 reasons why…
She is the Rightful Heir to the Throne
Even Thor sort of acknowledged it in his big climactic fight with his sister. As Odin’s eldest child, Hela is first in line to the throne. There’s really no question about it. There is no reason for Thor to deny her the throne that is her birth right, other than that he doesn’t want to.
By contrast, Loki has no claim to the throne. He is younger than Thor and not even biologically related to Odin, so technically not a member of the royal bloodline. He is the Scar to Thor’s Mufasa (if Scar was adopted).
If some other relative (for instance, his younger brother Loki) had challenged Thor for rule of Asgard in an earlier film, they would have been the villain. Thor – and the audience – would have believed that Thor was rightful ruler and that no one had any right to try to take it from him.
If the roles had been reversed, and it was Thor who had been banished to the underworld for being an obedient tyrant under his father’s rule, he still would have been the hero, returning to Asgard to claim the throne from his spoilt younger sibling.
But instead of seeing him graciously accept that he is in fact not first in line to rule Asgard, he turns on his sister. Hela’s motivation makes complete sense. She is in the right. Thor becomes the Scar to Hela’s Mufasa.
She is Odin’s Daughter and Thor’s Sister
In every step of Thor’s forgiveness of Loki, he stresses that they are family and that their bond as brothers will somehow withstand all of Loki’s pranks, no matter how destructive or murderous. But Hela is family too, and she doesn’t get anything like the same leeway.
True, Thor got a chance to bond with Loki throughout their childhood because they were raised as brothers, not even knowing they had an older sister. But it isn’t Hela’s fault her father decided to shut her away from her home and her family, and lie to her brothers about her existence. It was Odin’s choice, and yet no one seems to hold him accountable for neglecting his daughter.
This could be because Thor doesn’t want to fight with his dying father, but it doesn’t make the situation fair on Hela.
If Thor really meant all those things he told Loki about their family bond being so important, he would extend the same courtesy to his sister. He would make an effort to get to know her and to understand her, which wouldn’t be that hard. He would try to work with her to create a better Asgard that learns from Odin’s violent history. Thor can’t do that alone, without the benefit of Hela’s knowledge of Asgard’s past.
Everything She Did Was Motivated by Love for Her Father
Odin was training her, from the day she was born, to take charge one day. But when he changed his mind about how his kingdom should be run, he banished her. He could have chosen to educate her about his change of heart and groom her to be the kind of leader that he only decided to be too late.
Hela is a brutal, warmongering tyrant, because that is what Odin taught her to be. It is not her fault that, when he changed his mind about how to govern, he didn’t include her. She was still his child and he still had the option of helping her to understand and embrace his change of heart.
It must have broken her heart when she did everything her father asked of her and, instead of being rewarded, she was banished. She was the perfect daughter – she was obedient and could have followed more closely to her father’s path. She was promised his kingdom one day, but when that promise was torn away from her, so was her father’s love.
When you think about how viciously she was cast aside by her own father, who she revered more than anyone in the world, it’s easy to understand why she wants revenge so much.
Loki, on the other hand, was taken from a battlefield where his biological father had left him to die and adopted into the royal family, and still it wasn’t enough for him. He was selfish and didn’t once stop to consider how ungrateful he was for all the things Odin gave him, but denied his own daughter.
She Was Banished Without Much of a Chance to Evolve
While the film doesn’t go into a great deal of detail about the circumstances of Hela’s banishment, it describes her challenging Odin for the throne after he switched to a more peaceful style of leadership. It references the battle between Hela and the Asgardians, but doesn’t once mention any attempt to rehabilitate Hela into Odin’s new system of government.
As her father, as her teacher, as the person whose influence shaped her, Odin had a responsibility to help her to understand his change of heart. He was prepared to raise his daughter as a bloodthirsty conqueror, grooming her to take the throne when he died, but didn’t take the time to properly include her in his reformation.
Hela was imprisoned for millennia. Perhaps if Odin had spent those millennia helping to educate his daughter, she wouldn’t have ended up in a fight to the death with her own baby brother.
Odin shirked his duty as a father and as a king. When he died, and the powers that imprisoned his daughter waned, Thor had an opportunity to put things right with his sister.
And he chose not to. When she confronted him, Thor made no attempt to talk to her, or to understand her perspective. Her aggression and abrasiveness towards Thor isn’t unexpected, given her circumstances.
It did nothing to foster a peaceful reconciliation between Hela and the Asgardians when Thor threw Mjolnir at his sister’s face before attempting to talk to her. Just like his father, Thor did not offer his sister a chance to be a part of her own family.
She Wasn’t Much Worse Than Loki
Loki was the antagonist for multiple films. Long before he was kidnapping his father and usurping his place on the throne, Loki was known to be a troublemaker. Even as child, his pranks were known to end with his big brother on the receiving end of a stabbing.
When he reached adulthood and his combination of ambition and deviousness matured, his crimes extended out of Asgard to the point that the Avengers had to get involved. He exposed Asgard to the people of Earth. His unbridled desire for greatness overlooked any consequences of his actions. He lied and manipulated anyone he could use to get what he wanted, with no regard for the people he used.
He is objectively a bad person. He makes no effort to change his behaviour or his attitude. He repeatedly double crosses his brother for personal gain. Thor even directly tells him that he always expects Loki to betray him, even when they are at their closest.
Hela is also a bad person. She has also done horrible things. But they weren’t so much worse that she deserved death, especially when contrasted to Loki’s own crimes.
Both Hela and Loki attempted to take the throne of Asgard.
The difference is that Hela did it honestly. She went into battle, announcing her intentions to fight her father and then her brother for her place as Queen of Asgard. Loki, on the other hand, assumes his father’s place on the throne multiple times, having either allowed or purposefully caused life-threatening illnesses. In Thor: Ragnarok, Loki would have let Odin die in a foreign country, away from his home and family, had Thor not forced him to help find their father.
Hela didn’t care who suffered because of her actions and she didn’t care who died. But nor did Loki, and there is no good reason for the disparity between the repercussions each faced.
Thor Would Have More Time for the Avengers if Someone Else Ruled Asgard
This probably isn’t that much of a priority for Thor the character, but it very well could be for the ticket-buying cinema audience. No one is going to watch these films to see Thor sit on a throne and peacefully rule the kingdom. People are going to see him be an Avenger. Having someone else take the throne, and keep Thor in the loop as a member of the royal family and an intergalactic hero, could give Thor the freedom to be more closely involved in the Earth-centred storylines.
The Marvel universe is growing bigger every day. Between cameos in others Avengers’ stories and his responsibilities as part of the team, Thor is going to be stretched quite thin also taking on the governance of an entire mythical country. Odin struggled enough to rule Asgard without being a trans-global superhero.
Handing over his responsibilities as ruler of Asgard to someone who has been trained from birth to take them would have been a wise decision that could have put Asgard in safe hands and given Thor the freedom he needs to be a functional Avenger.
The whole film could still have happened. The entire conflict with Hela could still have happened and Thor: Ragnarok wouldn’t have had to change all that much. With a little bit of extra character development for Hela and an ending that saw them come to a compromise, it could have stayed as exciting and hilarious as it is already is, and done justice by Odin’s abused and neglected daughter.
The MCU is Enough of a Sausage-Fest as it is
Black Widow hasn’t had her own film. Scarlet Witch has also not had her own film, neither has she had very much character development in the films she does appear in. Most of the women on screen are sidekicks or love interests or damsels in distress, or some combination of the three. Black Panther has introduced some phenomenal female characters to the MCU, but it took a hell of a long time for that to happen.
One the MCU’s biggest flaws is that it just doesn’t have enough well written, interesting female characters.
Hela could easily have stood out as being one of the few female characters who really had an impact. There is such a brutal, brilliant story behind her. There are intense relationships to explore. Instead, she’s just another bad guy.
Even if Hela remained a villain, she’s one of the very few powerful female characters the MCU has. She has a heart-wrenching backstory to explore that is far more relatable than Loki’s. There could be so much depth to her, there is so much potential for growth. She could have been one of the most nuanced and interesting female characters in the MCU, because it definitely needs more of them.
Her Story Arc Would Have Been So Much Better
In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela is a villain, and nothing else. She bursts from her prison and rampages through Asgard and the explanation is that that is just the way she is.
But there was an enormous level of scope for her character to be so rich and so deep.
She was raised to be a tyrant by a violent and brutal king. She spent her childhood developing a bloody ambition for no other reason than to please her father. Shaping a child in this way is nothing short of abuse and Odin had a responsibility to help her understand why he was wrong to do that when he decided to be a peaceful king.
Instead of helping her with fatherly love, he fought her and he banished her and he imprisoned her. He cut her off from his affection and from her family, overtly favouring her brother and a random infant Frost Giant he adopted over her. Having spent her childhood telling her she would be a Queen, Odin tore everything away from her and forced her into bondage. To add insult to injury, he erased her existence from his country’s history and didn’t even tell her own brothers about her.
She became a villain because of Odin. She could have become a Queen because of Thor, if he had made the effort to show his sister the love that their father denied her.
An ending that saw Hela finally let go of her rage and accept that her father broke her heart would have been so much more powerful. If she had realised that she could finally have the family that was denied to her for so long in the form of Thor and Loki. If she had stopped blaming her brothers for her father’s crimes. If she had had the chance to come to terms with the fierce love and hatred for her father that warred within her while she was imprisoned for millennia. If she could have grieved for Odin and for the relationship with her brothers that she was denied when they were young.
Seeing a more complicated depiction of Hela would have been such a moving piece of cinema.
Thor: Ragnarok was a great film, but it could have been amazing.
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