When Marvel fans head to theaters to see “Thor: Ragnarok,” they’ll be pleasantly surprised. This installment of the popular superhero franchise showcases two powerful female characters.

Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett plays the vamping, black-antlered villain Hela, sister to Thor and Loki who answers to the Goddess of Death.

Actress Tessa Thompson projects the the swagger of a heavy-drinking scrap hauler in her role as Valkyrie, the out-for-herself former warrior who is bisexual.

Men have dominated the Marvel universe for the past decade, and “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi wanted this film to be different.

He knew he would need commanding actresses to take on the roles of Hela and Valkyrie. Blanchett rose to the occasion.

“What I love about her is that she’s basically very similar to the character of Hela,” Waititi says of Blanchett. “Hela has won all these battles and she’s got this cool, calm confidence about her — this nonchalance where she can just come in and take over Asgard, sort of like it’s just another day at the office.

“Cate has won all these awards and has this cool, calm and collected attitude, but she [knows how to] play around on screen and have fun.”

Blanchett has said that she expected much of the Marvel movie to be carved in stone, so she especially relished how much creative freedom she had to play with the role physically, from stunts to the movement of her costume.

“Very early on, I threw a lot of ideas into the ring with Taika and with the motion-capture people and the special effects crew,” Blanchett told the site /Film, “and they took that and ran with it.”

Waititi has high praise for Thompson, too. He auditioned at length to fill the role that he calls “the female Han Solo” of the film. Thompson — who recently took on roles in “Westworld,” “Dear White People” and “Creed” — stood distinctly apart from the rest.

“We wanted to make a character that went against what the expectations are,” Waititi says. “It’s more than what I’ve seen before of the strong woman character who acts cool and is a great fighter. I wanted to see a [woman] character who was drunk and who falls and is a gambler.”

“Tessa did that perfectly. And now, knowing her in real life, [I see] she’s a rascal of the highest order.”

In casting Thompson , the “Ragnarok” filmmakers also added an uncommon prominent female character of color to Marvel’s 17-film franchise. Valkyrie is also Marvel’s first non-heterosexual character.

Thompson has said in interviews that she persuaded Waititi to depicting her character’s sexuality more visibly. Ultimately, a scene that shows a woman walking out of Valkyrie’s bedroom was cut because “it distracted from the scene’s vital exposition.”

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