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Why Cate Blanchett’s Thor: Ragnarok Character Is a Major First for Marvel Movies

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The teaser trailer for Thor: Ragnarok dropped Monday, and the most intriguing character is Cate Blanchett’s Hela, a goth chic villain capable of crushing Thor’s hammer with one hand. The Oscar-winning actress will play the Goddess of Death, who has a will to kill and an affinity for black spandex. Unleashed from prison, she takes over Thor’s homeland where the gods usually reside. “Asgard is dead,” she declares in the trailer.

Hela also happens to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first major female villain. Here’s everything that you need to know about the comic book character and what to expect from Blanchett in the film.

Hela rules over the underworld

Hela is the Asgardian goddess of death, inspired by the Norse goddess Hel. In the comic books, the Asgardian king Odin (Thor’s dad) appoints her to rule over Hel, a dark underworld-like hell, and Nifleheim, a sort of icy purgatory. She often tries to extend her rule to Valhalla, a grand hall in Asgard where souls who died honorably reside. Thor — played by Chris Hemsworth in the Marvel films — is usually the hero who stops her.

Loki plays a part in her scheme

In the film, Thor discovers that his devious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their missing father, Odin, and ruling Asgard. But Loki doesn’t make the best ruler as he accidentally releases the imprisoned Hela. “She’s been locked away for millennia, getting more and more cross, and then, with a mistake, she gets unleashed and she ain’t getting back in that box,” Blanchett told Entertainment Weekly.

Thor confronts Hela, but she overpowers him and sends him to a planet called Sakaar. From there, he must fight his way back to Asgard with the help of his buddy, Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk.

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Hela could be the most powerful god in Asgard

In the first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, Hela easily breaks Thor’s beloved hammer — a tool that even Captain America can’t lift. She can kill mortals and weaken gods by simply touching them. In the comic books, she wears a cape that gives her powers even greater than those of her Asgardian colleagues. When she isn’t wearing her cape, her true form — half young and healthy, half decaying — is revealed. In the movie, she doesn’t appear to need a cape to access those special powers, but she does sport some impressive headgear.

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Hela is a major first for Marvel

Thor: Ragnarok will be the 17th Marvel Studios film — and the first with a woman as its main villain. (Henchmen Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy is the closest Marvel’s come to offering up a female baddie before.) That long of a wait seems ridiculous to even Blanchett. “Can you believe we’re having this conversation and it’s 2017 and we’re talking about the first female villain?” she asked Entertainment Weekly. “It’s ridiculous. There’s so much untapped potential villainy in women.”

It’ll be another two years before a female superhero will get her own Marvel movie: Brie Larson will star in Captain Marvel in 2019. But there’s hope for more female baddies to come: Thanos, the large, purple villain who has shown up in several Marvel films, is in love with the female incarnation of Death in the comic books. He kills people and planets for her and likely will endeavor to destroy the entire universe to earn her affections in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com