This article contains potential Marvel phase three spoilers and some minor ones for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Kevin Feige has promised that Thor: Ragnarok is "a very important movie for us in Phase 3...we plan on taking Thor to another level." We think we're ready to believe him. Here's why...
It's generally been assumed that the Captain America films have taken up the mantle of "the most important" Marvel Studios entries not explicitly known as The Avengers. Iron Man 3 was fairly self-contained, and other than a flirtation with Guardians of the Galaxy in its post-credits scene, Thor: The Dark World really only seemed to have any noticeable impact on a few mediocre episodes of Agents of SHIELD. On the other hand, Captain America: The Winter Soldier introduced enough new characters to populate franchises a-plenty, and the next one, 2016's Captain America: Civil War, may reshape the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Well, name recognition and fan service are both wonderful things, and that's exactly what Captain America 3 and its "Civil War" title is banking on. But there are now a few things to consider about Thor: Ragnarok that should keep you quite interested in what's happening on the other side of the Bifrost. In fact, if the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron are anything to go on, this one is probably going to be every bit as important to the future of the Marvel Universe as Captain America: Civil War. It even takes its name, as those two films do, from a momentous comic book tale (not to mention Norse mythology).
Idris Elba's appearance as Heimdall (albeit as a vision/hallucination) in Avengers: Age of Ultron helped set up the fact that Thor needs to get back to Asgard to set things right. While the word is never spoken in the movie, we know that Ragnarok is coming to the Asgard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ragnarok is, of course, the mythological "twilight of the gods," and it means the end of important players like, y'know, Thor, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall. But it was also the subject of a particularly excellent comic book story from 2004 by Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea Di Vito.
While this comic book Ragnarok blended all manner of mythological elements with Thor's Marvel Comics continuity, there's something crucial to consider about this one, as well: it was part of a much wider Marvel storyline known as "Avengers Disassembled" which, you guessed it, broke up the team so that a new squad could take their place.
But it was Thor's departure (and death) in this storyline that really kicked all of that "disassembling" into high gear. Since Avengers: Age of Ultron spent a good deal of time "disassembling" our movie Avengers, then Ragnarok is the next logical stop.
I'm willing to make a few safe predictions about Thor: Ragnarok. I'd bet that the fiery Surtur will be the main baddie of the piece, but he won't be coming alone. There's no way in any of the realms that they will leave the whole "Loki masquerading as Odin" thing from the end of Thor: The Dark World unresolved. It doesn't hurt that Tom Hiddleston's Loki remains the single most memorable villain Marvel has managed to produce on the big screen, and his arc has been far more interesting than Thor's. Whether Loki or Odin manages to survive the Twilight of the Gods is one thing (they probably don't), but this could be the potential end of Chris Hemsworth's Thor, as well.
Thor: Ragnarok will be the fifth entry in Chris Hemsworth's six picture deal. If they kill him off in Ragnarok, that frees him up to return for a triumphant ass-kicking in, for example, Avengers: Infinity War - Part II. The other possibility is simply that Thor ends up as ruler of the decimated Asgard, with the same result: it keeps him off the Avengers playground for one movie, and then he can come back to save his friends and possibly to say goodbye.
And speaking of "staying off the playground," Ragnarok will probably be the Thor entry least beholden to Midgard. It had better be. When you're dealing with a battle so great that it eliminates gods, this might not be the place to focus on Jane Foster and her wise-cracking best pal. Since Natalie Portman's Jane Foster was one of the first characters we met in Thor's world, this should probably be addressed soon. Maybe now is finally Sif's time to shine, along with the rest of the Warriors Three.
But the thing is, as we saw with Age of Ultron and as we're hearing about Civil War, sometimes a title is just a title. The Marvel movies aren't particularly beholden to the comic books they borrow these titles from, and there's no reason to believe Thor: Ragnarok will be any different. For one thing...
Mark Ruffalo is going to co-star in this one, and he's bringing his angry green alter ego along for the ride. He's described it as "a buddy picture" which suits the overall tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the bro-tastic nature of the Hulk/Thor relationship we've seen, but it's pretty far removed from the heavy, mythological tones of the above mentioned Ragnarok comic story.
If nothing else, getting Bruce Banner off Earth and into this cosmic playground puts us (theoretically) one step closer to the Planet Hulk movie everyone is clamoring for. We have other ideas for potential solo Hulk films right here.
The "heavier" story that the comics drew on may have appeared more appropriate for a Guillermo del Toro or Peter Jackson, but the "buddy picture" might very well play to Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi's strengths. Then again, who would have thought the Russo Bros. would deliver a movie like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, right?
I'm also going to leave this one, final, teeny-tiny possibility on the table for you all, even though it's way too early to talk about a fourth film in the franchise. Following the events of Thor: Ragnarok (or Avengers Disassembled: Thor depending on who you ask), Michael Avon Oeming penned another Thor-related story - Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill. Now, I'm not saying that Thor 4 is going to be a Beta Ray Bill movie...but damn it, maybe it should be. If nothing else, Beta Ray Bill would fit nicely in a future Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but now I'm just getting myself excited.
Regardless, right now there's one thing we can count on, and that's the fact that Thor: Ragnarok opens on November 3rd, 2017.
This article originally ran in November of 2014. It has been updated several times as new information has come to light. Seriously, nobody saw that Hulk thing coming.