The Thor franchise has been one of the most narratively important parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s overarching connective storyline, introducing everything from the idea of a cosmic/alien side to the proceedings to Avengers kick-off villain Loki, The Tesseract and 3 out of 6 Infinity Stones. Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, remains one of the most popular recurring Avengers and one of the most widely-merchandised actors appearing across the whole of the MCU’s vast cross-promotional empire.
The individual Thor films themselves, however, have been met with a mixed response despite their reliably hefty box office takes. The original film was criticized as too small in scale, being set mainly in a tiny isolated town in the Southwestern U.S., while Thor: The Dark World suffered from a pre-production director change and was widely marked down for a forgettable villain, a dreary tone and a poor usage of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. However, the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok directed by Taika Waititi, is aiming to change that course.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly as part of a big public rollout for the highly-anticipated film’s bizarre new characters, surprising MCU crossover characters and radical upending of the established Thor aesthetic, Waititi explained just how big the task at hand is for his own film and the ever-expanding Universe-wide storyline:
“A lot of what we’re doing with the film is, in a way, kind of dismantling and destroying the old idea and rebuilding it in a new way that’s fresh. Everyone’s got a slightly new take on their characters, so in that way, it feels like [this is] the first Thor.”
Indeed, what’s already been revealed of the film marks a stark change from what’s come before, with opulent sets and costumes reminiscent of films like Flash Gordon (or the work of legendary Thor comic book artist, Jack Kirby) and an expanding cosmic storyline that features new characters like Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and guest-starring roles for other Marvel characters like Mark Ruffalo’s Incredible Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange – all of which are expected to help set the stage for Avengers: Infinity War, when it arrives in 2018.
While plot details on the third Avengers team-up feature are still a closely-guarded secret, it is expected to spin out of the universe-reshapping events of Ragnarok in much the same way that Captain America: The Winter Soldier “reset the board” for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. thereafter. The game-changing events in Thor: Ragnarok are expected to have repercussions for the MCU that go beyond both Infinity War and its as-yet untitled followup, into Phase 4 of the MCU itself.