Before Marvel Studios laid out a crowd-pleasing series of confirmations and announcements during the Iron Man 3 Comic-Con panel in July, rumors ran rampant about the already-confirmed "Phase Two" films. Iron Man 3 was already in production, Thor 2 was getting ready to shoot at the end of summer and Captain America 2 had just gotten its official spring 2014 release date.
We dissected the information making the rounds on potential returning characters and plot points for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, but for Thor: The Dark World - seemingly the most mysterious and complex of the three - the rumors and speculation were too convoluted and scattered to make sense of until we learned more, and learned more we might have.
At the time when Mads Mikkelsen was still in the running to play the villain of the Thor sequel, The Playlist podcast discussed a variety of Marvel Studios rumors - from Edgar Wright shooting the post-credits scene for Iron Man 3 to introduce Ant-Man, to returning characters for the Captain America sequel. For Thor: The Dark World, many of the rumors failed to materialize, but some of them are starting to get a little more credence as of late.
Mikkelson couldn't take the villain gig - which many thought would be the character of The Executioner - due to his obligations on the Hannibal TV series. Replacing him is Christopher Eccleston, and that role, as we learned, is for Malekith the Accursed instead. Rumors also had Kat Dennings not returning, but it's since been confirmed that she is. That's two inaccuracies which made us skeptical.
Keeping in mind that the title of the film (The Dark World) had yet to be revealed, and the rumors above weren't accurate, we held off on the biggest rumor of them all: that the Thor sequel would introduce and star Doctor Stephen Strange. The Playlist claimed that Natalie Portman's character Jane Foster could be working alongside Dr. Strange in a similar capacity as she did with Stellan Skarsgård's Dr. Erik Selvig in the first film, and that Strange would be playing a big part in "all three acts" of the film, as opposed to being relegated to a cameo-type introduction. He would play a scientist (he's a genius neurosurgeon in the comics) and someone who's deeply interested in Foster's stories and knowledge about Asgard and Thor.
Marvel Studios understandably would want an A-list actor for the part, considering there's a strong possibility that Strange could get his own solo film in a few years, and introducing him now (in a big way) works wonders for the future of the franchise. Not only does it help boost the appeal of Thor: The Dark World to match post-Avengers expectations - much like Iron Man 3 added Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce to its roster (along with more budget) - but it lays a strong foundation to establish the Dr. Strange character as a mainstay for the Marvel cinematic universe.