Major spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok may be the end of the Thor trilogy, but it’s also one of the final films before the mega-franchise MCU reaches its epic culmination with Avengers: Infinity War – and you can bet Taika Waititi’s film sets that up with a few carefully placed clues.
For the most part, Ragnarok is focused on being its own thing: an all-out comedy in line with director Waititi’s previous efforts (What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople are essential pre-viewing) as much as it is the story of Asgard’s destruction (although it is that too). But just because it feels like a focused experience – a single episode of a Saturday morning cartoon – doesn’t mean there’s nothing playing into the bigger season arc.
Related: Thor: Ragnarok’s Ending Explained
Ragnarok‘s littered with wider MCU references, with numerous callbacks to The Avengers but also some directly linking into Thor’s future and specifically the next outing for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Asgard is Gone – And Earth is Open To Attack
The big event at the end of Thor 3 is Ragnarok itself – Asgard’s destruction. This was always to be expected – the film is literally named after the Norse apocalypse – although its manner was somewhat surprising; it wasn’t the result of villain Hela, who really only wanted to rule, but a final act of desperation from the God of Thunder himself to protect his people. Loki unleashed fire demon Surtur from his timeless imprisonment in his headpiece by way of the Eternal Flame (first seen in Thor) and he predictably began raising Asgard to the ground – taking Thor’s sister, the Goddess of Death, with him.
Of course, as Thor learned on his “journey of self-discovery“, Asgard was really its people, not the place (that was an essential part of him becoming Odin, something sure to play into his position in Infinity War). However, while that’s thematically strong, it ignores one major part of Asgard, the place: it served as protection for Midgard. Odin was always sworn to protect the Nine Realms; now he’s dead and the kingdom is destroyed, Earth is open to attack from anybody – including Infinity War big bad Thanos.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an ancient protective order destroyed by our heroes that inadvertently sets us on the path to the Mad Titan’s arrival. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the team defeated Star-Lord’s father Ego, a living planet and the last known Celestial (it was rumored Jeff Goldblum’s The Grandmaster was also a member of this ancient species, but nothing in Ragnarok corroborates that). It wasn’t stated explicitly, but Ego’s existence – while self-involved – was implied to provide some order in the galaxy. Between his and Odin’s death, Thanos has no major cosmic obstacles to attacking any of the locations holding Infinity Stones.
We’ll come back to this proper as Thor 3 does a lot of sly setup for those six gems, but first there’s an angry time-bomb to deal with.
Hulk’s Romance and Bruce Banner’s Possible Death
Bruce Banner’s had quite the complicated relationship history in the MCU. In The Incredible Hulk (when the scientist looked like Edward Norton) he was in an estranged relationship with Betty Ross, but by The Avengers and an actor change to Mark Ruffalo she was gone. In Age of Ultron, he was in an even more fraught, tentative situation with Black Widow, one that ended tragically when Hulk refused to calm and flew off into the great unknown (which we now know was a portal to Sakaar).
While it’s not at the forefront of Ragnarok, something of a love triangle was introduced from this. A recording of Widow’s final message to Hulk is what snaps the Green Goliath out of his two-year stint repressing Banner, after which the scientist enters into a repeated, simmering flirtation with Valykrie, with both bonding over a faint recognition of her friendship with Hulk. This isn’t resolved, but with both Natasha and Valykrie set to return in Infinity War alongside Banner, it’s sure to come back up.
That’s not the only dangling question regarding Hulk. Banner’s biggest fear in Ragnarok is turning back into his angry alter-ego lest, this time, he never escapes. He eventually puts that aside when it’s clear the only way he can help save Asgard is to transform (leading to the film’s funniest moment as he completely messes up a superhero landing but ultimately makes the turn). The film ends with Hulk a fully-formed, cognitive creature, but that surely can’t last; there’s greater conflict between this Jekyll and Hyde to come.
We know that both of these threads are going to be important in Avengers 3 and 4 care of Kevin Feige and Ruffalo themselves; in lieu of making a straight-up Hulk movie (something tricky due to rights issues), they’re planning to tell what a solo outing for Banner would be over Ragnarok and the two-part Infinity story. So, while Thor 3 has its own mini-arc, the bigger picture is in service of setting up where he’ll be going in future movies. And, as Ruffalo still has one more movie on his contract, it won’t end there either.
Page 2 of 2: The Infinity Gauntlet and Stones
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