[Potential MILD SPOILERS for Thor: Ragnarok ahead.]
Thor: Ragnarok is shaping up to be one of the major features of Marvel's "Phase 3" run-up to Infinity War, with some rumors suggesting it could be the kind of game-changer both for its own series and the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was for Phase 2. The sequel, already promised to be different in style and tone from its predecessors, made waves by hiring What We Do In the Shadows director Taika Waititi to helm the film and having Thor be joined in his latest adventure by Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk. However, the film's storyline has been shrouded in mystery, with rumors suggesting the ultimate fate of Anthony Hopkins' Odin and the identity of the unnamed villainous character set to be played by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.
The latest rumor concerning the identity of Blanchett's character, if correct, suggests the celebrated Lord of the Rings and Carol star could be not only the main antagonist of Thor: Ragnarok but an important villainous player in the ongoing broader Marvel Cinematic Universe.
According to Geek.com, Blanchett will appear in the film as the Norse goddess Hela, ruler of The Underworld. In classical Norse mythology "Hel" is the name given to both the underground world of condemned dead souls and the enigmatic female figure who presides over it. In the Marvel Comics version of Norse mythology, "Hela" is a powerful and evil Asgardian who rules over a more traditional "Realm of the Dead"-style Hel and frequently schemes against Thor and other Marvel heroes - often acting in cooperation with or at the behest of Loki. Many stories often involve Thor or other Asgardians traveling to Hel to rescue the souls of fallen comrades from her grasp, which could offer an ominous clue to the film's storyline: "Ragnarok" is the name of Norse mythology's version of The Apocalypse.
The presence of Hela as the nemesis of Thor: Ragnarok has been rumored among Marvel fans ever since Thor experienced a bizarre vision of his friends trapped in "Hell" during his sojourn in Avengers: Age of Ultron; with some speculating that the character could have an even more important presence than making life (or death) difficult for the God of Thunder: Josh Brolin's Thanos, the master-villain behind the ongoing story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe set to unleash his full power in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War epic, is known to comic book fans as something of a romantic whose ultimate goal is to murder the universe in order to prove his love to a special lady - Death. Yes, "Death" as in the esoteric embodiment of the cosmic concept of death-itself, which in Marvel typically presents as a nominally female-figured Grim Reaper archetype. And if you think that's strange: She's also got and on-and-off thing going with Deadpool.
Some have suggest that the Cinematic Universe might substitute Hela (a "goddess of death," after all) for Death as the object of Thanos' twisted affections, since audiences might be confused by the presence of two different female figures with the same basic... "unusual" cosmic-scale profession. It's also been speculated that she might have an impact on the exploits of Doctor Strange, for who the various realms of the dead are a frequent travel destination.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.