When it started, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a rather grounded franchise. Continuing from the style of superhero movies in the mid-2000s, Iron Man was a fairly realistic film (as realistic as a movie about a billionaire making a personal flying suit can be) and while Thor brought in fantasy elements, it still endeavored to keep things within plausibility by explaining that Asgardian technology wasn't magic, but merely so advanced that it appeared that way to humans.
Things have changed since the early days. Guardians of the Galaxy fully embraced the cosmic side of the comics and Doctor Strange introduced straight-up sorcery. The former in particular proved to be a major success, opening up the potential for more fantastical elements going forward.
When Screen Rant asked Kevin Feige on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 about how we might see this side of the franchise expand in the future, he responded with an interesting movie - Thor: Ragnarok, which is going to go beyond the nine realms and into more Guardians-style territory:
"I don’t know about branching off from this, but certainly inhabiting similar areas from this. A lot of our upcoming movies will. I mean the upcoming movies will be as much up here, as they are on Earth, starting with not Spider-Man, starting with Thor: Ragnarok. There are three scenes on Earth in Thor: Ragnarok. Everything else is Asgard, and not all of these worlds, but world that certainly, let’s put it this way, in Thor lingo, it’s beyond the nine realms. There are other planets that we spend a lot of time on in Thor: Ragnarok, that certainly people would say, 'oh, that’s sort of like the Guardians world', but they’re just other areas of the Marvel cosmos universe."
The big distinction between the cosmic side of Marvel and the rest of the nine realms is that the deep-space antics of the Guardians are still taking place in our universe, whereas Asgard and its ilk are alternate dimensions reachable only through specific means (such as Thor's rainbow bridge). As they've been shown in the films, each of the nine realms has been typified by a distinct design style, but nothing as all-out bonkers as the cosmic sides. From these comments, it sounds like that's going to change.
The world that Feige refers to as being part of the Marvel cosmos universe is possibly Hel, home of villain Hela who is trying to bring Norse apocalypse Ragnarok down on Asgard. There's also Sakaar, where Thor will be forced to showdown against fellow Avenger Bruce Banner in a gladiatorial arena at the behest of Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster. This Planet Hulk inspired-sequence always sound to be on the cosmic side of the scale, and describing it as "beyond" definitely backs that up.
On the flipside of the expansion, it's also interesting there are just three Earth-set scenes. Both the original Thor and The Dark World were predominantly based in their hero's adoptive world (in New Mexico and London respectively), but this move shows director Taika Waititi is embracing some of the weirder parts of Thor's journies into mystery. We know there's going to be a sequence set in New York City where Thor and Loki team-up with Doctor Strange to find Odin, but Feige's comments make it sound like it won't be an overly long story beat.
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Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019