Marvel may have been able to keep their biggest heroes intact through Civil War, but Thor: Ragnarok will be one story that the studio "can never go back from." That may not be a convincing claim, given the trials, betrayals, and even murders that the Avengers have endured without straying too far off the heroic course - and even if it were to be believed, what we've seen from Ragnarok's trailers shows an energetic, comedic adventure... not a world-changing experience for Chris Hemsworth's Asgardian hero.
But this is Ragnarok, after all. The apocalypse, the death of the MCU's gods, and a destructive act to trigger a new beginning are all fair game. According to director Taika Waititi, those connotations describe the story as much as his new, "standalone" vision of Thor, the MCU superhero. When the story is said and done, Thor will be a different man than the one fans have come to know. So for better or worse, Ragnarok will truly signal the end of an era for at least one Avenger.
To be fair, much of the presumed stagnation, or simple formulaic nature of modern superhero movies is a byproduct of Marvel's success. The first Iron Man movie turned a morally ignorant billionaire into a socially conscious hero, setting a trend to follow towards the studio's massive Avengers payoff. The first Thor followed a similar path, leaving behind the vanity and arrogance of the hero's youth for true humility and service.
But once Thor truly became "worthy"... he faced the same challenge as the other Marvel heroes, like all other movie icons in similar genres: becoming even more of a hero isn't that interesting.
For the Earthbound heroes of the MCU, the Civil War fallout is expected to address that challenge, but since neither Thor nor his Ragnarok co-star Hulk were present for that scuffle, he's got his own challenge. When speaking with Taika Waititi on the Ragnarok set, he emphasized his intentions of making the one Thor movie fans would need to see - not a sequel to two others. To him, that means putting Thor through a trial fit for a god, not a coming-of-age origin.
In other words, his own personal version of 'Ragnarok' - a brutal gauntlet resulting in something infinitely more promising:
Well, he's a lot grubbier. That's been one of my main things… I think everyone’s a bit too shiny and clean in the other films. So we're just trying to... I love heroes that really go through ordeals, and they come out the other end completely changed, not just ‘Oh I’ve got a girlfriend now.’ They come out the other side, they've been through the ringer.
We do a lot to this character in this film. And you know, a lot of people have been wanting to see this idea of Ragnarok. A lot of people are excited by the idea of what Ragnarok means. But to me, it means stripping down the establishment of what's already there, and then building it up in a new way. Which is almost like this cyclic idea of Ragnarok.
So there's my own personal idea of Ragnarok: what we're doing to the character and to the franchise, and to the story. But in a way where what comes out the other end is way more exciting and interesting. And in a way, you can never go back from that.
It's safe to assume that Cate Blanchett's new villain, Hela will be the cause of our hero's metamorphosis, since she destroys Thor's powers in the movie's first act. Assuming Ragnarok follows a standard superhero structure, having Thor run the gauntlet to attain victory based only on his wits and willpower, and ultimately uniting with an Asgardian Valkyrie and an Incredible Hulk to save Asgard from destruction is a story worth telling. But how successful he actually is in preventing Ragnarok - the death of the gods - is the biggest question.
Taken a number of different ways, Taika Waititi could be suggesting that Ragnarok's ending will change the landscape of the MCU forever. If Thor is successful, than the throne of Asgard may await him - just in time to oppose Thanos come Infinity War. If he fails, then it may be just as impossible for Marvel to resurrect the hero and the realm of Asgard that was... not to mention adding new meaning to the Thor/Guardians of the Galaxy Infinity War teaser.
Each fan guess at Thor's new direction is as good as ours, but only one thing is certain: there's no going back.
Thor: Ragnarok advance tickets are now on sale wherever tickets are sold.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017