Throughout the years, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) haven’t always seen eye to eye. Well, actually, they’ve tried to kill one another at almost every turn – nothing like a bit of brotherly love. Thor: Ragnarok, which is currently in production, seems to bring the two siblings together, at least for a moment, and also takes them away from Asgard and lands them smack in the middle of New York City.
Thor's third go-around is already loaded to bear with plot points, seemingly set to cover everything from a buddy comedy to a road trip flick to an apocalypse-in-progress film. However, only a few clues are available as to why the brothers from Asgard head to the Big Apple. Here are a few possible reasons for their choice in ‘vacation destination.'
Thor 3: The Search for Odin
With Ragnarok currently filming in Australia (and recently wrapping on the Brisbane set which doubled for New York), scores of production photos have leaked onto social media. One of the most revealing thus far shows a disheveled and dazed looking Anthony Hopkins as ‘hobo Odin.' Since the All-Father turned up in NYC, the speculation engines nearly overloaded the Internet churning out possible reasons for Odin’s presence on Earth. As usual, the simplest explanation is usually the most logical.
MCU buffs may recall that the conclusion to Thor: The Dark World divulged a shapeshifting Loki sitting on the throne of Asgard. Our first assumption, naturally, was that he’d killed his adopted father. But, as the set stills show, reports of Odin’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In all likelihood, the trickster god discarded or banished him to some backwater, out-of-the-way realm like our planet.
At some point during Thor: Ragnarok, Loki’s deception has seemingly been revealed, allowing Thor to either pry Odin’s location from his adoptive brother, or at least figure out where he wound up. It’s also possible that, upon discovering a new threat to the Nine Realms – one he wasn’t capable of handling on his own (such as the invasion of Surtur in the comics) – Loki fled, incidentally or accidentally, letting his plot out of the bag to Thor.
As a result, the pair may head to Earth in search of Odin and his counsel in retaking or defending their home. Either way, with the power of the Bifrost Bridge, Thor, Loki, and co. should be able to wake up, grab a cup of coffee, scour New York for Odin and shoot back in time for a hearty, twelve-course Asgardian supper – unless of course something prevents them from using the cosmic gateway.
Of course, there’s also the matter of a recent set photo which indicated the God of Thunder was running around the city with a business card. Why exactly is Thor searching for 177A Bleecker Street (apparently Asgardians don’t have GPS), the residence of one Doctor Strange?
Trying to Find Another Way Home
With a wicked transit system at their behest, Thor, Loki, and the old man shouldn’t ever have to worry about getting around the cosmos. However, before they can cash in on their round trip ticket, Heimdall and the forces of Asgard could become compromised or at least preoccupied with an uprising from the underworld a la Hela and Skurge. As a result, the trio may find themselves trapped on Earth during a time of great need.
Since movies are typically shot out of order, it’s difficult to determine where in Thor: Ragnarok the brothers’ trip to Earth occurs. However, if the Norse nomads become trapped on our planet, and Bruce Banner is already headed for Planet Hulk, they would require an alternative mode of transit. After all, Mjolner may grant Thor the power of flight, but it’s far from a trans-realm cable car.
As a result, they would likely turn to the MCU’s newest entrant, Doctor Strange. Of course, where Thor got hold of Strange’s name and address is a mystery likely unsolved until Ragnarok hits theaters (even though a suspiciously Orb of Agamotto-like artifact was present in Odin’s Vault). Once they find the mystical master, though, he should be able to send the Norse God and his cohorts back to their proper locale.
There are other possible reasons why Thor pays Stephen Strange a visit, though. For example, he could be headed to New York on an intergalactic recruitment trip.
Help Wanted: Ragnarok and Infinity Warriors (Apply Inside MCU)
Certainly finding and recovering an exiled Odin is the most probable reason for Thor’s presence in New York – at least by way of the set photos. At the same time, the hammer-wielder might have ulterior motives for heading back to Earth in the first place. If trouble is brewing in Asgard, its heroes could venture here in search of assistance. Seeking out Odin might be the first prize, but swaying Doctor Strange to his cause may be Thor’s secondary objective. After all, when faced with all the modern tech at their fingertips, why would one of his Avengers pals simply hand him an address card and send him on his merry way without even cab fare? It makes more sense that Thor is in the city incognito and, if so, without the assistance from the now-divided superhero squad.
Assuming he tracks down the Doc, Thor could ask Strange to help him with his research or unravelling the mystery of the Infinity Stones and the ‘purple chair man.’ A collaboration between the two mighty men would be a great way to pull Strange deeper into the overall MCU and set the stage for Avengers: Infinity War – which hits theaters mere six months after Ragnarok.
But Strange and his mystical forces might not be the only assistance Thor calls upon. He and members of his party also meet with an enigmatic cloaked woman in a New York alleyway. Although the production hasn’t tipped their hands to her identity, early theories suggest she could be anyone from Gaea to Death to an undercover Asgardian warrior. If the mystery woman is Gaea, it wouldn’t be surprising if Thor and Odin look her up as backup in their fight against Hela, Skurge, and the molten demon Surtur.
Since movies aren’t typically shot in a linear fashion, it’s hard to say when the Odinson family takes their trip to New York (although Thor's long hair leads one to believe it's early on in their adventures). While Strange and Gaea would make fantastic allies and are solid reasons to venture to Earth, perhaps Thor has greener help in mind.
Next Stop, Planet Hulk?
Truth be told, most of the hype over Thor 3 stems from the presence of the two Civil War absentees, Thor and the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Since at least part of the film is billed as a "buddy pic," perhaps Thor’s meet and smash with Bruce Banner occurs after his New York stopover.
Footage from this year’s Comic-Con already teased a Gladiator Hulk approach to part of the film, and Thor and Loki uncovering Odin could merely be part of the trickster god’s mischief unraveling. Loki's full role in Ragnarok hasn’t been revealed, but in all other Marvel Universe iterations, he plays a major part in bringing about Asgard’s downfall. Perhaps he strands Thor and Odin on Earth, somehow leading to the discovery of a hidden and sulking Hulk – last seen hijacking a quinjet and heading for Fiji.
Even so, looking for Bruce Banner doesn't necessarily have to be the reason the Norse hero returns to Earth; discovering him could simply be the lucky break which kicks off the great cosmic road trip – and ties into the "Planet Hulk" story. Of course, enjoying foile a deux space odyssey would be weird with your old man lounging in the backseat. Perhaps Odin finds another way home, or the search for the All-Father occurs much later in the film. Then again, maybe the quarrelsome brothers just enjoy the weather in New York this time of year and stumble upon their missing and presumed dead father by accident. Probably not, though.
Fan Service Bonus: Loki Just Being Loki
Set aside the shared-universe building and the impending clash of the super-titans in Infinity War. Forget about the forces of the Norse underworld conspiring to bring about an apocalyptic end to the Nine Realms. Ignore Loki’s treacherous usurping of the throne of Asgard. Maybe Thor just followed his adoptive brother to New York to stop him from messing with Stephen Strange – something that fans of both Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston would love to see happen.
Although a far-fetched scenario in Kevin Feige’s carefully constructed film world, the Norse trickster did have early dealings with the Strange one. Strange Tales #126 (way back in 1963) dealt with Loki trying to fool the Doc into swiping Mjolnir from his brother. Of course, the ruse fails. But before Thor shows up to claim his hammer, the two mystical adversaries duke it out on a magical level. They also run across each other more than a couple more times within the Marvel Universe.
Naturally, we’re not expecting to see this blast from the past for it's own sake. But if Thor: Ragnarok manages to incorporate a fun Easter egg like this and further involve Doctor Strange in the MCU, it would be one heck of a fun bonus.
A Prelude To (or Prologue For) Ragnarok?
No matter what the reason for Thor’s trip to New York, his visit will shape things to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The search for Odin may come at the beginning, middle, or end of Thor: Ragnarok (although we’re feeling early on here) and may have far-reaching consequences for the Norse realm in future. Thor’s dealings in New York have also been teased, by the film's location manager, as throwing “a curveball” into the story, as well as bringing him in contact with one of several important allies – perhaps the Hulk, Stephen Strange, or the mysterious cloaked woman – and adversaries.
With the fate of the Nine Realms in his hands, Thor will need his wits about him and as many valiant companions as he can muster. This time, though, he may not be able to stop the cataclysm of Ragnarok and save the day. Fortunately, at least in terms of Marvel, this comic book apocalypse represents a cycle of birth, destruction, and rebirth – and a direct link to a larger, cinematic universe-altering event of Infinity War. Watching all the pieces fall into place should prove extremely gratifying.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.