Director Taika Waititi has been tasked with delivering one of Marvel's most ambitious projects yet -- Thor: Ragnarok, a film touted as having massive implications for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Strangely enough, Waititi has claimed that Thor's third installment will be funnier than the first two, an interesting point since the event itself deals with the absolute annihilation of Asgard and its inhabitants. It must be noted that if anyone is capable of taking dark, bloody affairs and finding the humor within, it's definitely Waititi. What We Do in The Shadows was absolutely brilliant, packed with enough intelligence and wit that audiences hardly noticed the absurd amount of gore.
Early rumors and speculation have armed audiences with plenty of talking points, from the implied Planet Hulk connections to the mysterious motivations of powerful new players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There's still a lot of time before Thor and Hulk start smashing stuff together, but here's the scoop on every character we expect to see in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok - along with some very liberal analysis of the details we've received thus far.
Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) hasn’t been seen in quite some time; he was last spotted removing himself from the equation towards the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, cruising off into self-imposed purgatory in the stealthy Quinjet. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) tries to reason with the Mean Green Bean, begging him to drop the stealth shield so they can track his location. It’s quite apparent that Hulk (not in Banner form) is comprehending Natasha’s request, but ultimately decides to switch off communications. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) informs Romanoff that the jet landed somewhere near Fiji, but the latest insider scoop says otherwise!
With Banner banished to parts unknown, there’s a lot of speculation as to when and how he’ll run into Thor for their epic, buddy-style adventure – especially since it’s been established that the film will spend precious little time on planet Earth. After the casting of the Grandmaster (Goldblum) and some sneaky insights from sources close to the movie, we're buying into the idea that these Bash Brothers will end up forging an alliance deep in the pits of an intergalactic arena. Best of all, Ruffalo promised that fans will be getting the Hulk action they deserve in Ragnarok:
Ruffalo: “I think it’ll be smashing. You’ll see a lot more Hulk in this one.”
Ruffalo: “The Hulk gets Hulk-ier. The Hulk Hulks out. Hulk-ier and bigger.”
The Not-So-Jolly Green Giant is BACK, BABY! Fingers crossed we'll be seeing him cracking skulls in some sweet gladiatorial armor come 2017.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was noticeably absent from Civil War, most likely dealing with more important intergalactic affairs like the end of all things. Although this apocalyptic event will usher in a new era -- and a new Thor? -- for Marvel, there's not enough evidence to say with certainty that Ragnarok will kill off quite as many characters as previously suspected. However, swirling rumors suggest that Thor will fall to the film's new villainess, Hela, losing the iconic Mjolnir (and some of those luscious locks) along the way. Driven from his home realm, Thor will reportedly find himself fighting alongside Hulk in a series of intergalactic gladiatorial games run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). These same sources have hinted that Thor's primary goal throughout the film will be to locate an ancient and powerful artifact capable of hitting the reset button on the impending apocalypse, but they haven't specified what that item may be.
Here's an interesting thought: if Thor is in fact searching for a mighty weapon/artifact to stop Ragnarok and reset the universe, it's possible that early speculations have been off course this whole time. Maybe the MCU's on-screen adaptation will tweak the legendary Odinsword from Matt Fraction's Fear Itself arc, as this sword's true name is actually revealed to be "Ragnarok." Could this be the weapon that Thor needs to defeat Hela and her undead army? Is it possible that audiences will witness the transition of the Odin Force from father to son, unleashing an incredibly powerful version of Thor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Worst case scenario, Marvel studio heads could always just throw the whole 'kill Thor, revive Thor for Infinity War' thing onscreen, too. A tad predictable though, wouldn't you agree?
Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's dangerously clever half-brother, finally controls Asgard. Although his position of power is precarious -- he's only impersonating Odin, after all -- Loki has wiggled his way onto the throne, and not a single soul (except us) has a clue. He's become a bit of a tragic character, motivated equally by grief, anger, and an ever-present desire to rule. If Ragnarok is indeed the end of Asgard and the Norse gods, Loki will likely have to choose between solidifying his tenuous rule or destroying his new-found kingdom. Thor probably won't be pleased with his trickster brother either way.
Ragnarok isn't expected to introduce the fiery demon Surtur into the fold, meaning Marvel will need to find another way to drive the assault on Asgard. It's been confirmed that Hela (Cate Blanchett) will serve as the film's primary antagonist, but precious little has been leaked about her relationship to Loki. Hiddleston's character is nothing if not unpredictable, so there's a very good chance that his role in the coming battle is simply part of a much larger, much more devious plan for total domination. And don't forget -- Loki still has that weird little partnership with the Mad Titan Thanos on the back burner..
Heimdall (Idris Elba), Guardian of the Bifröst and the Nine Realms, is set to play a much larger role in Ragnarok. He's been relatively inactive for much of Thor's first two films, but may become one of the most important figures in Asgard's war against Hela; the Ragnarok comics force him to the front lines of battle, showcasing his legendary power as he holds the Rainbow Bridge against insurmountable odds.
We're fans of a particularly-iffy theory regarding Heimdall. His eyes do look suspiciously similar to the Soul/Time Stones, right? That strange kinda-orange, kinda-amber tint can't be a coincidence, can it? In Dark World, Heimdall mentions his ability to "see Nine Realms and ten trillion souls," which sounds almost exactly like the powers that the Soul Gem bestows upon its owner. Since he'll be front and center for Ragnarok, is it that far fetched to imagine that this Asgardian Hero has been in possession of an Infinity Stone all along? If that's the case, it would make rumors of his demise all the more believable; if Hela does kill Heimdall, she could theoretically take possession of whichever stone he's been guarding. It's unclear who Hela is actually working for/with during the events of Ragnarok, but this sequence of events could (conceivably) deliver yet another stone to Thanos -- or to the Grandmaster, and then to Thanos. Just food for thought.
If Loki is sitting on the Asgardian throne masquerading as Odin (Anthony Hopkins), where is the real Odin? Rumors suggest that while Odin isn't actually dead, he 1) has been ousted from his position of power by Loki and 2) will appear as a crazy Doomsday bum on Earth in Thor: Ragnarok. While the film is reported to spend precious little time on Midgard, it will be interesting to see how Hopkins' role pans out -- if he retains fragments of his former self, he may be able to warn Thor of Loki's betrayal and the coming apocalypse. Having Hopkins appear in a weird cameo-type role doesn't make much sense (unless he's not interested in the role anymore), so if the whispers of his fate prove true, he'll probably wind up getting back to All Father status over the course of the film.
Using the comic story arcs for guidance, Ragnarok could be a transitional film in more than one way. It's possible that Odin may perish during the epic battle, passing his power (the Odin Force) to Thor and exiting stage left. It would be a tragic ending to such a great character, but we know that not every Asgardian will escape Ragnarok unscathed. There's an infinite number of possibilities here, but we'll keep you posted as things become clearer.
Since early reports have been confirmed, Tessa Thompson (Creed, Selma) will be stepping into the role of Valkyrie for Ragnarok. While we’re on the topic of Thompson, let’s just get something out of the way: all the griping and groaning about her needs to end, like now. Marvel didn’t just arbitrarily bring her on board to check some ‘cast diversity’ box. They chose her for Valkyrie (a role not that far off from one we once had in mind for her) because she was the best fit. She’s a talented actor, and she won the job. All good? Good.
We’ve already explored Valkyrie’s mythological backstory, but audiences are probably wondering exactly what her role will be in Ragnarok. Since she and Thor have been romantically involved in the comics – and since Portman won’t be joining the rest of the cast this time around – it’s possible that she’ll be simultaneously filling the roles of ‘love interest’ and ‘bad-ass warrior woman’ next November. And believe us, she is a total badass.
It’s fair to speculate that Valkyrie may be gearing up to transition into the role of the now-female Thor, especially since it appears Portman (and her character, Jane Foster) is all but done with the MCU. The odds of that transition will depend on Thompson's popularity in the role of Valkyrie, but hey, Thor’s gotta pass the hammer sometime, right?
The mysterious new villain's backstory is deep, dark, and extremely treacherous. In Marvel canon, Hela (Cate Blanchett) is the power-hungry, malevolent daughter of Loki. She controls the dead from several realms, often clashing with Thor and Odin during her quests to conquer the souls of Valhalla and the rest of Asgard. Should the MCU choose to import certain details from Ragnarok comics, Hela will be a driving force behind the Asgardian gods' upcoming battle. Early rumors suggest that she's powerful enough to best Thor and destroy Mjolnir, so it will likely take a concerted effort (and some outside help) to defeat her.
Whether Loki and Hela work together willingly to destroy Asgard (or if they're even related) is yet to be seen, especially since the former is currently sitting the throne. If early rumors prove correct, her arrival in Ragnarok could have much larger implications for the entire MCU; Thanos' obsession with Lady Death is well documented, and who better to play the object of his desire than two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett?
Possibly the biggest question mark of the cast so far, Karl Urban will bring Skurge -- the double-edged axe-wielding supervillain -- to life in Ragnarok. Since Skurge has spent time as both an adversary and ally of the Asgardian gods, it's unclear which side he'll choose in the coming war. Urban has mentioned the warrior's "great arc" in the comics motivated him to jump into the MCU headlong, and since there seems to be an abundance of baddies set for the film already (see: Hela, Loki, and the next entry on our list), it's possible that Ragnarok will bring some of that arc to the big screen.
Here's a little peek at what Urban and Marvel will have to work with for Ragnarok: in comic canon, Skurge is the illegitimate son of a Frost Giant and an Asgardian. He becomes known as one of Asgard's fiercest warriors, but for years his heart and mind is twisted by Amora the Enchantress. Though often aiding Loki in his plots to conquer Asgard (even serving as his lieutenant), Skurge eventually joins Thor to battle Surtur and the legions of Hel, sacrificing himself to protect the nine realms.
3 The Grandmaster
Nope, we lied -- Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster is definitely the king question mark in the Ragnarok plot. It's not just that we don't know what he'll do in the movie, it's that no one knows what the Grandmaster is going to do, ever. That's the thing with ancient, eccentric, intergalactic alien dudes - they tend to be a bit unpredictable. Like the Collector (Benecio del Toro), he's an Elder with an agenda far beyond human comprehension. In the comics, the Grandmaster's actions are generally designed as some kind of game or tournament with cosmic implications. He's been known to transport superheroes across time and space, even pitting modern-day Avengers against heroes from World War II. Canonically speaking, the Grandmaster possessed the Mind Stone (currently residing in Vision's forehead in the MCU) prior to Thanos in the Infinity Gauntlet saga, so it's possible that Ragnarok will bridge the gap between these two cosmic entities.
Insider sources suggest that the Grandmaster is responsible for punching Hulk's ticket to Asgard, dropping him into some type of awesome, intergalactic gladiator arena. Will he facilitate Loki and Hela's rise to power, pitting god against god in the ultimate tournament? Does the Grandmaster possess one of the few remaining Infinity Stones? Will Jeff Goldblum wear that unbelievable outfit for the entire movie?
SO MANY QUESTIONS.
2 Lady Sif and the Warriors Three
Although this fan-favorite quartet has been noticeably absent from media coverage for Ragnarok, it's been all but confirmed that they will play a role in the upcoming movie. Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Zachary Levi (Fandral), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), and Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), respectively, are Thor's closest friends and most trusted battlefield allies. Audiences probably remember their Comic-Con-esque jaunt through the streets in the first Thor movie or one of their epic battle sequences from Thor: The Dark World.
If Ragnarok plans on pulling heavily from the comic story lines, the four amigos might not be in for the most joyful ride. While we can't imagine that Marvel will try to stuff the entire annihilation of Asgard into this movie, it makes sense that at least one of these characters will perish in the stand against the forces of Loki/Hela/Skurge, or whoever else decides to join the fray. Fingers crossed it won't be Sif -- she's got spin-off potential written all over her.
1 Jane Foster, Erik Selvig, & Marcy Lewis
Thor: Ragnarok won't spend much (if any) time on planet Earth. Ancient, intergalactic beings are manipulating the forces of Asgard, pitting god against god and attempting to destroy the nine realms. Hulk is wearing BATTLE ARMOR. We don't think there's much room for this trio of unlikely (but lovable) heroes, and it looks like Taika Waititi feels the same.
As previously mentioned, Portman (Jane Foster) won't be returning for Ragnarok. She basically facilitated her own elimination from the MCU before the release of Thor: The Dark World, clashing with studio heads over the firing of original director Patty Jenkins and attempting to leave the film. In an interview with Den of Geek back in February, Stellan Skarsgård (Erik Selvig) admitted that he won't be around for Ragnarok either, citing his five-film contract with Marvel studios. The eccentric professor may be back for 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, but he'll be riding the pine for Thor's third standalone film. It's probably better this way; the poor guy has been through the ringer over the past few years, and could probably use a break from the whole 'destruction of the known universe' stuff.
Which leaves only Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), Foster's friend and colleague, unaccounted for. Logic says that No Foster + No Selvig = No Lewis, especially since she was such a tertiary character to begin with. While Dennings was great as Lewis -- witty, quirky, and believable -- there's no reason to bring her back for Ragnarok, a film that's expected to spend about 90% of its time avoiding human beings.
While the Thor films have certainly been entertaining so far, they aren't exactly standout entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will Ragnarok prove to be the best of the bunch? Sound off in the comments.