Now that all the excitement over Marvel's #DoctorStrange has begun to die out, it's time to look forward and see what else Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has in store for us. Next year brings the third installment in the Thunder God's franchise as Thor: Ragnarok arrives, and with director Taika Waititi at the helm it's set to be one of the most interesting movies of the #MCU we've seen to date.
Ragnarok wrapped filming back in October, and is set for release November 2017. It brings with it not just an exciting director, but a ton of lauded cast members — from the return of Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Tom Hiddleston as #Loki, to the introduction of Cate Blanchett as #Hela, Karl Urban as Skurge, and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.
And of course, we also have #JeffGoldblum joining the MCU as the Grandmaster — also known as En Dwi Gast — who joins The Collector/Taneleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro) as one of the ancient and manipulative Elders of the Universe.
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Grandmaster is one of a group of beings who have existed since the very beginnings of the Marvel Comics Universe. They're the last remaining members of their respective races, each hailing from one of the first humanoid races to evolve in the galaxy after the creation of the universe itself.
Each Elder has found a way to achieve immortality, and each has their own personal quirks to go along with their longevity. While Taneleer Tivan likes collecting things, the Grandmaster (as you may have guessed from his name) likes playing games. He's spent most of his life traveling the universe in search of amusement through gameplay, usually those with pretty high stakes, and he's mastered many of different eras and civilizations.
He's not always necessarily an antagonist, but there have been occasions where he has set heroes against each other for his own amusement, or to achieve a greater purpose. But he does have a pretty important connection to another big antagonist from both the comics and the MCU itself...
The Elders & The Infinity Gems
The first Elder of the MCU, the Collector, has already been closely linked to the Infinity Stones. He was briefly in possession of the Power Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the post-credits of Thor: The Dark World revealed that Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) left the Aether — the Reality Stone — in his possession.
Given that the events of The Dark World are assumed to take place prior to those of Guardians of the Galaxy, it is now unclear as to whether or not the Collector still has the Reality Stone as his base was all but destroyed in the Power Stone explosion inadvertently caused by Carina (Ophelia Lovibond). But the Collector isn't the only Elder who has strong links to the Infinity Gems — in the comic books from which the MCU characters are drawn, the Grandmaster was also once in possession of one of the Infinity Gems.
In his case it was the Mind Gem, which the Grandmaster had in his possession. So what happened to it? It was taken from him. By whom? I hear you ask. Well, by Thanos of course. #Thanos retrieves the Mind Gem from the Grandmaster during the limited series Thanos Quest, when he was traveling throughout the universe gathering the six Infinity Gems (this will become important later).
The Grandmaster bets the Mind Gem on the outcome of a game, which Thanos wins by being sneaky. He also kills the Grandmaster for good measure, because why not? (It's alright, he comes back later on, they always do.)
What Could This Mean For The MCU?
As always, this connection could mean nothing. Many elements from the comic books have already been dropped or altered for adaptation into the Marvel movies, and the MCU version of the Mind Gem has already been seen multiple times.
It's the Stone that once lived within the scepter given to Loki by Thanos (Josh Brolin) in The Avengers, from which Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) gained their powers in the mid-credits sequence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and ended up embedded safely in the head of Vision (Paul Bettany) in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
But it could give a clue as to why the Grandmaster is appearing now in the MCU. Phase 3 is shuffling all the Avengers toward Avengers: Infinity War, in their respective movies and the ensemble pieces. The same can be assumed for Thor: Ragnarok.
How the Infinity Stones came to be housed in their individual containers is a matter yet to be clarified, but it's not unlikely that Thanos was the one who converted the Mind Stone into a weapon for Loki and the Chitauri to use to conquer Earth. Regardless, Thanos gave Loki the scepter that housed the Mind Stone sometime prior to the events of The Avengers, which means that the Big Blue was already in possession of the Mind Stone at this time.
If the MCU does borrow from the comics, it's entirely possible that Thanos came into possession of the Mind Stone in the first place by stealing it from — that's right — the Grandmaster.
Will An Infinity Stone Show Up In 'Ragnarok'?
There's already been a lot of speculation that Thor: Ragnarok will introduce the final Infinity Stone — the Soul Stone — but could we also see Thanos taking the Mind Stone from the Grandmaster in flashback form here? Will the backstory of the Mind Stone finally be explored? Or will the Grandmaster just be another player thrown into the mix to make things difficult for Thor and the gang when Ragnarok comes a-knocking?
The inclusion of another Elder of the Universe is certainly an interesting one, and the presence of the Grandmaster could have bigger implications for the road to Avengers: Infinity War if the history between the Elder and Thanos is allowed to play out in the MCU.
Perhaps the most interesting part of all this is that Thanos Quest functioned as the set up for The Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and Infinity Crusade arcs of the comic books. Those names should be recognizable to you, as it's likely that one or all of them will form the backdrop to Avengers: Infinity War (the clue is in the name).
If Marvel wanted to include this plot element in Ragnarok without using a flashback, all they'd have to do would be to substitute the Mind Stone for the Soul Stone and have Thanos show up to retrieve it from the Grandmaster. This could potentially play into the Ragnarok storyline, perhaps even contributing to the apocalyptic event itself.
As always though, we'll just have to wait and see what games the Grandmaster is playing when Thor: Ragnarok thunders into cinemas at the end of next year, arriving November 3, 2017.
What do you think the Grandmaster's presence in Thor: Ragnarok means? Tell us your thoughts in the comments, and check out our breakdown of the T.H.A.N.O.S. theory below!