The first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok is out, and it's a visual and aesthetic treat! Rejoicing in a pulse-pounding beat, the trailer gives us a glimpse of a tale worthy of the name 'Ragnarok', the End of Days! What fans haven't noticed, though, is that there's one subtle and important detail — a detail that transforms the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It opens Marvel's movies and TV shows up to a veritable cosmos of possibilities, drawing the threads between the cosmic and Earth-bound range tightly together. And it's all to do with the Hulk...
The Mystery of the Missing Hulk
Back in Captain America: Civil War, fans couldn't help laughing when Ross asked Captain America if he knew where the Hulk and Thor were. Both characters were last seen at the tail-end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Thor's disappearance is no mystery; he headed back to Asgard. Bruce Banner, however, mysteriously disappeared, leaving an abandoned quinjet somewhere near Fiji. I think it's safe to say the world has been on the lookout for Banner ever since, but he's simply disappeared off the face of the Earth.
As the trailer to Thor: Ragnarok revealed, different worlds in the MCU are linked by strange, mysterious portals. Sakaar seems to be a nexus for these portals, gathering the junk and detritus of a thousand worlds, with the Grandmaster pitting those he finds against one another in an arena. It's a brutal, bitter world, one where even an Asgardian prince can become little more than a pawn in the Grandmaster's games.
It seems the Hulk flew his quinjet in, or near, one such wormhole — and he leaped into it. And so Bruce Banner has learned a lesson the rest of the planet has not; that all worlds are connected.
Revisiting 'Thor: The Dark World'
Ironically, though, this isn't the first time we've seen hints of this truth in the #MCU. The Nine Realms, for example, are intimately linked; every five thousand years, the Realms come into 'Convergence', causing disruptive physical anomalies and creating wormholes between these worlds. At the apex of the Convergence, larger wormholes open through which you can see the other Realms.
The really interesting twist, though, comes earlier in Thor: The Dark World. Loki shows knowledge of secret ways between the worlds, hidden passages where the fabric of reality is thin and you can step through to another of the Realms. The effects are less dramatic, but the result is the same; you can literally walk down a mountain pass in one world, and emerge on a completely different planet.
In the MCU, then, it seems that the fabric of space-time allows mysterious links, portals and wormholes between different worlds.
How the Convergence Shaped History
This is probably one of the most fascinating ideas in the MCU to date. Consider the last Convergence, dated 5,000 years ago. Step back five thousand years, and this is what happened:
- The Early Dynasty period of the Sumerians begins around that time, with all the traits of civilization appearing - the wheel, metallurgy, astrology, astronomy, calendars, taxation, and an organized priesthood.
- The First Dynasty of Egypt began, with the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.
- The building of Stonehenge in England (Thor: The Dark World deliberately links Stonehenge to the Convergence in one amusing sequence).
- The Yang-Shao emerged in China.
Wherever you look across the surface of the globe, roughly 3,100BC was when civilization began. And these early civilizations were almost all fascinated by the study of the stars. In the MCU, of course, the explanation is simple: the Convergence. That last Convergence presumably saw the Nine Realms mix and interact, with people from the different Realms perhaps even left stranded on alien worlds. Human culture shaped some worlds — that's why the culture of Vanaheim looks strangely familiar. Meanwhile, beings from those other Realms were stranded on our own, and no doubt played a key role in the dawn of civilization. Is this why we have legends of elves? Because Dark Elves were left on Earth?
The Sakaar Factor Changes Everything
Loki's secret passageway between the Realms, of course, is very different; it suggests there are permanent hidden ways between the Realms, known to few. And the portals of Sakaar change everything; they reveal that there are mysterious space-time events, wormholes that open up (spontaneously?) between planets across the galaxy — and perhaps even beyond.
Up until Thor: Ragnarok, there's been a pretty clear dividing line between Marvel's cosmic adventures and their Earth-bound ones. Even #AgentsOfSHIELD has treated alien incursions as something unusual. But the secret passageways and the wormholes? They suggest that the worlds of the MCU are more closely linked than we've ever believed...
Other Possibilities In The MCU
In the MCU, how many ancient legends are actually rooted in alien presences on Earth? How many humans have unwittingly wandered into another world? Are there actually human civilizations scattered across the galaxy, after migrating nomads wandered down a mountain pass and unwittingly emerged on another planet? This one detail utterly transforms the MCU. And it raises disturbing possibilities, too; can the wormholes be predicted? If so, aliens can make their way to Earth at will, not even needing a spaceship to get here. This sets up fascinating possibilities for Avengers: Infinity War; while our heroes can be whisked into space with narrative ease, it also gives Thanos more power. Whatever resources Earth is putting into space defence in the MCU may simply be wasted; Thanos wouldn't even need a ship to get here. He'd just need to walk through a wormhole.
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This wormhole effectively acts as a bridge between #Marvel's cosmic range, and their Earth-bound franchises. Aliens are no longer distant and rare; they shaped our history, they may only be a footstep away, and all the darkest legends may well contain a hint of (alien) truth. It's a fantastic new development in the MCU, and the possibilities it raises are almost limitless.
Are you looking forward to 'Thor: Ragnarok'?
(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Studios)