There aren't too many things out there more exciting than Marvel's recent announcement of their upcoming slate, and the whole of the MCU's Phase 3. Your first love, sure. The birth of your first child, absolutely. Your kid's graduation, true. Other than that, though, there's not a whole lot that can beat the rich, meaty awesomeness that comes with realizing that the next five years are going to be jam-packed with Marvel-style bad-assery.
Exactly what that bad-assery is going to be, though, is still fairly shrouded in mystery. We know the titles of the movies, and we know a few casting details, but beyond that, our excitement has mostly had to be founded upon meager scraps of speculation and assumption.
What, though, if it turned out we actually know a whole lot more about Phase 3 than we think we do?
Like, for instance, the character who's going to be at the center of the whole darned thing...
Thor is Set to be THE Key Player in Marvel's Phase 3
Now, when I say THE key player, I don't just mean that we're going to see a whole lot of Thor in Phase 3 - although we totally are. Instead, I mean that everything we've seen and heard from Marvel so far suggests that the Norse God of Thunder is set to be at the very heart of what happens across the whole MCU, for at least the next five years.
In part, that's because of this statement from Kevin Feige, speaking after the announcement of 2017's Thor: Ragnarok:
"This is a very important movie for us in Phase 3...We plan on taking Thor to another level. It picks up where we leave Thor in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and impacts everything that comes after."
The thing is, though - that's exactly the sort of thing Feige has to say about Thor: Ragnarok, to get us all pumped up for it.
The real reason Thor's set to be the center of the Marvel Universe for the next five or so years? Well, for that, we have to go back all the way to Phase 1...
Phase 1 Was Dominated by Iron Man
Take your mind back - way, way back - to the long, long ago of 2008. All the way back to when the first Iron Man movie was released, and the MCU began.
That movie marked the very beginning of not only the MCU, but also of Marvel's Phase 1. Now, Phase 1 was largely focused on setting up the Avengers, with the first MCU solo movies for Iron Man, Cap, Thor and Hulk all preceding the final epic adventure of The Avengers. It was also, though, entirely centered around Tony Stark, and Iron Man.
Iron Man 1 and 2, obviously, were focused on the armored hero.
The Incredible Hulk featured THAT post-credits scene, (slightly inaccurately) setting up The Avengers...
Thor was entirely set up by the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2.
Captain America: The First Avenger also starred Tony Stark's pops, Howard, who proved central to the plot.
And, of course, The Avengers was largely focused on Tony Stark, and ended with an act of Iron Man-themed heroism.
However, Stark's centrality to the franchise soon began to wane, and...
Phase 2 Was (and is) Captain America's Show
Now, by the time Phase 2 had kicked off, by the end of Iron Man 3, we'd suddenly found ourselves in a world where Tony Stark had begun to pull away from his role as Iron Man...
Which was swiftly followed by Thor: The Dark World, which featured an awesome sort-of-cameo from Chris Evans as Captain America.
Which was, in turn, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which rapidly tore apart the MCU as we knew it, completely altering the status quo.
And now, following a brief excursion to the Marvel Cosmic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy, we're set to see Avengers: Age of Ultron in May next year, which seems set to place at its core a fundamental conflict between Cap and Iron Man - one which, it seems, the audience is largely expected to side with Cap over.
So, the core of Phase 2 seems very much set to be the transition from Iron Man being the central hero of the MCU, to that role being taken by Captain America...And, in much the same way that Phase 1 was defined by the road to the Avengers, Phase 2 will be seen to have been the road to Civil War.
The big question, though, is...
What does this mean for Phase 3?
Well, it could mean little more than a vague thematic shift away from Cap and Iron Man, and towards another character, but that very much doesn't seem to be the way that Marvel is rolling, especially considering the fact that Thor is the only other member of the original Avengers set to get his own Phase 3 solo movie.
Instead, take another look at Feige's comments from above:
We plan on taking Thor to another level. [Thor: Ragnarok] picks up where we leave Thor in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and impacts everything that comes after."
In the context of what happened in Phases 1 and 2, that makes it sound as though Thor: Ragnarok is set to define Phase 3 in much the same way that Iron Man did in Phase 1, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier did in Phase 2 - by setting up, and "[impacting on] everything that comes after."
So, while Avengers: Age of Ultron seems set to establish the basis for Captain America: Civil War, and that movie looks likely to bring a close to Cap's central role in the franchise (possibly even in a fairly fatal fashion), it sounds as though it won't be until 2017, and Thor: Ragnarok, that we'll get a better idea about just what Phase 3 will really be about.
Except, of course...
We Kind of Know What Thor: Ragnarok Will Be About
And, SPOILER-Alert, it'll totally feature the end of the world.
Or, rather, Ragnarok is historically the Norse mythological equivalent of Armageddon, in which the world is destroyed during an epic battle between the Gods and monsters.
The thing is, though, it ends with both the death of the leading Gods (including Thor and Loki) AND the world beginning anew.
Which tells us a couple of key things about both the movie, and the end of Marvel's Phase 3.
1) Thor will almost certainly die in Thor: Ragnarok.
2) Thor will almost certainly be resurrected in [Thor: Ragnarok](movie:956858), or shortly thereafter.
3) The universe, or at least Asgard, will be destroyed, and then resurrected. Which, seeing as several Asgardian artifacts have already had a key involvement in Thanos' part of the MCU so far, will almost certainly lead directly into the Infinity War storyline.
4) The two movies released immediately before Thor: Ragnarok's July 2017 release date, Doctor Strange (November 2016) and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 2017) will almost certainly have a direct link to Thor's third movie, as well as to the Infinity War that will follow in 2018.
All of which means what, exactly?
Well, more than anything else?
Phase 3 Will Be Defined by the Infinity War - But It'll Be Thor, and His Solo Movie, That Do The Defining.
The big question now? What do you guys think?