I think a lot of Marvel fans were at least a little surprised by the news that Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was to be returning to the MCU not in [The Avengers: Infinity War](tag:738027) but the year before in Thor: Ragnarok.
It's still pretty early days in the production of the third instalment of the Thor film franchise, with casting and script details still being hammered out. Chris Hemsworth is obviously set to return as Thor and Tom Hiddleston is sure to make an appearance as fan favourite Loki, though the extent of his involvement is still subject to much speculation. What We Do In The Shadows director Taika Waititi is now officially on board to direct, and Jaime Alexander is set to have a "very pivotal part" in Thor 3 as Lady Sif.
Where's The Rest Of The Asgardians?
Right now the only confirmed players that we have for [Thor: Ragnarok](tag:956858) are Thor, Lady Sif, Loki and Bruce Banner/Hulk. No Odin (Antony Hopkins) and no Warriors Three (Fandral (Zachary Levi), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson)).
The popularly held theory regarding Odin's fate at the conclusion of Thor 2: The Dark World is that he fell into a convenient Odinsleep, allowing Loki to hide him somewhere and take his place on the throne.
However, Antony Hopkins himself seems to have other ideas:
“[Odin is] dead. I’ve done two [films]. That’s enough.” He confirmed following the release of The Dark World back in 2013. Say it ain't so!
Well, it wouldn't exactly be the first time Odin has shuffled off the mortal coil. Like all good long-running comic book characters he's had his fair share of deaths - three times actually. Killed by Mangog, soul brought back from the realm of the dead. Destroyed by the Celestials, revived by Thor. Then offed by the Ragnarok fire demon Surtur, trapped in limbo fighting him eternally before being brought back, kicking about somewhere with machine guns.
So whilst Hopkins might be pretty certain that Odin is dead and gone, the almighty Kevin Feige has other ideas:
"Like all of our plans at Marvel Studios, we know where we would like to go if given the opportunity. We have very good ideas whether the All-Father is with us or not. Clearly I like the notion that some people think he might die in [The Dark World]. That works to our advantage. I wouldn’t spoil that necessarily."
I'd be very surprised if we didn't see Odin appearing in Thor: Ragnarok, though I suppose a lot of that depends on Hopkins. Though he's not quite as prevalent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he is in the comics, he's still a pretty big deal, and having Loki kill him off off-screen would be a really underwhelming way to end things.
The Warriors Three
You remember the Warriors Three, right?
Modelled on the Three Musketeers, the Warriors Three are Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, a group of Asgardian warriors and close friends of Thor ever since his youth. In the MCU they appear alongside Lady Sif in Thor, aiding the titular character on his ill advised mission to Jotunheim.
They later journey to Earth to bring Thor back to Asgard as they discover Loki's plan to take the throne. All four appear again in [Thor: The Dark World](tag:206462) helping Thor and Loki escape with Jane from Asgard, and in the post-credits sequence Sif and Volstagg take the Aether/Infinity Stone to the Collector.
Whilst we know Sif is returning there's been no news regarding the Warriors Three themselves.
Originally portrayed by Josh Dallas, Zachary Levi took over the role of Fandral for Thor: The Dark World and though he hasn't heard anything from the Marvel powers that be, he's up for returning to the franchise:
"As far as I know, they are still writing the script. Once that’s all buttoned down, I’m sure they will be making the phone call to whatever actors are involved. I hope I’m involved. I’d love to reprise Fandral. That was a fun experience, getting to be blonde, Asgardian and sounding British."
Similarly Ray Stevenson wants to return as Volstagg, and who wouldn't want an excuse to sport that fantastic beard again?:
"As far as Volstagg is concerned, should he be called with his other Warriors Three to protect young Thor again, within a heart’s beat he will be there. So, I am waiting to hear."
Of course it's all still very early days, but the fact that Jaime Alexander has long been attached whilst Stevenson and Levi wait for the call is a little concerning. Finally Tadanobu Asano has kept pretty quiet about whether or not he'll be returning as Hogun, but given that he's probably had the most minor role of the Three I wouldn't hold my breath for his return. Add to that the rumours that Thor: Ragnarok won't be set on Asgard or Earth and it's not looking great for the number of Asgardians involved. As usual, we'll just have to wait and see what Marvel has in store for us this time round.