We don't really know all that much about the upcoming [Thor: Ragnarok](tag:956858) as of yet, but that's not all that surprising given that newbie screenwriter Stephany Folsom has only recently been confirmed to be taking on the project alongside the awesome director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords).
Of course we can expect a few things, we know that Mark Ruffalo will be making an appearance as Hulk / Bruce Banner and Jaime Alexander will be doing another turn as Lady Sif, with Chris Hemsworth back in the titular role as Thor and Tom Hiddleston tapped to appear as fan favourite Loki. We also know that there's gonna be one heck of a Ragnarok going on, possibly with the villainous Loki in the centre of the mess once again.
Beyond Thor: Ragnarok
But what about the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The Thor series is notable in that so far it's the only really "cosmic" movie connecting not just with the MCU but with the Avengers themselves.
The other big psychedelic piece is Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming sequel, but thus far that remains a fairly separate, more out there piece of the MCU than the Earthbound rest.
But that's about to change when Doctor Strange releases later this year. Currently in pre-production, Doctor Strange is set to introduce Benedict Cumberbatch as the incredibly powerful Sorcerer Supreme (and if you want to read more about how he's a big deal check out our quick guide here).
Avengers: Infinity War
We don't yet know if Doctor Stephen Strange will join up with the Avengers when he appears in the MCU or remain a more separate entity. Though he's not canonically been an Avengers member Doctor Strange has a long history of close association with them, and has formed part of the New Avengers and the Illuminati alongside Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Likely Strange will have ties to the Infinity Stones leading him into the Avengers: Infinity War conflict to take on Thanos, as discussed here, and as one of the most powerful heroes on the Marvel roster our Avengers are certainly going to need his help whether he's officially part of the team or not.
But there's some sneaky little Easter Eggs in [Thor: The Dark World](tag:206462) which suggest a possibility of seeing him before Infinity War, perhaps even in Thor: Ragnarok itself. Did you spot them?
Stellan Skarsgård's half-crazed Erik Selvig may be one of the most important people in the MCU, if only folk would stop and listen to him for a second.
So in the mental hospital scene in Thor: The Dark World (where Selvig is using Stan Lee's shoe to illustrate and explain the effects of the Alignment) there's a lot of writing on the blackboard behind him.
The Quantum Realm
Whilst a lot of the scribbling consists of mathematical formulae and fun references there does seem to be some important clues hidden within. There's a lot of references to quantum mechanics, for example:
- "Schrödinger" - The Schrödinger's cat paradox is a thought experiment used to illustrate certain issues with quantum mechanics.
- "Fractal gateways connecting multiple branes" - A brane is related to string theory, an object which can spread through space-time in accordance with quantum mechanics.
- "Gravitational anomaly" - An effect of quantum mechanics, an anomaly which invalidates theories of general relativity.
- "Yang-Mills anomaly" - deals with describing the behaviour of elementary particles (particles with an unknown substructure), a theory at the core of quantum chromodynamics.
Convoluted? Yep. But these are all linked to quantum theory in one way or another. Quantum mechanics is concerned with the way subatomic particles move and interact with each other in mathematical terms. Why is this important to the MCU?
Known as the Microverse in the comics, the Quantum Realm that we saw in Ant-Man is the introduction of another whole new world which is still largely unexplored. A dimension of pure energy and wave forms, it exists outwit space and time and is almost impossible to escape. (Unless you're Scott Lang I guess.)
This is important in a way because the Quantum Realm is expected to tie into Doctor Strange. Kevin Feige has previously told us that the MCU Doctor Strange will take his powers from a basis in physics and quantum mechanics, and the Quantum Realm itself "is essentially the tip of the iceberg for the stuff in Strange".
But that's not the only reference to the good Doctor that we can find on the chalkboard, there's another one which actually ties together not only the world of Thor and Doctor Strange, but that of Hulk as well.
The Crossroads is a location in the Marvel comics, an extra-dimensional reality which exists outside the laws of physics. It's a nexus point of sorts, allowing the travel to infinite dimensions throughout the Marvel multiverse. It even has signposts and the whole lot, everything needed to guide cosmic travellers on their way to alien dimensions.
Anyway, The Crossroads is an interesting point to bring up because it features most prominently in, yep, a Doctor Strange / Hulk story.
At a time when his anger management failed him Doctor Bruce Banner was totally and dangerously consumed by the Hulk person, so Doctor Strange exiled him to the Crossroads. From the Crossroads he was allowed to travel anywhere that he wanted, on the condition that it was a dimension not containing any living things that he could hurt.
Hulk travelled between empty worlds for a few weeks, but eventually ended up back on Earth-616. As the Hulk is now absent from the MCU could The Crossroads have something to do with his disappearance? Is this where Thor will find him when Ragnarok rolls around?
The Orb of Agamotto
And these aren't the only Doctor Strange references the Thor movies have given us. Going all the way back to the very first Thor in 2011 there's a little easter egg that a lot of fans have spotted by this point, but that doesn't make it any less pertinent.
During Thor we get a little glimpse into Odin's Trophy Room which contains (amongst other things) the Orb of Agamotto.
Now who do you suppose owns the Orb of Agamotto in the Marvel comics? That's right, it's Doctor Strange. The Orb rests in his mystical home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and is connected to the deity Agamotto - one of the Vishanti who are the source of Strange's powers.
So, it's looking like a lot of parallels have been drawn so far between Thor and Doctor Strange; was this done in preparation for his introduction to the MCU, or will we see him showing up in Thor 3?
Of course none of this is concrete, it might just be a couple of coincidental references, but we're still in the early stages of production on Ragnarok so who knows what could happen?
For now we'll have to wait for an official line on the subject, or until Thor: Ragnarok releases in that very distant future; 3 November 2017.