There's a lot of exciting things to look forward to from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three, not least of all this year's offerings of Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.
But despite the fact that it's not due for release until the end of next year, Thor: Ragnarok is already generating a lot of speculation following the events of its predecessor The Dark World, and the apocalyptic visions experienced by Thor during Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
As it currently stands, we don't really know much about Ragnarok other than what we've speculated from studying the comic book plots, and the rumors circulating about this being the end of the line for Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and/or Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are just that — rumors (especially considering that both actors still have two films left on their contracts after Thor 3).
But what of their absent father Odin (Anthony Hopkins)? Thor: The Dark World left us with the cliffhanger notion of Loki standing upon the throne in the guise of his adopted dad — but where was the real Odin? The question still hangs in the air of the MCU, but will we see it resolved in Ragnarok? Has he fallen into another convenient Odinsleep, or is he dead?
It wouldn't exactly be the first time Odin has popped his clogs in the Marvel canon. Like all good, long-running characters, he's had his fair share of death; he's died three times in the comic books thus far, though never directly at the hands of Loki.
It's the third instance of Odin's death that could be important for Ragnarok as he falls fighting Surtur, the legendary fire demon who brought about the last major Ragnarok in the Marvel Universe. After Thor defeats Those Who Sit Above In Shadow he ends the cycle of Ragnarok once and for all, destroying Asgard and almost losing his own life in the process.
Upon rebuilding Asgard and restoring its people upon Earth Thor finds Odin's soul trapped in a limbo state akin to the Norse concept of heaven, in which he battles eternally with Surtur to keep the demon from coming back into the realms.
However he later returns from this limbo and is currently kicking about somewhere in the Marvel Universe, defending Asgard with machine guns.
As to whether or not we'll see any of this storyline or something similar adapted in Ragnarok, Marvel is staying pretty tight-lipped, with producer Kevin Feige not giving much away about whether Odin's still going to be alive when Thor 3 rolls around:
"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 as to whether the All-Father is still with us or not. Maybe Odin dies, I don't know."
As for Hopkins himself, all he's said on the matter is: "I've done two [films], that's enough," suggesting that he might not be too keen on the idea of returning for Ragnarok.
To be honest, we'd be pretty surprised if we didn't see Odin making an appearance, but I suppose a lot of that depends on Hopkins' return. Though he's not quite as prevalent in the MCU as he is in the comics he's still a huge deal in Marvel-Norse mythology, and having Loki kill him off screen would be really quite an underwhelming way to end things for the All-Father.
Additionally there's been no sign in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron that the Odin Force has transferred to Thor, which canonically it would do following the death of Odin, though there's no real reason that the MCU has to adopt this specific plot point.
And what of Loki? He's had a complicated character arc and — following the death of Frigga, who we know Loki still had a soft spot for — it's perhaps a little bit of a stretch that he would immediately turn around and kill his adoptive father in cold blood, particularly given how shaded in gray the morality of his character has been thus far.
One of the reasons Thor is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is because it's a Shakespearean story at heart. Loki is a great villain because he's not really bad by default; he feels betrayed by his family but still seeks the approval of his father and brother, even as he tries to succeed him.
Given that Ragnarok is coming Asgard is going to need all the help it can get; a resolution to the Odin-Loki storyline could give us some much-needed narrative closure and, most importantly, some more of Odin kicking ass. We'd be on board with that.
'Thor: Ragnarok' is set for a November 3, 2017 release date.