In the past, the conclusion of a trilogy has generally marked the end of an MCU hero's solo adventures. Both Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America ended their trilogies with a bang, with all of their later appearances coming in other franchises and Avengers films.
With 2022's Thor: Love and Thunder, Chris Hemsworth's Asgardian God will become the first Avenger to see a fourth installment with the Taika Waititi-directed sequel to the beloved Ragnaork.
Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role as the God of Thunder, continuing on from where Avengers: Endgame left him as he jetted off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Thor and the Guardians will be joined in the sequel by Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, and the comedic relief duo of Korg and Miek.
Additionally, Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon, Sam Neil, and Melissa McCarthy will all join the sequel in minor roles as they re-enact the events of Thor: Ragnarok in yet another Asgardian stage play.
Aside from the cast, virtually nothing is known about the sequel; however, the appearance of several critical Marvel characters indicates Love and Thunder may set the stage for plenty of future MCU projects. With under a year to go until the May release, The Direct breaks down seven films and series the sequel may tease.
JANE FOSTER'S MIGHTY THOR RETURNS
Having been benched for the God of Thunder's intergalactic adventure Thor: Ragnarok, Natalie Portman will reprise her role in next year's Taika Waititi-directed sequel.
Love and Thunder will mark a major change of pace from Portman's previous MCU outings, in which she largely served as a love interest to Hemsworth's hero. Foster will finally get in on the thunderous action this time as she wields Mjolnir to become The Mighty Thor.
Within Jason Aaron's 2014 comic run which inspired the movie, Thor became unworthy of Mjolnir, forcing him to give up the title in favor of a new one in Odinson. Meanwhile, a cancer-stricken Jane Foster took up the mantle of Thor to defend Asgard, even as it slowly pushed her closer to death.
Aaron's original storyline relies heavily on Mjolnir, Odin, and Heimdall, none of whom are around anymore, so Marvel Studios will likely make some critical changes to the original storyline to fit the MCU narrative.
But with the multiverse now in play, perhaps this isn't the same Jane Foster fans met in 2011 as she could instead hail from another timeline. Involving an alternate reality Foster would be a much simpler way to explain the character's heroic origin.
Thor's next adventure will notably release shortly after two other multiverse-centric movies, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, potentially adding further credence to this theory.
Whatever the means of Foster's heroic origin may be, it remains a mystery whether Natalie Portman will stick around for further Marvel adventures, or if her return is a one-and-done. The genius astrophysicist spent some time in the mantle within Marvel Comics, so there's certainly plenty of source material to work with.
While Jane Foster was initially introduced as a love interest for Hemsworth's Asgardian God, she shared a surprising romantic arc with Sam Wilson's Captain America during his tenure as the patriotic hero. As the MCU's Steve Rogers replacement is yet to see a romantic arc of his own, something that most heroes tend to have at one point or another, perhaps Foster and Wilson could hit it off whenever they eventually meet.
Additionally, with Chris Hemsworth coming onto ten years in the MCU, it wouldn't be awfully surprising if he was looking to move onto other things. Foster taking up the mantle would allow the world of Asgard to be explored further on-screen, even past the departure of its original lead.
However, Jason Aaron kept the original Thor heavily involved in his comic run as he stuck around under a new heroic mantle as Odinson. Taking this route would open some interesting new doors to continue Hemsworth's post-Endgame character arc — which many see as complete — in a new direction.
Be it as the lead of a potential fifth Thor film or as the star of her own Mighty Thor spin-off, the next chapter in Jane Foster's cinematic Marvel story is just getting started with the 2022 blockbuster.
THOR'S MCU SAGA CONTINUES
Avengers: Endgame saw the original team's departure from the narrative as Iron Man made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Thanos, Captain America took an early retirement in the 1940s, and Black Widow took a dive off a cliff.
Some original Avengers are still kicking around in the MCU as Hawkeye will lead his own Disney+ series, Hulk will return in She-Hulk, and Thor will become the first hero with a fourth solo outing with Love and Thunder.
With most of the veteran MCU heroes having departed already after four Avengers blockbusters and their own solo trilogy, many are left questioning how much longer Chris Hemsworth's Thor will be around.
However, the Australian star has publicly stated he isn't looking to retire from the superhero franchise anytime soon, meaning Thor 5 could be a legitimate possibility. Previous comments from director Taika Waititi seem to suggest he may be open to continuing the franchise.
Should the Asgardian saga continue, Waititi may opt to shake things up by moving Jane Foster's Thor up to first billing while Chris Hemsworth continues his heroic endeavors under the Odinson mantle.
SETTING UP THE GUARDIANS' NEXT MISSION
But Jane Foster isn't the only MCU icon set to return in Love and Thunder; the majority of the Guardians of the Galaxy cast will reprise their roles alongside Chris Hemsworth's Thor. Following the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, Thor is now off in space with the intergalactic band of misfits to travel the cosmos.
Sadly, Zoe Saldana's Gamora will be a notable absentee from the sequel. Following her character's Infinity War death, the pre-Guardians 2014 version of Thanos' daughter has been left wandering the modern galaxy.
With the Guardians now on the hunt for Gamora, Thor and the cosmic family will probably still be searching for Star-Lord's fan-favorite love interest when Love and Thunder begins. However, with the team expected to have only a small role, one would assume they will separate early on when Thor is sent off on his own adventure.
Whether the teases come early in the story or in a post-credits scene, fans should look forward to some hints to what James Gunn has in store with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Perhaps when things are all said and done, Hemsworth's Asgardian may even reunite for the team for a reciprocatory appearance in their 2023 sequel.
Funnily enough, this wouldn't even be the first instance of a Thor post-credits scene being used to tease a Guardians of the Galaxy adventure. The controversial Thor: The Dark World featured Lady Sif and Volstagg delivering the Aether to The Collector for safekeeping on Knowhere, setting up his appearance in the Guardians' debut movie.
Virtually nothing has been confirmed regarding the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 plot, but the hunt for Gamora is expected to continue as the entire team reprises their roles. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock appears set to finally show up in the MCU as the post-credits scene of the last installment saw his birth at the hands of Ayesha and the Sovereign.
As shooting on the sci-fi continuation is expected to commence in late 2021, there would be plenty of time for James Gunn to direct a Guardians-centric post-credits scene for Love and Thunder, as he has done in the past.
THE ADVENTURES OF VALKYRIE IN NEW ASGARD
In another plot point set up in the concluding moments of Endgame, Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie now sits on the throne of New Asgard, located on Earth in a Norwegian village.
The world and culture of Asgard haven't been explored nearly as thoroughly as they should have been in the MCU. Following Thor's banishment to Earth, much of the Norse God's debut was spent on Earth, while Ragnarok took the popular Avenger to Sakaar as Asgard was destroyed.
Ultimately, Alan Taylor's controversial The Dark World offers the most thorough peek behind the curtains of Asgardian royalty as much of the realm-hopping adventure was spent within the grand palace.
With Asgard destroyed in the aftermath of Thor: Ragnarok, an expanded focus on New Asgard going forward could help make up for Marvel Studios' past wrongdoing. Since the weakened civilization is still in the early days of building its new home in the Norwegian village of Tønsberg, it would be intriguing to see it grow and evolve over time.
Following the great popularity of Wakanda after Black Panther, Ryan Coogler is currently developing a Disney+ series centered around exploring the African civilization in further detail.
A similar concept could be easily applied to New Asgard, with Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie being the perfect candidate to lead the possible project as she rules over her people and protects them from outside threats.
Thompson's warrior hero proved to be a hit among fans in Ragnarok and Endgame, meaning a Valkyrie series would surely be a popular one, especially if director Taika Waititi was involved in some capacity.
VENOM FINALLY JOINS THE MCU
Some will be surprised to see Venom sneaking his way into an article about the long-awaited Thor sequel. However, hardcore Marvel Comics readers should be aware of how Christian Bale's Love and Thunder villain Gorr the God-Butcher gets his powers from a Symbiote, much like Venom himself.
Within Marvel Comics, Knull is an ancient being who once ruled over a kingdom of darkness until the Celestials initially formed the universe. Outraged at the end of his rule, Knull created the first Symbiote, a sword of living darkness, the All-Black, which he used to behead a Celestial, demonstrating the weapon's power.
Sometime later, the All-Black found its next host in Gorr after he was cast out from his alien homeworld, giving him the power to go on a murderous rampage across the universe. Even prior to bonding with the Symbiote, Gorr already had a fiery hatred of the Gods for failing to answer his prayers after the death of his family.
Assuming Marvel Studios takes some inspiration from the complicated origin of Gorr, it would mark the first introduction of a Symbiote in the MCU. While this doesn't have direct ties to Eddie Brock or any other interpretation of Venom, it establishes their existence for future projects.
With Sony currently continuing its successful Venom franchise, it's unclear if Tom Holland's Spider-Man will one-day crossover with Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock, or whether the MCU will introduce its own interpretation.
DIVING INTO GREEK MYTHOLOGY IN HERCULES
Following appearances for multiple Oscar-winning actors throughout the Thor franchise, Russell Crowe will begin the next to join this club with Love and Thunder. The Gladiator and Man of Steel actor recently revealed he will play Zeus in the sequel, marking the MCU's first step into exploring Greek Mythology.
Crowe reportedly only has a small role in the blockbuster adventure, potentially indicating he may be an early victim of Gorr the God Butcher. Given the tremendous power behind Zeus, if Christian Bale's villain is able to defeat him, then the God-slayer will prove a significant threat to Thor and the gang.
Even if Zeus does die early in the film, the introduction of Marvel's Olympians opens the doors for the MCU to bring in other mythological heroes including Hercules. From the sounds of it, Love and Thunder could be the perfect time to tease the existence of The Mighty Hercules before putting him at the forefront in his own solo film or Disney+ series.
Hercules often comes up as a point of discussion when it comes to fan casting future Marvel heroes, with several actors coming up particularly often. One such name is Henry Cavill, who starred alongside Russell Crowe in Man of Steel. Many are eager to see Cavill join the MCU, and what role could make better use of his Superman physique than the Defender of Olympus.
As of now, the MCU's slate of Disney+ series and theatrical releases has been revealed up until 2023, meaning Hercules couldn't realistically drop in any format until 2024 at the earliest. However, the Olympian could always show up in other projects prior to leading his own solo outing.
KORG AND MIEK'S ANTICS CONTINUE
The Taika Waititi-voiced Korg and his adorable companion Miek proved to be the surprise stand-outs of 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. Even within Avengers: Endgame, the giant rock monster's Fortnite rivalry with the anonymous user NoobMaster69 still proved to be one of the blockbuster's biggest talking points for years to come.
Ever since the comedic duo made their on-screen debut, fans immediately fell in love with Korg and Miek, potentially putting them in line for their own spin-off of sorts. There is even recent precedence for supporting characters of their magnitude being used as starring heroes of their own adventure or something close to it.
Following Groot's post-Guardians of the Galaxy stardom, the walking and talking tree has been given his own series of animated shorts on Disney+ titled I Am Groot. While it's unlikely Marvel Studios would give the alien heroes a full-scale live-action solo project, perhaps Thor's lovable friends could continue their hilarious antics in a series of shorts for the streaming service.
HOW WILL LOVE AND THUNDER IMPACT THE MCU?
It isn't yet clear the impact Taika Waititi's upcoming Thor: Ragnarok sequel may have on the wider Marvel universe going forward. But from Jane Foster becoming the next Thor to the introduction of Symbiotes and Greek Gods into the MCU, it's certainly introducing some intriguing new concepts that could tie into a multitude of future projects.
Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters on May 6, 2022.