In the fourteen-year history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no one phase has ever compared to that of Phase 4 of the MCU. While it only launched in January 2021, to date, its lineup has consisted of five theatrical films, five live-action Disney+ shows, and the animated What If...? The next project on the docket, aside from Ms. Marvel on Disney+, is Chris Hemsworth's fourth solo MCU outing: Thor: Love and Thunder.
Even though Phase 4 has been an embarrassment of riches in terms of content, one of its biggest fan quibbles has been its lack of the Marvel Studios hallmark: interconnected storytelling.
Many expected Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to be the thesis for the MCU's Multiverse Saga and the connective tissue to its varied slate of projects. But when that proved not to be the case, fans grew both frustrated and even questioned whether there actually is a plan this time around.
Well, in light of the recent promotion for Thor: Love and Thunder, it looks like those important Phase 4 connections are finally happening via a film that is worthy of the cause.
Thor: Love and Thunder's Phase 4 Role
Set to release on July 8, Thor: Love and Thunder is set to explore the God of Thunder's post-Endgame path while also introducing Natalie Portman's Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor and Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher.
Even though the film's marketing campaign has only just begun, certain elements and details from Thor 4's promotional stills and its two trailers either directly reference other Phase 4 projects or have an opportunity to do so.
With that being said, could it be that Thor: Love and Thunder will be the most important MCU Phase 4 movie to date? Here's a breakdown of each Phase 4 film or Disney+ series that Love and Thunder either references or sets the stage to explore.
Is Thor 4 a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Prequel?
Staring with the most obvious, Thor 4 connects to the Guardians of the Galaxy because Star-Lord and the crew are already confirmed to be part of the film's ensemble.
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Thor passed the rule of Asgard to Valkyrie before joining the Guardians aboard the Benatar. In Thor 4's first trailer, fans caught a preview of their galactic adventures and interactions, as well as Thor's intentions in pursuing a new path.
While fans don't yet know the extent of the Guardians' role in Love and Thunder, it's likely that the July film will set the stage for 2023's Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 and maybe the Guardians' upcoming Holiday Special.
Is Thor 4 Exposition For Black Panther 2?
Following the passing of Chadwick Boseman, the future of the Black Panther franchise was uncertain. Once Marvel Studios decided to move forward with the sequel, along with the original supporting cast and director Ryan Coogler, the question was whether there would be a new Black Panther. And, if so, who will it be?
While that answer has yet to be revealed, an official still from Thor: Love and Thunder suggested that audiences will actually be seeing the goddess of Bast or Bastet in the film. Bast is the being who's responsible for the heart-shaped purple herb that gives the Black Panther its powers.
Given this reveal, it looks like Thor 4 could be doing some heavy-lifting in terms of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's lore and mythology; maybe, Bastet will find another way to instill a Wakandan with superpowers?
Will Thor 4 Explain Moon Knight Mythology?
Since gods and goddesses will be explored in this film, it's possible that Moon Knight's Egyptian mythology, as well as Khonshu, Taweret, and Amit, may be referenced or connected in some form or fashion.
For instance, Love and Thunder has already shown Russell Crowe's Zeus, along with Valkyrie and Jane Foster, attending a sort of council or audience of the gods. If Black Panther's Bastet is also in attendance, it would make sense for Egypt's mythological gods and goddesses to have some sort of presence as well.
Will Thor 4 Reunite Kingo with the God of Thunder?
When Eternals debuted in late 2021, for many, the tale of Celestials and Eternals and Deviants seemed a bit out of the left field. But now, fans are eager for a project that will actually reconcile and explain the hierarchy of the MCU's spiritual and otherworldly beings.
Again, since Thor 4 appears to be joining together the various gods and mythologies, audiences may get a lesson on where Celestials fit into the equation and how they relate to Zeus, Odin, Bastet, and the like.
As for the Eternals themselves, it's worth remembering that Kumail Nanjani's Kingo references Thor more than once and even notes that they knew one another. Could fans be in for a Kingo and Thor reunion along with some new Eternals information?
Will Thor Meet Variant Loki from Disney+?
While it doesn't look like Chris Hemsworth's fourth solo flick will be a Multiversal movie, Loki is Thor's brother, and so far, there hasn't been a God of Thunder film without the God of Mischief. The MCU's main God of Mischief may be deceased, but there's still another Variant wandering the Multiverse, one who is currently involved with TVA in Loki.
Of course, the problem is the current Loki is trapped in a different timeline, and this Variant hasn't lived through the redeeming events of The Dark World, Ragnarok, or Infinity War alongside his brother. But still, these brothers are due for a reunion at some point; and knowing how crazy this fourth film is supposed to be, no one should bet against director Taika Waititi going for it.
It's also worth noting that the upcoming movie has already referenced Loki via Thor's back tattoo. Whether this is foreshadowing remains to be seen.
Now, if Loki doesn't make the Love and Thunder call sheet, he is a top contender for a post-credits scene, especially since Season 2 of Loki begins filming on June 6 with the goal of a summer 2023 release.
The Watcher's Live-Action Debut?
Even though What If...? is an animated series, its characters have already appeared in live-action in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And now, it looks to potentially do the same with Thor: Love and Thunder.
While, again, it doesn't look like Thor 4 will deal with the Multiverse, the second trailer included a shot of Jane summoning lightning while surrounded by towering statues. One of those statues happens to bear the likeness of Uatu or The Watcher from the animated show.
Since The Watcher is forbidden to interfere, only the direst of circumstances would warrant a live-action cameo. But clearly, Marvel chose this shot, and his statue, for a reason.
Will Thor 4 Connect to Sony's Venom & Venom: Let There Be Carnage?
Brace yourself, MCU fans. It looks like Love and Thunder might actually connect to Sony's Venom franchise, and it's all due to that iconic, yet problematic, black space goo.
Just like in the comics, Love and Thunder's Gorr the God Butcher will be wielding All-Black the Necrosword, which is considered a symbiote. While footage of the God Butcher has been limited, Gorr's Funko POP figure has shown black, symbiote-like tendrils underneath the villain, and Bale is seen with a sword in the recent trailer.
The question now is how Marvel Studios intends to adapt the weapon and use its symbiotic nature, given the studio doesn't own the rights to Venom.
Thor 4's Seven Connected MCU Projects
For those who have been keeping track, that's a whopping seven Marvel projects, all of which (except for Venom) belong to Phase 4 of the MCU.
Will Thor's personal arc be the driving force of Love and Thunder? Yes. Does the introduction of Jane Foster's Mighty Thor and Gorr the God Butcher alone merit a film? Absolutely.
But it appears like the upcoming film won't just serve its characters, but the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, potentially making it the most important Phase 4 film fans have seen thus far.
Since 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the MCU has been unique for its ability to play with other genres while still creating a single universe. Now, it looks like one of the last standing OG Avengers will be the one to assemble the studio's newest narratives.