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Warning: Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War follow!
After sitting out on the hero vs. hero battles of Captain America: Civil War, the God of Thunder is making a grand return to the big screen this November with #ThorRagnarok. Unlike his last two outings, Thor's bringing some friends to take down the latest threat to Asgard. He'll be joined by Hulk, Loki, and Valkyrie as he takes down Hela and her gang of villains (including, but not limited to, Skurge, Surtur, and Fenrir Wolf). While those may seem like two evenly stacked teams, it's important to remember that Team Thor will be getting some help from the Sorcerer Supreme himself.
#DoctorStrange's mid-credits scene showed a meeting between himself and Thor, and we soon found out that it was taken directly from Ragnarok. Given the scope of their situation, it makes sense they would seek out a performer of the mystic arts. While we're not sure what led to their talk, a new international trailer for the movie features more footage of that scene and provides some intriguing context. Check it out:
Aside from the ominous opening, the trailer was more or less made up of the exact same footage as the previous ones, just recut. And because our job as fans is to over-analyze every crumb of information we get, let's breakdown the new snippets.
"Destiny Has Dire Plans"
Doctor Strange: "Thor, I sense a great change in your future. [...] Destiny has dire plans for you, my friend.
Thor: "I have dire plans for destiny."
It's easy to get lost remembering the Doctor Strange mid-credits sequence and trying to make sense of this bit of Thor: Ragnarok, so let's break it down with four of the five W's:
- What is going on? A meeting between Doctor Strange and Thor.
- Where is it taking place? Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City.
- When is this meeting? Early on in Thor: Ragnarok, given the fact that Thor has long hair in the scene. Hela probably catches up with Thor and Loki in an alley after the meeting, at which points the film's main plot kicks in.
- Why is this meeting even happening? Thor and Loki are on Earth looking for Odin, and no one can help find an all-powerful king like a dimension hopping sorcerer.
Though Thor's original motivation to see the Doctor is pretty straightforward, it looks like Strange is more focused on the God of Thunder himself. He warns of a change in Thor's future, as well as "dire" plans destiny has for him. Thor promises he has equally dire plans for destiny, and the trailer moves on to recycling old footage. But what exactly does this grim warning mean? Let's take a look at the possibilites.
Hela Destroying Mjolnir and Asgard
This one's the most straightforward explanation for Doctor Strange's advice: The "dire plans" and "change" in Thor's future is the destruction of Mjolnir and Asgard by Hela's hand. Narratively, it's the easiest to work in to the plot with the least amount of set-up. Step one, have Doctor Strange tell Thor something bad is coming. Step two, have Hela do something bad to Thor. It allows for instant pay-off, and lets the movie function as a true standalone without building up the rest of the universe (more than usual, at least).
That said, it's a pretty lazy way of getting to the core of the plot. They might as well open the movie with a character spewing exposition. It's also a waste of Doctor Strange's cameo, who definitely has more important things on his plate with Thanos's impending arrival. Speaking of Thanos's arrival...
Thanos and Infinity War
Thor: Ragnarok isn't the last movie before #AvengersInfinityWar (that title goes to Black Panther), but it is the last movie that's in the same vein as the MCU's magnum opus. The first two Thor movies included Infinity Gems, both Infinity War and Ragnarok have space-based plots, and contain overlapping characters. Meanwhile, Black Panther is a standalone franchise-starter. It's clear the former, not the latter, will serve as a narrative stepping stone.
There's an interesting theory making the rounds right now, connecting Doctor Strange's personal journey, Ragnarok, and Infinity War. As it goes, Doctor Strange and the Avengers have experienced the fight with Thanos already. They obviously got their asses handed to them, so Doctor Strange used the Time Stone in his possession to go back in time and warn his comrades about the uphill battle they're facing. Personally, I like this more than the Hela explanation. It works for the movie's plot as well as the overarching MCU arc, and makes Doctor Strange's appearance feel more organic.
The circumstances of Doctor Strange's cameo will probably be more clearly defined as we near the movie's release date, but we're left guessing until that happens.