Thor: Ragnarok will catch up to the Thunder God when he returns home to Asgard, only to find his homeland in a state of peril. [Thor 2 Ending SPOILER approaching…] With Loki (Tom Hiddleston) now seated on the throne in impersonation of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) – not to mention the doomsday implications of the title – it’s probably a good thing that Thor is bringing Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk along for the fight.
Ruffalo recently elaborated on what we can expect from Thor 3 – at least where Hulk is concerned – speaking with NY Daily News:
“I don’t really know that much about it, but I think it’s going to be a buddy picture with Thor and Bruce Banner. I think they’ll probably fight. There’s no doubt, everyone wants us to fight at one point.”
Hulk and Thor had a very memorable fight scene in The Avengers, as well as one of the biggest and best team action sequences (space whale kills #FTW) – which was forever immortalized by arguably one of the best superhero comedic moments to date (Hulk’s Thor-punch). That dynamic between the two titans is something Marvel has certainly taken notice of; the company’s Avengers Assemble cartoon series plays up the Hulk/Thor relationship big time, with entire episodes dedicated to the duo’s competitive camaraderie.
Of course, in a cartoon series it’s easy to have Hulk’s primary buddy be a Thunder God; harder to paint that picture on the big screen, where creating Hulk and/or Thor’s powers come at much higher cost. Having Bruce Banner and Tony Stark be buddies (for example), is much more cost-effective, because it’s essentially two actors talking until their CGI counterparts take over for limited screen time. That’s all to say: it’ll be interesting to see how Thor 3 makes the buddy dynamic work between Banner and Thor, assuming Ruffalo himself will be onscreen a good deal of the time. There’s also the slight disappointment of seeing Chris Hemsworth’s Thor once again having to split duties in his own solo franchise – lest we forget the “buddy comedy” between Thor and Loki that arguably was Thor: The Dark World….
In a larger sense: this growing impression of Thor: Ragnarok as a Hulk/Thor team-up film is raising a valid question: are Marvel’s ‘standalone’ solo film sequels even qualified to be called that anymore? Captain America: Civil War is basically Avengers 2.5/Iron Man 3.5, and now Thor 3 is pulling double duty as a the Hulk solo film sequel we never saw; even Ant-Man is sharing the marquee for his “solo” film sequel, Ant-Man & The Wasp, so what’s really the gameplan at this point? And will new films like Doctor Strange or Black Panther or the Spider-Man reboot be more standalone – or will they too become delivery systems for multi-character event films?