It's official: Taika Waititi will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to write and direct Thor 4. If that news doesn't prompt you to high-five that best friend from work, then nothing will.
The New Zealand quirk-meister graduated to 2017's Thor: Ragnarok following offbeat hits What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Such was the strength of Waititi's directorial sensibility that Ragnarok was praised as the most entertaining, hilarious and idiosyncratic Thor movie so far, finally allowing star Chris Hemsworth off the leash to have some fun.
That movie paired Hemsworth's thunder god with Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/Hulk, draped in a candy-coloured visual aesthetic that owed much to classic 1980s space opera movies like Flash Gordon. At this stage, exact details on Thor 4 remain under wraps, but it's poised to be one of the key titles in phase four of the MCU. (This does however mean the director's long-gestating remake of classic manga Akira has now been put on hold.)
In the absence of concrete information, we've delved into the comic book archives and dug out five wonderfully weird Thor storylines (Thor-y-lines?) that Waititi needs to have a crack at.
1. 'Whom the Gods Would Destroy'
Much as we'd like Waititi to attempt this storyline, there are issues. For one, it would involve the return of Anthony Hopkins as Thor's dad Odin, who passed on in Thor: Ragnarok. It would also entail another appearance from Jane Foster, portrayed by Natalie Portman in the first two Thor movies, but who was completely absent from Ragnarok. (She did make a cameo appearance, assembled from archive footage, in Avengers: Endgame.)
Nevertheless, this particular arc is a cracker, in which Odin punishes Thor by draining his son's power and revealing his secret identity to Jane. This results in the god of thunder losing to the mighty Hercules in battle, the latter becoming a celebrity as the former wallows in humility and misery.
Of course, there's a slight issue given the fact that, in the movies, Thor and Jane are already acquainted with each other. But given the MCU's penchant for ret-conning (ie retrospectively adjusting) its material, can it be contrived to reset the clock on their romance? And perhaps some excuse can be made for bringing Odin back from the dead?
As for the casting of Hercules, we're thinking Dwayne Johnson – who has played the character before – needs to be brought into the MCU. (As long as his DC-affiliated Black Adam movie doesn't present a conflict of interest.)
The late, lamented Stan Lee paired with fellow artist and regular collaborator Jack Kirby for this fan-favourite storyline. It introduces the dreaded Mangog, Thor's nemesis who blames Odin for the destruction of his kind, and who wages war on the kingdom of Asgard, before the thunder god conjures an innovative solution to prevent more destruction.
Given that, in Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi acquainted himself brilliantly with the scale and action demanded from a Marvel movie, we reckon this could be an ambitious step-up. He's a film-maker with an affinity with creatures and monsters, as movies like What We Do in the Shadows attest, so he could potentially do justice to the feared Mangog. Given the odds appear to be stacked against Thor, it would also allow for a more suspenseful and intense experience than Ragnarok.
3. 'The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill'
The bizarre character of Beta Ray Bill is catnip for a film-maker like Waititi, who revels in the imaginative and the surreal. This horse-faced warrior was created by writer and artist Walt Simonson for his Thor comic book debut, and it doesn't take long for Bill to best Thor in battle.
That alone presents plenty of dramatic opportunities as far as a movie is concerned, but it gets more personal when it's revealed that Bill blames the Asgardians for the destruction of his kind. The character therefore combines a sense of vengeful savagery with poignancy, a complex mixture that is tailor-made for a film-maker of Waititi's stature.
4. 'The Midgard Serpent'
Walt Simonson returns to Thor as he depicts our hero's battle with the titular deadly serpent. What makes things more complicated is that Thor has a curse put on him by Hel, weakening his bone structure and making a triumphant outcome seem all-the-more unlikely.
Could this be an opportunity for Cate Blanchett to return as the cackling Hela? She was destroyed at the end of Ragnarok but this is the MCU, and owing to storytelling contrivance characters can often have a long shelf life. Just look at what's happening with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – killed at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, he was re-introduced via the time-travelling shenanigans of Avengers: Endgame, which in turn may set up the events of his Disney+ streaming series, set to begin this year.
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5. 'The Surtur Saga'
One of the most popular Thor story sagas, this is another Walt Simonson creation. Beginning on 10th February 1984 in Thor issue #340, Simonson expanded the Thor mythology by introducing a fiery demon inspired by Norse mythology.
As he pounds a sword on an anvil, Surtur's actions resonate on the page to the sound of the word 'doom', and he eventually rallies more and more evil creatures to his cause across the course of the story arc. Both Asgard and fellow realm Midgard eventually come under threat from Surtur, the dramatic battle culminating in March 10th 1985's Thor #353.
Let's not forget Surtur already appeared at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, voiced by Clancy Brown. Initially defeated by Thor, he is summoned again at the movie's climax in order to defeat Hela – might we imagine that Waititi will re-introduce him, giving the character more context and backstory?
Thor 4 is tentatively scheduled for release on 21st May 2021. This follows the release of Waititi's surreal Holocaust black comedy Jojo Rabbit, starring Scarlett Johansson and the director himself as Adolf Hitler, on 18th October 2019.
Let us know @Cineworld what storylines Taika Waititi needs to adapt.