Why Thor is the key to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers: Endgame

Asgard is a thing of the past, but its mightiest warrior might be the most important person to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Thor hasn’t exactly had the easiest time in the MCU — both as a character and a franchise leader. His first two solo films were just mediocre by Marvel’s (admittedly high) standards, and until Thor: Ragnarok came along, there was a strong argument to be made that he was better served as a supporting character in the Avengers team-up movies than a solo act.

It wasn’t until director Taika Waititi fully embraced the colorful, cosmic madness of Thor in 2017’s Ragnarok that actor Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder really found his MCU groove — but what a discovery it was. That feeling — that Thor had finally hit his stride — extended through his story arc in both Avengers: Infinity War and this year’s Avengers: Endgame, which put Thor front and center against Thanos and reframed him as one of Marvel’s greatest and most compelling heroes.

In the aftermath of the events of Endgame, as Marvel fans look to the future with equal parts eagerness and uncertainty, they just might soon discover that Thor is the most important figure in the next phase of the MCU.

(Note: There will be some discussion of key events from Avengers: Endgame and other MCU films from this point on, so consider this a spoiler warning.)

The legacy effect

Thor-Dark-World-ss46

There’s something to be said for being the last man (or god) standing.

Of the six heroes who came together in 2012’s franchise-defining team-up event, The Avengers, Thor and Hulk remain as the only active members of that original team in the aftermath of the events of Endgame. Hawkeye has seemingly retired (or moved to Disney Plus, anyway) after earning a well-deserved exit from world-saving heroics, and the restoration of Bruce’s psyche within Hulk’s body means that he’ll likely spend more time in the laboratory and less time, well … smashing.

That not only puts Thor front and center as the only active original Avenger, but also leaves him in the unique position of being the adventure-seeking face of the MCU’s most prominent superhero team going forward.

But good looks and a sweet ax aren’t the only things that set him up to be the MCU’s next big thing.

The friend factor

It’s no secret that Thor is a pretty popular guy. After all, he’s everyone’s favorite drinking buddy and always good for a laugh.

That spirit of camaraderie that he embodies made him an easy fit for The Avengers, and appears to have done the same for his relationship with Marvel’s other hero team, the Guardians of the Galaxy. If the closing moments of Endgame are any indication, we might even have some “Asgardians of the Galaxy” high jinks coming our way down the road.

That bodes well for the future of both teams, but those aren’t the only prominent Marvel heroes with which Thor has a significant connection.

Avengers Infinity War

Back in 1979, writer Roy Thomas used his run on The Mighty Thor series to integrate another creation of legendary comic creator Jack Kirby into the Marvel Comics universe: The Eternals.

Thomas’ multi-issue story, which was later titled “The Eternals Saga,” had Thor play a key role in bringing The Eternals into the Marvel universe again after a long period in publishing limbo. The narrative arc followed Thor as he investigated the mystery of the Celestials — massive cosmic entities responsible for creating various forms of life around the universe — only to discover the existence of the powerful, human-like beings known as the Eternals.

Marvel Studios is already well on its way to introducing the Eternals to the MCU, with Angelina Jolie attached to star in The Eternals movie and additional casting underway. Previously, the Celestials were introduced in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, meaning the stage has been set for the MCU to get a lot bigger in the near future.

That leaves Thor as the most prominent connecting thread between The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Eternals, The Celestials, and the rest of the MCU. In fact, when you consider all of Marvel Studios’ existing and future franchises, Thor has essentially become the Kevin Bacon of the MCU, with just a few degrees of separation from just about everyone.

Of course, making friends is a lot easier when you can get around quicker than anyone else.

Bifrost or bust

When Asgard was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok, audiences were led to believe that — along with the realm and most of its inhabitants — the Bifrost Bridge had been eliminated.

The magical form of transport that allowed Asgardians to travel anywhere in the Nine Realms by manipulating powerful dimensional energy was seemingly extinguished in the climax of Ragnarok, but as with most things in the superhero world, it didn’t stay dead for long.

Fortnite Avengers Endgame crossover event Thor stormbreaker

In Infinity War, Thor embarks on a mission to forge a weapon capable of defeating Thanos, following the destruction of his hammer, Mjölnir. With some help from Thor, the Dwarven blacksmith Eitri creates Stormbreaker, a powerful ax capable of harnessing and refining Thor’s own abilities, among other attributes.

“[It’s a] king’s weapon,” says Eitri of the ax during Infinity War “Meant to be the greatest in Asgard. In theory, it could even summon the Bifrost.”

And as we soon see, that power is more than theoretical, as Thor uses Stormbreaker to summon a Bifrost Bridge and transport himself, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot (who gave one of his own limbs to form Stormbreaker’s handle) into the middle of the Avengers’ battle with Thanos in Infinity War. That’s one heck of an added feature, and suggests that Stormbreaker’s importance far transcends its ability to shoot lightning or fly around a battlefield.

The scorecard

So, at this point, we know that Thor is the only founding Avenger who’s still active, has connections to nearly every character in the MCU past and future, and has the means to interact with them wherever they are in the universe.

And that’s just what we know right now about Thor and what Marvel has in store for its rapidly expanding cinematic universe.

Nothing is official at this point regarding Thor’s future — or Hemsworth’s plans, for that matter — but with so many narrative roads that all lead back to the God of Thunder, it’s difficult to dismiss his significance now and looking ahead to what Marvel has planned. He didn’t have the most auspicious of debuts in the MCU, but Thor now seems poised to carve out an important role for himself as the key figure in one of Hollywood’s greatest franchises.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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