If you missed the presence of Thor and Bruce Banner in last summer's superhero smash-up Captain America: Civil War, then the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to make it up to you with this November's Thor: Ragnarok, in which the god of thunder and the Incredible Hulk will team up to presumably prevent the titular Norse apocalypse. But a third player might be joining them, if this brief synopsis of Thor: Ragnarok on D23, the official Disney fan site, is to believed. According to the site, the sequel "brings together Thor, the Hulk, and Doctor Strange to face off against intergalactic baddies both familiar and new." Apparently Doctor Strange's role in Thor: Ragnarok may be larger than we thought.
Rumors have been swirling about how much of a part the Sorcerer Supreme might have to play in Ragnarok ever since the Doctor Strange mid-credits scene featured a face-to-face between the newly-minted hero and the hammer-swinging Avenger. However, most people wisely assumed that, if Benedict Cumberbatch's character did appear in the upcoming film, it would be a simple cameo on the level of that mid-credits scene… or even just a replay of that scene itself. (Just like the Ant-Man post-credits scene was later revealed to be a moment lifted directly from Civil War, the meeting between Thor and Strange could be an actual scene from Ragnarok.)
However, it now appears that Stephen Strange will play an even bigger role in the Thor three-quel than we originally thought. If the D23 synopsis can be believed, it seems to put the newest member of the MCU on even footing with the film's two known protagonists, as all three of them "face off against intergalactic baddies" — and if so, then that's great news for several reasons.
First of all, there's the simple fact that, at this stage in the MCU's game, there's barely any reason for pure solo films outside of brand-new character introductions like Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel. (Even the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming will see the webslinger teaming up with Iron Man in his first "solo" outing, since the two already joined forces in Civil War.) This is the reward for Marvel Studio's patience; after six years and 14 highly-successful movies, they finally get to throw all their characters into one giant sandbox and see how they interact in different combinations.
In fact, at this point true solo movies are almost nonsensical. Does it really make sense that, after all the Avengers have been through together, that they wouldn't call each other for help? Phase 2 of the MCU suffered from this phenomenon the most; it strained credulity that, in a post-Avengers world, Tony Stark and Thor wouldn't have recruited their fellow superheroes to fight the forces of evil in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. Phase 3's launching pad, Captain America: Civil War, proved the concept that Marvel can effectively both trace a single character's emotional journey while not ignoring the giant world they've built for themselves — and it also proved a critical hit and a commercial behemoth, to boot.
It's no surprise to see that Marvel is already replicating that recipe by throwing a brand new combination of heroes together in Ragnarok. The Thor movies are arguably the weakest entries in the MCU so far, so hopefully expanding the hero's fantastical world by including the Hulk and Doctor Strange will help increase the franchise's scale and stakes, and help it mesh more seamlessly with the rest of the MCU.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Doctor Strange specifically is a great addition to the Thor franchise. With the release of his first film last fall, the MCU was introduced to the concept of the "multiverse," a well-known phenomenon in the comics that had yet to make the leap to the big screen. The idea of multiple realities and the ability to travel through multiple dimensions make the Sorcerer Supreme a perfect fit for the fantastical world of Asgard and the rest of the Nine Realms, and the perfect companion for a hero of ancient mythology.
Furthermore, the fact that Stephen Strange is in possession of an Infinity Stone — the Time Stone, held within the amulet known as the Eye of Agamotto — is bound to come up in Ragnarok, given that Thor is currently on a quest to learn as much as he can about those fabled gems. (It's the reason he left Earth at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and the reason why he was absent from the action in Civil War.) And the power that the Eye gives Doctor Strange to manipulate time will undoubtedly come in handy during battle with "intergalactic baddies"… perhaps even as a tool to revert an out-of-control Hulk back into his Bruce Banner form?
Finally, there's the simple fact that, by teaming up with Thor now, Doctor Strange will already have an "in" when it comes to joining the ranks of the Avengers in 2018's Infinity War. It will be quite the feat for Marvel Studios to find a way to gracefully integrate so many different characters from so many different franchises into one film; any seeds they can plant in advance of that film's release will undoubtedly pay off down the road.
Of course, we still don't know exactly how much screen time Stephen Strange will have in Ragnarok, but it seems clear that he'll be there to put in more than just one quick cameo. And the fact that they're inserting the brand new character so soon after his introduction this past November means that Marvel Studios continues to have great confidence in the success of their beloved properties. Hopefully, with the Sorcerer Supreme's help, Ragnarok will be yet another magical entry in the MCU's promising Phase 3.