Marvel Studios officially announced some major cast additions to Thor: Ragnarok and when I first read them, one major thought popped into my head:
Lord of the Rings.
Now granted, that's going to happen whenever you cast Cate Blanchett and Karl Urban, who were both in the acclaimed movie franchise, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who had that thought. The thing is, it got me to thinking about what Marvel MIGHT be trying to pull off here.
Arguably, Thor: Ragnarok is the most anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe on the schedule in terms of storyline development because when we last saw Thor at the end of Age of Ultron, he was looking for Thanos. He doesn't know he's looking for Thanos yet, but he knows someone is making a play for the Infinity Stones and he's really the only Avenger at this point that can leave the planet and go off to other worlds.
So the hope is that since Captain America: Civil War (out NOW), Doctor Strange (Nov 4) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017) are all Earth-based movies, the development of Thanos' grand plan will come from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017) and the third Thor movie, due out November 3, 2017. Knowing this, Ragnarok is certain to be on a grand scale, larger than the previous two Thor movies combined and rivaling the size of Civil War or the Avengers movies.
Considering the nature of the Asgardians and all the other non-humans we've seen in the MCU to this point, it's easy to see this movie having a Lord of the Rings scale of epic, especially when you see concept art like this:
It's par for the course in terms of how the Thor movies have looked to this point, but when you consider that Ragnarok won't be Earth-centric like the first two Thor movies have been, it's clear that this one is going to be a truly galactic affair from start to finish.
Maybe that's why Marvel added the big names that it did to the cast, to justify the scale of the movie getting bigger. However, look at how big-name Thor's cast already is:
Not to mention, they've added Hulk:
And now they've added these actors:
Really? The stable of established British actors and Mark Ruffalo that you already had wasn't enough? You had to add even more star power? This is why Marvel has been dynamite for the last eight years.
The thing is, in those eight years since 2008 over now 13 movies, not one of them has won a single Academy Award. A number of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been nominated mostly for visual effects work, but no golden statues for them to this point.
So in the midst of this major casting upgrade to Thor: Ragnarok, I submit that Marvel might be trying to win its first Oscar with what would be its 17th movie. Here's my logic for this:
CATE BLANCHETT - You really only needed to add her to give Ragnarok instant Oscar credibility. Two-time Academy Award winner with six total nominations in her career and she's far from done. She's the British Meryl Streep. In fact, she might be better now.
ACADEMY AWARD EXPERIENCE - Add Anthony Hopkins' Oscar win among four total nominations and Mark Ruffalo's three Oscar nominations in the last five years. Together with Blanchett, that's three actors in the main cast that have been nominated a combined 13 times and won three of them.
LORD OF THE RINGS - As mentioned before, Blanchett and Urban were part of that series that won 17 Academy Awards among 30 nominations. With Asgard and the other worlds carrying a true fantasy approach to the story, drawing parallels between the two are not so unreasonable. If not any awards for the actors' performances, visual effects and costume design could be the ticket to Marvel's first ever Oscar.
THE RELEASE DATE - November 3, 2017. While Oscar consideration for movies is technically year-round, it never hurts to release it within the Academy Awards' stable of movies. A late fall release keeps Thor from being a summer blockbuster, but it all but guarantees that it will command some attention during awards season, should it be well-received.
By and large, comic book movies and science fiction or fantasy movies don't win major Oscars and no one should expect Thor: Ragnarok to be different, but if it is different and does manage to win any major Academy Awards, we may be able to point right back to this casting update as the tipping point for it. We eagerly await November 3, 2017.