Thor 4: Hercules Reveals New Post-Credits Scene Strategy For Marvel

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Thor 4: Hercules Reveals New Post-Credits Scene Strategy For Marvel

SPOILER ALERT: This story follows the development of the plot and the first post-credits scene in Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder, currently in theaters.

Since its inception, Marvel Studios has been known to use its post-credits scenes as bonus teasers for its upcoming films. Sometimes the scenes hinted at a direct sequel, such as when Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) showed Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) the Wasp suit in late 2015’s Ant-Man and heralded Hope’s rise to the title role in Ant-Man and the Wasp” in 2018. Just as often, they serve as handovers between characters: Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) visit to Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) sanctuary at the end of 2016’s “Doctor Strange” leads Thor’s search for his father in “Thor : Ragnarok” from 2017 a.”

These scenes were simultaneously fun throwaways and the essential threads that bind the Marvel Cinematic Universe together. Audiences wait to see her for a taste of what’s to come, and that ritual has been crucial in cementing the MCU as the greatest storytelling force in Hollywood history.

On rare occasions, the credits also introduced new characters, such as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who appeared in late 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which helped lay the foundation for their pivotal roles set in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” But aside from the late 2012 introduction of Thanos in “The Avengers,” audiences — at least the savvy audience that follows entertainment news — knew well in advance that these characters and actors would come.

No longer. Last year, Marvel Studios began changing its strategy for the post-credits scenes for its feature films, using them less as previews for previously announced titles and more as de facto casting announcements for brand new characters whose futures in the MCU have yet to be revealed is unknown.

The end of 2021’s Eternals could have contained a spoonful of the cosmic goings-on in Thor: Love and Thunder. Instead, Harry Styles appears as Starfox, aka Thanos’ brother Eros, who talks vaguely about helping the Eternals find their lost compatriots. At Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in late May, we could have gotten a taste of the upcoming multiverse shenanigans in February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, or in the upcoming second season of Loki. Instead, Charlize Theron suddenly strides towards Strange on a city street and challenges him to join her on a quest into the Dark Dimension, without ever giving her name. (It’s clear.)

Lately, one might expect the post-credits scene for Thor: Love and Thunder (which hit theaters Friday) to hint at what’s to come in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, given the role of the Guardians in the first act of the film. Instead, we meet Hercules — the mythical Greek demigod and mainstay of Marvel Comics since 1965 — played by Emmy-winning “Ted Lasso” star Brett Goldstein.

Hercules’ makes its MCU debut following a speech by his father, Zeus (Russell Crowe), who clashes with Thor earlier in the film until the god of thunder impales Zeus with his own lightning bolt. In the post-credits scene, the camera remains on Zeus as he tends to his wound and, for someone off-screen, bitterly wonders how the gods of ancient myth were so overshadowed by aspiring superheroes. To regain her greatness, Zeus orders his son Hercules to bring down Thor. The camera cuts to a muscular, armored, and hairy Goldstein snarling “Yes, Dad,” with all the seething anger we’ve come to expect from Goldstein’s “Ted Lasso” performance as reluctantly retired footballer Roy Kent.

As with Styles and Theron, Marvel Studios has yet to specify when or how Goldstein will return in the MCU, but the good money rests with these actors co-creating the respective sequels for the films they first appeared in. In the Starfox comics, after all is an Eternal, Clea marries Doctor Strange, and Hercules begins as a Thor antagonist before the two become friends.

Still, it’s a mark of deep confidence (with a healthy dose of hubris) that Marvel Studios would use these scenes to introduce new characters without also specifying exactly where those characters are going. Either way, the thrill is more about seeing Styles, Theron, and Goldstein appear in the MCU than what those appearances might mean for the larger story, especially as the MCU is stretching thinner than ever. There is great storytelling potential in Starfox, Clea and Hercules. But with over 25 films and Disney+ series already on the horizon, Marvel Studios is adding three more Leading characters in the mix risk compounding the complaint that keeping up with the MCU feels less like fun and more like chores.

Originally, Marvel had planned to initiate this strategy earlier with the appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the post-credits scene of Black Widow. This film should of course be released for the first time in May 2020. But the pandemic pushed it back to July 2021, skipping Val’s second appearance on the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In this show, Val gets a proper induction, so the excitement of seeing Louis-Dreyfus goes hand in hand with a better understanding of the nefarious role she has to play within the MCU. When Val reappears in Black Widow and orders Yelena (Florence Pugh) to go after Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), we’re more interested in what that means for these characters than we are in the surprise of suddenly seeing Louis-Dreyfus in a Marvel movie.

Maybe Marvel Studios just outgrew the need for post-credits scenes – no need to tease us anymore when we already know it’s all connected. However, rituals are difficult to break even when they are no longer useful.

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