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Saturday, September 24, 2016

8 Characters Sam Neill Could be in Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok is shaping up to be the most exciting new Marvel movie since Winter Soldier.  The upcoming conclusion to the Thor trilogy jumped from being just another entry in Marvel’s least impressive franchise to something of actual note when Taika Waititi signed up to direct.  

Then the Hulk was revealed to be a major part of the film followed by Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Jeff Goldblum joining the cast.  Of course, the “Thor on Vacation” comedy video was an absolute hoot, and now another Jurassic Park alumni has joined the film with Sam Neill, playing a secret role. 

Neill’s announcement is a serious game changer and right from the outset we can extrapolate a few things about his character.  He’s a big name actor, so it’s probably an important part but his limited involvement in production hints at a more restricted role, suggesting the kind of big, meaty, multi-film role that Marvel likes signing more venerable actors like Neill.  With that in mind, and knowing the trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve come up with eight possible roles Sam Neill could be playing in Thor: Ragnarok.

This one fits for many reasons, not the least of which being that Marvel recently announced Mephisto would be coming to the MCU.  That alone up-jumped the character to the top of this list but, as I say, there are plenty of other reasons for it.  Firstly, Mephisto makes a lot of sense as a character to introduce to the MCU at this moment in time for future installments.  

Even though Infinity War doesn’t seem to be sticking too closely to its various source materials, it’s Mephisto is still a pretty major character from the various Infinity stories.  What’s more, if Marvel wants Doctor Strange and Ghost Rider to hold together as the supernatural/fantasy side of the MCU they’d need a heavy hitter like Mephisto in their corner. 

As to why Sam Neill would fit so well in the part, it’s that he already played one of cinema’s best Satans in Event Horizon.  Seriously, Sam has a long history of great villain turns, but his role as the space cenobite tormentor on a haunted spaceship is one of his best so I could see Marvel putting him to work as Satan again.  Finally, Mephisto has always had a significant role in the Thor comics but, even more importantly, he’s closely tied to Hela, Thor: Ragnarok’s villain, as they’re both Lords of Death.

Oh yeah, we’re starting weird with this list.  So, the Supreme Intelligence is one of those beautifully surreal Marvel cosmic characters like Ego, the living planet, who’s so strange it’s like forcibly iconic.  

The Supreme Intelligence, as the name suggests, is the supreme leader of the race the Kree- the blue alien species that Ronan was part of in Guardians of the Galaxy and appeared sporadically on Agents of SHIELD’s second season.  The Kree are a pretty major force in the Marvel universe, both in the comics and on the screen.  They’re the folks who created the Inhumans and they were involved in a war with the Nova Corp before Guardians of the Galaxy.

If Neill is playing the Supreme Intelligence it would be in aid of setting up a lot of future storylines.  The Kree would no doubt be involved in the Infinity War given Ronan’s connections to Thanos but giving them a leader could be the first step towards another major storyline.  

What I’m saying is that Marvel almost certainly has their eyes turned towards the 2020s and they probably want a post-Thanos story in place for that decade and establishing the Supreme Intelligence would be a good first step in that plan, especially considering the Kree-Skrull War is one of the cornerstones Avengers stories.  What’s more, casting Neill as the Supreme Intelligence would allow him to be more relaxed in his performance as he just needs to provide voice over. 

Here’s a guy I’m surprised hasn’t been cast already in the MCU.  The High Evolutionary is a cosmically powerful and mysterious space figure obsessed with evolution and genetic manipulation.  He’s one of the more benevolent Marvel cosmic beings, usually working as an ally of Earth even though he’s nowhere near as powerful as the likes of Galactus or the Celestials.  

High Evolutionary’s biggest contribution to the Marvel Universe was creating Adam Warlock, a genetically enhanced being designed to be the next step in galactic evolution.  Warlock is one of the three characters you need to have to pull off an Infinity Gauntlet story and his cocoon already popped up in Guardians of the Galaxy, so it feels like only a matter of tie before the Evolutionary makes himself known. 

Aside from Adam Warlock, the Evolutionary also created one of the coolest Marvel space concepts called Counter-Earth.  It’s a planetary copy of the Earth populated with animal people and weird counterparts to various humans that’ve evolved in a different direction.  

While I’m not sure Counter-Earth could ever show up in the films (though I’m certainly hopeful,) Evolutionary could play a role in transforming the MCU’s Earth into a planet with more commonplace super humans.  At the very least he’s a good character to have on hand to be a cosmic lynchpin, a font of knowledge that could show up to connect various films in Marvel’s cosmic corner. 

This one is a bit of a cheat as it’s two characters but they’re similar enough I’m letting it slide.  What’s more, Kang and Immortus are actually the same person in-universe, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up played by the same actor.  Of the two I think Immortus is more likely given that Sam Neill is getting up there in years so he’d be better served by a more physically relaxed role.  

Immortus is a lot like the High Evolutionary as a concept, in that Neill would be a good part of the universe to have to explain things or hold onto stuff across films.  He’s a time master of the distant future who sometimes interferes for his own gain but mostly treats time travel as an academic concern. 

Additionally, Immortus is also the distant future version of the character Kang.  Kang, also from the future just not as far into the future as Immortus, is a time conqueror and tyrant.  He’s mastered the art of time travel and uses it to conquer previous eras, pitting himself and his forces against the greatest heroes and masterminds of all of time.  

He’d be more like the Supreme Intelligence; a useful character to have around for after this whole Thanos thing resolves itself.  He’s one of the few legitimate major Avengers bad guys and his time travel shenanigans could be used as an excuse for Marvel to shake up its characters and casting if they wanted. 

Hey, here’s another character I also featured on the “who’s Benjamin Bratt playing” list.  In all honesty, if I had to pick one guy off this list for Sam Neill to actually be playing it’d be the Gardener, hands down.  He’s one of my favorite bizarre characters in the annals of Marvel history, even if his place in the mythos has kind of been supplanted in the MCU. 

He’s one of the Elders of the Universe, a group of incredibly ancient beings, each the last member of the universe’s first few races.  So far, three of the Elders have already been added to the MCU- The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ego the Living Planet played by Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok.  Given that and the Elders’ role in the Infinity Gauntlet saga, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel was working to add all of them to the MCU.

The idea behind the Elders is that each of them is super into one specific hobby- the Collector collects, the Grandmaster loves gambling, and the Gardener is a huge gardener.  He maintains an entire massive botanical marvel created using the Time Stone- forcing the plants through their growth cycle than freezing them at the zenith of their beauty.  Even though Dr. Strange is the MCU’s steward of the Time Gem, I’d still like to see the Gardener show up somewhere, as he’s just too fantastic an idea to leave out. 

Earlier I mentioned there are three characters that pretty much have to be involved in any adaptation of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet stories after Thanos and Adam Warlock meet the third and final character- Eternity.  Eternity is a very strange concept but honestly makes a lot of sense in a meta-context.  

Eternity is, quite literally, the Marvel Universe.  Getting more sophisticated about it, Eternity is a living personification of the Universe’s consciousness, wielding vast cosmic power beyond almost all others and appearing during major upheaval when the Universe needs to protect itself. 

As I said, the idea is pretty out there, but it makes a lot of sense given how many incredibly powerful artifacts and character the Marvel Universe has in it.  The Universe is near constantly under threat from the Infinity stones, extra-dimensional invasion, the cosmic cube or god knows what other threat so giving it a living being with a face and a voice to express itself during times of crisis was almost a necessity.  Eternity has to be coming to the MCU sooner or later, and Sam Neill is one of the few actors who could probably imbue the role with the gravitas it demands.  

Another cheat but, much like Kang and Immortus, these two are just too intertwined for me to split them into two entries as most of the reasoning and points I’d make are pretty much identical.  This goes back to a major theory I’ve been pushing for a while now and will keep pushing all the way up to Marvel Phase 5.  

A while back it came to light that there was a scene in Age of Ultron where Thor talked about how Greek mythology wasn’t real, but Marvel ordered it cut for unknown reasons.  Ever since then I’ve maintained Marvel is working to bring the Olympian Gods into the MCU, possibly as a stand-in for Thor and the Asgardians in Phase 4. 

If that is the case, Zeus and Pluto would be a major necessity.  Zeus is, of course, the king o the Greek Gods, a role that could serve as a replacement for Anthony Hopkins’ Odin.  Neill is a decidedly less busy as an actor so he’d be a good substitute, but his history of villainy could also make him a rock solid Pluto, God of the Dead.  Pluto has been a major Thor antagonist on multiple occasions and is part of the several Marvel lords of the dead like Hela, Ragnarok’s villain, and Mephisto, who I mentioned earlier. 

Here’s my other big phase 4 pet theory: that Marvel has/will regain the rights to the Fantastic Four.  Though nobody’s sure how much the FF rights include one thing that is for certain is that Dr. Doom is under their banner and getting him into the MCU would be priority 1 for Marvel if they got those rights back. 

The crux of my belief that Marvel has regained the FF rights is that they’ve already signed off on Fox’s various X-Men TV show projects, which means that Fox has managed to offer them something enticing enough to broker a compromise, something like the rights to the FF.  If that is the case, Thor: Ragnarok would be the next chance Marvel would have to get Dr. Doom on-screen and in-universe after the premiere of Fox’s X-Men show Legion in early 2017. 

As for the casting, Sam Neill makes A LOT of sense as Dr. Doom.  As mentioned, Neill has a great history as a villainous actor and he brings a ton of gravitas and menace to his roles.  What’s more, casting him in the role would mean Marvel is taking a split approach to the character, which would be for the best.  People forget this now but Darth Vader was modeled somewhat on Dr. Doom, and I’ve long maintained the film adaptations should follow Vader’s example and split the character between a voice actor and a body double. 

Doom’s robo-armor and metal face mask means you can get some stuntman or bodybuilder in the suit and let an actual actor, like Sam Neill, take up the slack of voicing him.  I’m not sure exactly how Dr. Doom would fit into the plot of Thor: Ragnarok, but it’s not like a techno-wizard dictator would be that out of place given this is a movie with the goddess of death, a gamma beast, and ancient alien gambler. 

Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled to premiere on November 3, 2017

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