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Love and Thunder’s post-credits scene is the latest example of Marvel Studios’ risky new strategy

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses the plot development and first post-credit scene in Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which is playing in theaters now.

Since its inception, Marvel Studios has used its post-credits scenes as bonus teasers for its upcoming films. Sometimes the scenes pointed to a direct sequel, like when Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) showed Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) the Wasp costume at the end of 2015’s “Ant-Man,” presaging the rise of Hope to title role status for 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp”. ending of 2016’s “Doctor Strange” sets up Thor’s search for his father in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.”

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These scenes have been both fun throwaways and the essential threads that hold the Marvel Cinematic Universe together. Audiences wait to see them for a taste of what’s to come, and this ritual was crucial in cementing the MCU as the greatest storytelling force in Hollywood history.

On rare occasions, the end credits also introduced new characters, such as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) appearing at the end of 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which helped to lay the groundwork for their crucial roles. in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015. But with the exception of the introduction of Thanos at the end of “The Avengers” in 2012, the public – at least, the knowledgeable ones who follow the news of the entertainment – already knew that these characters and actors were arriving well in advance.

Not anymore. Last year, Marvel Studios began shifting its strategy for feature film post-credits scenes, using them less as previews for previously announced titles and more as de facto casting announcements for new characters including future in the MCU is still unknown.

The ending of 2021’s “Eternals” could have included a dollop of the cosmic events 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 the end of May’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” we might have gotten a taste of the multiversal shenanigans to come in February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” or the upcoming second season of ” Loki”. Instead, Charlize Theron suddenly walks up to Strange on a city street, challenging him to join her on a quest to the Dark Dimension without ever announcing his name. (It’s Clea.)

More recently, one might expect the post-credits scene of “Thor: Love and Thunder” (which opened on Friday) to hint at what’s to come in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” given the role of the Guardians in the film’s first act.Instead, we’re introduced to Hercules – the mythical Greek demigod and mainstay of Marvel Comics since 1965 – played by award-winning ‘Ted Lasso’ star Brett Goldstein. an Emmy.

Hercules makes his 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 fixed on Zeus as he tends to his wound, bitterly wondering to someone offscreen how the gods of ancient myth found themselves so overshadowed by upstart superheroes. To regain their stature, Zeus orders his son Hercules to bring down Thor. The camera cuts to a buff, armored, hairy-chested Goldstein, growling “Yes, Father,” with all the seething rage 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 say when or how Goldstein will reappear in the MCU, but the good money goes to those actors who co-direct the respective sequels to the movies they first appeared in. After all, in the comics, Starfox is an Eternal, Clea marries Doctor Strange, and Hercules begins as an antagonist to Thor before the two become friends.

Still, it’s a mark of deep confidence (with a healthy pinch of hubris) that Marvel Studios would use these scenes to introduce new characters without also pointing out precisely where those characters are going. In each case, the thrill is more about seeing Styles, Theron, and Goldstein appear in the MCU than anything those appearances might mean for the larger story, especially as the MCU stretches itself thinner than it does. has never been before. There is great storytelling potential in Starfox, Clea and Hercules. But with over 25 Disney+ movies and series already on the horizon for Marvel Studios, adding three After the main characters in the mix are likely to exacerbate the complaint that following the MCU is starting to feel less like fun and more like homework.

In fact, Marvel had planned to initiate this strategy even earlier – with the appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Fontaine’s Valentina Allegra in the post-credits scene of “Black Widow”. That movie, of course, was supposed to premiere in May 2020. But the pandemic pushed it back to July 2021, bumping it up to what was supposed to be Val’s second appearance, in the Disney+ series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. In this show, Val gets a proper introduction, so the excitement of seeing Louis-Dreyfus goes hand in hand with a better understanding of the nefarious role she must play within the MCU. When Val reappears in “Black Widow,” ordering Yelena (Florence Pugh) to go after Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), we’re more interested in what it means for those characters than the surprise of suddenly seeing Louis-Dreyfus in a Marvel movie.

Maybe Marvel Studios just outgrew the need for post-credits scenes – there’s no need to tease us anymore when we already know it all ties together. Rituals, however, are difficult to break, even after they are no longer useful.

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