3:13pm PT by Graeme McMillan
Sam Neill's 'Thor: Ragnarok' Role Could Be More Important Than It Seems
A lot remains unknown about Marvel's third Thor movie, 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, and now we can add one more question to the puzzle: Just what is Sam Neill doing in the movie?
The Jurassic Park actor revealed that he makes an appearance in the Taika Waititi-directed movie during a recent interview, although that was the only bean he was willing to spill at the time.
"I’m not really allowed to say this and I can’t tell you what it is…I did a couple of days on Thor just before I came over here," Neill said in an interview with The ShortList, adding, "If I say anything else, Marvel’s secret agents, and they are lethal, will come and get me and probably my children, as well."
Well, so much for hoping that Neill could offer a clue about his role in Thor: Ragnarok. (Although, really, perhaps someone should step in to deal with Marvel's use of deadly force when it comes to protecting spoilers.) Luckily, circumstances — and the convoluted comic book mythology of the Marvel Universe — help make speculation about who he could be playing as easy as joining the Avengers if you're not a bad guy and show up in a Marvel movie.
Thor: Ragnarok, after all, features Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, a cosmic being with a penchant for gambling. When he's not making bad bets and manipulating superheroes to take part in his games, the Grandmaster is one of the Elders of the Universe, a loose collective of aliens — each the last surviving member of their respective races — who sit in judgement of the big events of the Marvel Universe.
Interestingly, the Grandmaster isn't the only Elder to show up in a Marvel movie to date; Benicio del Toro played another, the Collector, in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. Kurt Russell's living planet Ego, who'll show up in next year's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is also part of the collective. Perhaps you can see a trend emerging here — helped no small amount by the fact that Neill fits firmly in the "60-something actor known for 1980s and '90s roles in cult and/or blockbuster movies beloved by the nerd audience" demographic of all the other Elders announced since Del Toro's casting.
If Neill is playing an Elder, the question then becomes which one? Some are perhaps too ridiculous — the Runner, who, yes, likes to run — or too seemingly non-dynamic enough for the big screen: Would audiences really want to see The Gardener, who is an intergalactic pacifist and horticulturalist, for example? What about the Caregiver, the Astronomer or the Contemplator, all of whom are pretty well described by their names?
Others are perhaps more palatable for the movies: the Trader's name might not suggest much excitement, but he is a master manipulator and dealmaker, which might make him a handy character to keep around for future movies. Similarly, the Judicator and the Explorer are both characters that may prove their worth as background characters, as their names would suggest. (The Obliterator, perhaps, less so; Marvel already has the Punisher in its Netflix back pocket.)
There are Elders that would seem obvious to bring into proceedings, especially ahead of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. The Champion of the Universe, for example, is an immortal who had proclaimed himself the greatest warrior in existence — not only someone to have on your side when you face off against Thanos, but great cannon-fodder to kill off in order to prove Thanos is a major threat. Father Time, too, is enough of a powerful threat to bring onstage in order to give Thanos some teeth by defeating him. Could either of these be Neill's Thor role? It's not impossible, but there's a better option remaining.
If there's an Elder who deserves to show up on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, it's the Possessor — a scholar who believes that he holds the key to all knowledge in the universe, thanks to a mystical object called the Runestaff. If ever anything sounded like an Infinity Stone in disguise, it's the Runestaff, and there are still some Infinity Stones out there looking to be collected ahead of Infinity War. Could Sam Neill be brought onstage only to give Thanos what he's looking for ahead of the biggest Marvel adventure of all?
All will be revealed Nov. 2017, when Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters.