Thor: The Dark World hits theaters today and, this being a Marvel movie, audiences are once again treated to some post-credits madness. So who decided to pop up this time? Agent Coulson? Nick Fury? Mickey Rourke? Nope. Instead, fans got their first glimpse at a new character, one who will play a major role in next summer’s superhero space epic Guardians of the Galaxy.
Obviously, SPOILERS follow, so if you haven't seen the film yet, bookmark this post for after you do.
Like The Avengers, The Dark World has not one, but two post-credits sequences. The first pops up midway and features Asgardian badasses Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) walking down a dark hallway. In their possession is a box containing an infinity gem called the Aether, the omnipotent power source that Thor 2 villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) tried to destroy the universe with. Eventually, the two warriors encounter … Benicio Del Toro! Well, more specifically, it’s Del Toro as Taneleer Tivan, better known as the Collector. Since Asgard already has another infinity gem in its possession — that would be the Tesseract, which Loki used to recruit his army in The Avengers — and because keeping two infinity gems in the same location would not be wise, they have decided to hand over the Aether. After Sif and Volstagg leave, the camera pans toward Del Toro’s white-coiffed Collector, as he ominously states, “One down, five to go.”
So how does this scene — which was shot by Guardians director James Gunn — fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Or, as the man sitting next to me during my screening so eloquently put it, What the hell just happened there?) Before we answer that, we need to understand who Del Toro is playing. The Collector, who first popped up in "Avengers #28" in 1966, is one of the elders of the universe, an essentially immortal group of survivors from extinct races. Like any Marvel superhero, the elders all have their own idiosyncrasies. In the case of the Collector, he (you guessed it) collects the universe’s rare artifacts, which he keeps tucked away in hidden space museums where no one can get to them, hence the Asgardians trusting him with an infinity gem.
There are six infinity gems in total. Collect them all, and you get the Infinity Gauntlet, a tool of immense, godlike power, and one both Avengers post-credits villains, Thanos and the Collector, are apparently after (granted, the Collector likely wants the Infinity Gauntlet specifically to prevent Thanos from getting it, which he would use to destroy the universe).
Marvel president Kevin Feige and Gunn have already confirmed Thanos’s presence in next summer’s Guardians, a film that the Collector will also play a major role in. That makes this Thor 2 post-credits handoff the connective tissue between Phases Two and Three of Marvel’s overarching plan. Essentially, the scene sets up a potential showdown in either Guardians or Avengers 2 (or both) between Thanos, who’s after the infinity gems, and our superheroes, who will look to stop the alien from blowing the universe to bits.
As for the second post-credits scene, it features Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) moping over a bowl of cereal, wondering whether Thor will ever return to Earth. Seconds later, he arrives on the patio like the lead in some cheesy Asgardian romcom. Jane runs outside, they kiss and live happily ever after, etc. Lastly, we cut to some comic relief, as a Frost Giants beast who was transported to Earth during the film’s final battle is seen traipsing around a London industrial yard chasing birds.
Obviously, this sequence isn’t as apocalyptic as the first one (well, unless you live in London, in which case, RUN — there’s a huge Frost Giants beast running around the city and causing havoc). However, it will certainly have an effect on whatever happens to Thor in the immediate future. Before the credits rolled, the prince is seen turning down his chance to be King of Asgard in order to live on Earth with Jane. The consequence of Thor’s decision to stay on our planet will likely play out when the Avengers meet again in Age of Ultron in 2015, as well as whenever Thor 3 hits theaters.