WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok, in theaters now.
Although Idris Elba's Heimdall appeared in both 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World, he was almost criminally under-used, despite the character's importance as protector of Asgard. Therefore, when it was confirmed the actor would reprise his role for Thor: Ragnarok, fans were eager to learn how integral the guardian of the Bifrost Bridge would be to the sequel's plot.
Their interest was no doubt further piqued by repeated assertions, beginning last year, that Heimdall would have much more to do in the film. With Thor: Ragnarok playing in the United Kingdom ahead of its U.S. release, we can confirm those weren't empty promises. The all-seeing and all-hearing Asgardian receives better treatment in this film than its its two predecessors.
Early in the movie, it’s divulged by Skurge (Karl Urban) that Heimdall no longer watches Bifrost because he's been branded “a traitor.” Soon after, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) learns that Loki (Tom Hiddleston), still disguised as Odin following the events of The Dark World, has ruled Asgard all this time, having dumped Anthony Hopkins' All-Father in a retirement home on Earth. That explains why Heimdall was forced to become a fugitive, as he'd likely see through Loki's tricks.
However, if it weren't for his inclusion in promotional posters, viewers might go a while assuming Heimdall isn't in Thor: Ragnarok at all -- that is, until Hela (Cate Blanchett) descends upon Asgard to claim the throne, leading to his introduction. He trawls the wooded outskirts of the realm to protect those fleeing from Hela’s undead army. Telling a group of Asgardians to stand back, he takes out several reanimated warriors by himself. It’s a moment Heimdall's fans are bound to appreciate.
After that, he leads the refugees to a building in which a large number of Asgardians seek safety, and it becomes apparent Heimdall has taken it upon himself to be their protector.
Later, Thor contacts the former gatekeeper and not only uses Heimdall’s all-seeing eyes to keep tabs on Hela but also to help find a way for him to escape the planet Sakaar. In the film’s final scene, in which Thor and his allies battle the goddess of death, Heimdall faces several of her fiendish warriors as he herds the rescued Asgardians onto a spaceship set to carry them to safety.
The last we see of Heimdall is on that ship, where he looks on as the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and, of course, Thor square off against Hela, unleashing Surtur and triggering Ragnarok.
While he's not a central player in Thor: Ragnarok, it’s good to see Heimdall finally receiving significant screen time. His scenes still may only amount to a few minutes, but he matters to the overall story. That's refreshing, after the character has been largely overlooked for years.
Elba has expressed an interest in playing a larger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and some fans of theorized Heimdall could actually be integral to the overarching story as the final Infinity Stone, the Soul Stone. However, that is yet to be tested, and Heimdall's role with the displaced Asgardians following the events of Thor: Ragnarok remains to be seen.
In theaters now, director Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Karl Urban as Skurge.