That title possibly counts as clickbait. No, Chris Hemsworth is not being replaced in the role of the thunder-god Thor. But he will be joined by a new Thor in his upcoming fourth film, which was officially revealed last night at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation.
First of all, let’s just talk about the fact that the titles revealed at SDCC are some of the craziest, most over-the-top names I’ve ever heard – Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings; Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness; WandaVision. But it’s this one, Thor: Love And Thunder, that takes the cake and eats it too. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from director Taika Waititi, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let him be crazy, because he does it really well, and it’s brought about some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable moments – like Jeff Goldblum strutting around in a sparkly gold bathrobe, or Cate Blanchett with antlers, or…literally everything in Thor: Ragnarok, honestly. But Waititi’s craziness also meant that, when he took over the Thor franchise, he basically had to change a lot of stuff in order to make it work for him – victims of his beautifully bizarre style included the Warriors Three, Odin, and Jane Foster.
Now, technically, Jane Foster’s sudden disappearance from the MCU wasn’t really his fault. Actress Natalie Portman had played the one-dimensional “scientist girlfriend” character in two films already, and had been reduced to a damsel in distress on multiple occasions. She was bored with the character, she had no interest in the stagnant franchise, and she wanted out. She got out. So out, in fact, that it was something of a miracle when she “appeared” in Avengers: Endgame via recycled footage from Thor: The Dark World, and was even given her own title-card in the film’s credits. It seemed almost like an apology to the character that Marvel had overlooked, ignored, and eventually had to scrap because of their creative mistakes. In Thor: Ragnarok, she didn’t even get that – just a brief line from Thor about how she had broken up with him, and that was it. It wasn’t long before the god of thunder was making eyes at Valkyrie, the alcoholic warrior goddess/mercenary.
Well, two things have happened since then: one, Valkyrie is now openly bisexual, and has no interest in Thor, despite his flirtatious advances. Actress Tessa Thompson has made that clear in the past, but she confirmed it onstage last night, with Marvel president Kevin Feige’s approval, and Feige commented afterwards that Valkyrie will indeed be in a relationship with another woman in Thor: Love And Thunder. In fact, Thompson suggested that Valkyrie will be actively searching for a Queen to rule alongside her as she leads the people of New Asgard into an uncertain future.
The other big thing? Oh yeah, Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU for Thor: Love And Thunder, and, oh right, she’s still playing Jane Foster but this is Jane Foster as female Thor, and, I almost forgot to mention, she can wield Mjolnir now, and I am honestly about to pass out.
It was shock-and-awe last night: when Natalie Portman came onstage to accept the Hammer of Thor from Taika Waititi, Marvel fans around the world were absolutely flabbergasted. Certain fans went online to cheer and applaud the brave decision; others went online to complain bitterly about feminists taking over the MCU. The reaction to this has been incredible to watch. It was easily one of the biggest highlights of the presentation: Portman is obviously excited to be back, and this time she (and we) can be assured that she’s not going to be anybody’s boring-love-interest-sidekick – nope, this time around, she’s a superhero in her own right. It remains to be seen whether or not Waititi will adapt some of the other aspects of Jane Foster’s character from the comics: specifically, the fact that she is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away. Waititi is capable of inserting powerful emotion into his generally funny stories, as the death of Odin in Thor: Ragnarok proves.
Finally, yes, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor will still be in the movie, though there’s not actually any confirmation of whether or not the “Thor” in the title refers to him or Lady Thor. We’ll presumably find out when the films arrives in theaters November 5th, 2021.