Chris Hemsworth is back as Thor for the Marvel hero’s fourth solo movie (the first MCU character to boast that distinction) in Thor: Love and Thunder, but this time out, he has some notable new – yet familiar – help on the battlefield.
After sitting out Thor: Ragnarok, Natalie Portman is back in Love and Thunder as Jane Foster, and in a very notable way. In a storyline based on the comic book from writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman, Jane now wields Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, and possesses all of the powers of her ex-boyfriend as well. We’ll leave the details of how and why Jane gains these powers (and how the hammer is reforged after Hela destroyed it in Ragnarok) for the film itself, but suffice to say, Jane’s return and her new abilities are quite a jolt to Thor, as the two team with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taika Waititi, also returning as co-writer and director) against Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale).
Fandom spoke to Portman and Waititi about Jane and Portman’s simultaneous return to the MCU, the love for that aforementioned comic book run that gave Jane powers, and if Waititi might ever consider exploring any Thor spinoffs. Plus, we asked both Portman and Waititi — along with fans over at the MCU wiki — which they’d choose if given the opportunity in real life: Mjolnir or Thor’s axe, Stormbreaker.
WELCOME BACK, JANE
There are some obvious parallels between the situation both Natalie Portman and Jane Foster find themselves in regarding Thor: Love and Thunder, as Portman is suddenly getting to be immersed in all the on-set superheroics Chris Hemsworth always has – costume and hammer included – just as Jane now finds herself fighting alongside Thor.
Said Portman, of the situation, “It was incredible to come back. And also, yes, have all of that kind of familiarity and newness of the situation mirror the character’s experience – and also to reunite with Chris, reunite with Tessa. Even though we hadn’t worked in MCU films together, but to have worked together before [in Annihilation] was pretty wonderful; to come on set already with kind of like a feeling of friendship.”
Taika Waititi began guiding the Thor films with the acclaimed third entry, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, bringing his distinct sensibility and sense of humor to this corner of the MCU. Of course, Jane was not in that film, and asked if he was excited, with Love and Thunder, to see how Jane would work in this new dynamic he’d created, Waititi replied, “Yeah, and not only that, but just the opportunity to work with Natalie was a huge thing for me. I’ve been a big fan of hers for many years and admired her work.”
Waititi’s approach and style is obviously quite different from Portman’s Thor and Thor: The Dark World directors, Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor. Regarding making this adjustment, Portman said, “It was so great to get to experience his way of working. It’s just so free and so spontaneous. And he really insists on it all the time. It’s really incredible to have that kind of demand on you all the time in a very safe, friendly environment too. You just kind of throw out what your plan is and just go with your gut at every moment.”
The first Thor movie opened eleven years ago, and observing what it’s like to now get to catch up with her character many years later, Portman said, “I think it’s definitely a real gift and privilege to get to explore a character as you change and grow and have different experiences and then be able to bring that back and try and do things differently and try and bring your own kind of changes to the character. It’s a really lucky opportunity.”
THE MIGHTY COMICS
Beyond his excitement about working with Portman in any capacity, Waititi said he was also greatly enthused by the fact that with Jane, they were getting, “To bring back that character from the Jason Aaron run, The Mighty Thor, which is a fantastic story, a fantastic comic book. Right from the outset, we were like, ‘We’ve got to find a way to make this part of Thor’s movie.’”
Indeed, Waititi noted that the idea for Love and Thunder came up pretty much immediately after his last Thor film, remarking, “It was like five years ago that we released Ragnarok. And the night that we released it, we all got together at a restaurant with Kevin [Feige] and Chris [Hemsworth] and myself and the other producers. And we basically just sort of sat around eating and talking about another Thor film and fleshed out this idea at the table, like a very loose idea. Thor has been on the road for a few years, and now he’s going through a midlife crisis, and this is where we find him, trying to figure out what his purpose is.”
From there, Waititi’s interest in bringing back Jane in her Mighty Thor incarnation into this new film came together quickly. Meanwhile, before she was ever actually discussing actually coming back to the MCU in this new capacity, Portman recalled, “People started bringing it up to me in interviews like this [one], when I was doing interviews on other films, after the comics came out.”
Once she learned the details of the Mighty Thor storyline, Portman said she found the idea interesting, “But it didn’t ever come to fruition, of course, until Taika came over to my house and handed it to me and was like, ‘What do you think about doing this? And of course, after seeing what he did with Ragnarok, I was completely excited and intrigued at the idea.”
MORE TAIKA MCU?
Waititi keeps himself incredibly busy with multiple projects as either a producer, director, actor, or some combination of those elements – including What We Do in the Shadows, Free Guy, Reservation Dogs, and Our Flag Means Death. Still, having created a unique corner of the MCU with his two Thor films, does he ever ponder other potential projects he could do in that world, especially with Disney+ creating new avenues for stories?
Asked that question, Waititi replied, “Sometimes. But you know, there’s all these other things I’m really concentrating on right now. I haven’t had much opportunity to really think about all the other characters.”
Still, he admitted, “I’d love to see a Valkyrie spinoff. I think that’d be cool. A Korg spinoff would be good as well. I mean, there’s ways of doing any of these characters and turning them into something.”
Two notable new additions to the MCU in Love and Thunder are Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, two large flying (and amusingly, very screamy) goats who help Thor travel on his new adventure. Waititi noted these two have roots both in Norse mythology and in the comics, explaining, “Whenever we want ideas for these films, we always go back to the comics. We go back and we trawl through. We’re like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ There used to be space sharks. That was another part of the Thor comics!” Added Waititi, “We’ve got space dolphins in our film.”
Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder are the latest animal additions to the MCU, following multiple other characters like Goose the cat (okay, he’s actually a Flerken) and Alligator Loki. So could Waititi be persuaded to do a live-action version of the animal team up comic book Pet Avengers?
Said Waititi, “Oh, the Pet Avengers! There was also frog Thor!”
He then seemed to mull over the wild idea that would be, amusingly repeating to himself, “Pet Avengers! Pet Avengers… Pet Avengers?”
TEAM HAMMER VS. TEAM AXE
In Love and Thunder, Thor is still using his second weapon, the axe Stormbreaker, forged in Avengers: Infinity War. Jane returning with his previous weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, causes a bit of insecurity for Thor – and even some amusing competition regarding the two weapons.
So which weapon is the mightiest? Which would be the one you’d actually want in real life if given the choice, Stormbreaker or Mjolnir?
Waititi’s selection, when asked the question, was a practical one, as he declared, “I think probably Mjolnir, because the axe is so big! It’s a big thing to carry around.”
On top of that, Waititi added, “The hammer’s classic. And especially the hammer now, with what it can do, is also cool,” referring to some newfound abilities for Mjolnir in Love and Thunder.
Portman meanwhile felt she had to stay loyal to Jane, saying, with a grin, “ I have to go with Mjolnir, because it definitely serves the Mighty Thor very, very well in the film.” Plus, she added, it is, after all, “A more experienced weapon.”
Over at the MCU wiki, we asked the fans which of the two weapons they’d choose, with both getting a ton of support. You can check out the entire thread, but a sampling is below.
“I like Mjonlir more and I feel like it has turned into its own character, but if I wanted to take down an army I would choose Stormbreaker.” – Gavoondusstuff
“Mjolnir, it’s the original, and unlike Stormbreaker, it gives the power of Thor.” – Rhys Blackstar
“I honestly can’t pick because the great Steve Rogers held Mjolnir but Groot is a part of Stormbreaker” – GeminiShadow11
“I’m going with Stormbreaker. Who wouldn’t want the weapon that took Thanos‘ head?” – Greater good
“Mjolnir because it’s easier to carry and sneak around” – Phantom the skywing
“Stormbreaker: It’s got the axeblade and the hammer side behind so win-win Plus, it can summon the Bifrost Bridge” – Aslam113
“I’d choose Mjölnir. It’s small but extremely effective, has the perfect impact when thrown upon enemies, easy to control and direct the weather, and used to throw into the sky and fly away dramatically.” – Starblaze19
Thor: Love and Thunder opens July 8.