It’s official folks. Natalie Portman will be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Jane Foster. She’s not there to be another love interest for Thor though. Oh no, she’s going to be the one to claim the mantle of Mighty Thor! To avoid confusion going forward, we’ll be calling Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster “Thor” and the original Chris Hemsworth’s Thor “Odinson”, seeing that was his name during Foster’s run as Thor in the comics. We’re bracing ourselves for the horde of anti-diversity advocates and run-of-the-mill sexists to flood the net with their typical “woman different, so no good” comments as they so often do.
Honestly, I was a little apprehensive of the idea of a female Thor until I read Jason Aaron’s Mighty Thor comic series that ran from 2015 to 2018. An amazingly heartwarming, epic and powerful rendition on the character. So when it was announced that 2021’s Thor: Love and Thunder would be based on Aaron’s Mighty Thor comics, I was jumping for joy!
A God Like No Other
Let’s get one thing straight. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is great, really he is. I mean he was a little stiff and boring in Thor and The Dark World but he certainly found his groove in Ragnarok. From then on forward, I’ve been digging what Disney’s been doing Thor so far. From arrogant, petulant man-child to selfless protector and leader to shiftless overweight drifter looking for a cause. It seems, at least for now, his journey as the All-Father and the hero Thor is at an end. So perhaps, it is time for another to take his place. It’s time for a female Thor.
Some of you might be rolling your eyes, calling us virtue-signalling beta cucks from the back of your screen. You may be surprised to learn that I personally didn’t enjoy Captain Marvel. Not because I thought it was “forced diversity” or that I think women are ruining superhero films. Rather the reason was that the film felt far too reminiscent of the tired, old alpha-male empowerment fantasies of yesteryear but this time with a woman as the lead.
I didn’t like it in Rambo III and I certainly don’t appreciate it anymore with a female lead either. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel felt inhuman and all-powerful, nearly never getting a scratch and always being on top of things. And because of the film’s need to make Captain Marvel feel invulnerable, they’ve robbed the film of its ability to engage the audience on an emotional level. Jason Aaron’s Thor is nothing like that though.
His story starts with Odinson realizing at the end of another big Marvel event, Original Sin, that he was unworthy to wield the hammer, Mjolnir. For weeks, Thor, all his friends and even Odin was unable to lift the hammer due to a secret sin that has made them all unworthy. There was one however who was able to wield the hammer and she has since used it to save lives, answer the prayers of mortals and bring justice to the world. As Odinson goes about investigating the identity of this new Thor, he spends time visiting his dear friend Jane Foster in an Asgardian hospital.
For you see, Jane has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has been in a constant battle to recover. Time and time again, the Asgardians offer a magical solution to her ailment but she denies it for she believes all magic comes with a price. If she is to beat this, she will do it on her own strength. Little does Odinson know that this new Thor and Jane Foster are one and the same.
The hammer has chosen her as its wielder, not because she’s the strongest, fastest or most powerful. No, it was her resilience in the face of mortal pain and death, her seemingly endless compassion for others and her humanity that made her worthy of the power of a god. Her humility and vulnerabilities are what make her worthy and that is just so beautiful. A far cry from the arrogance and self-confidence of Captain Marvel.
In spite of the might and power bestowed upon her by Mjolnir, she still chooses to use it only as a means to aid others. Even going so far as to deny herself its magical powers in fully healing her body. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of arrogant machismo and quippy jokesters, regardless of their gender.
It would be nice to have a hero with some real heart and real courage, seeing that everyone’s favourite boy scout, Captain America is sitting out of the MCU. I sincerely hope that Disney includes Jane Foster’s breast cancer storyline in Love and Thunder. It would really add a refreshing layer of sobriety and dramatic depth to the film.
Portman For The Part
Truth be told, I was relatively sure in the past that Tessa Thompson would be replacing Hemsworth as the new Thor. Much to my relief though, it was reported that Thompson would remain in the role of Valkyrie with Portman taking up the mantle. Tessa’s fine as Valkyrie and she has shown that she is capable of giving emotionally resonant performances as she did in Creed and Creed II.
That being said, she simply would have made for a mediocre Thor, credulous in her confidence and bland in her characterization as a returning war hero. Portman’s notable absence in the MCU thus far provides Disney with a relatively clean canvas to build upon her time away from Odinson and his adventures with the Avengers. Did she fall in love again after her breakup with Thor? Did she start a family? Has she moved on? Interesting angles that could be explored with Portman’s Jane Foster.
As for Portman’s actual performative capabilities, I certainly believe she’s up for the task. In 2005’s V For Vendetta, we saw her dig deep into the psyche of a victim as the character of Evey Hammond. She undergoes a rebirth from frightened citizen to devoted revolutionary after finally breaking free from her fear of death. Finally embracing true liberty, even if her circumstances don’t always reflect it. It takes real skill to not only learn the idiosyncrasies and pathologies of a role but to convincingly inhabit a worldview.
This wouldn’t be the only instance in which Portman has taken to dramatic roles with Ledgerian commitment in the realm of method acting. Arguably the role that truly put her on the Academy’s radar was Black Swan. A film in which Portman’s Nina Sayers travel into the depths of insanity, despair and obsession in the pursuit of achieving high art. Thoroughly disturbing as it is equally enthralling, Black Swan demonstrates Portman’s impressive ability to adapt and experiment. From safe romantic comedies like No Strings Attached to the unforgiving landscape of science fiction with Annihilation to bio-pics like Jackie, Portman’s repertoire is extensive, if not wholly impressive.
If Disney is to adapt Jason Aaron’s Mighty Thor, they will need a thespian flexible enough to bounce between levity, strength and melancholy. It’s never easy to address a subject as painful and personal as breast cancer but if Disney pulls it off, they would have propelled their franchise to new heights. Not by way of CG spectacle but in plot and character. Who knows, perhaps Portman’s Foster might be the one to rival the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) Wonder Woman?
Look, I get that some of you still think that this is some social justice affirmative action PR stunt on Disney’s part. I’ve been sceptical of Disney’s practices in the past, with some of their attempts doing better (Black Panther) than others (2017’s Beauty and the Beast). Sincerely though, it would be really awesome and uplifting to have a superhero who mirrors her superheroic struggles with the genuine battle of fighting cancer. A reminder to us all that heroes can come from the unlikeliest of places.