After Natalie Portman filmed her role in Thor: The Dark World, her part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was left on shaky and uncertain terms. It was clear to many that the Academy Award-winning actress and the superhero mega movie machine weren't exactly meeting each other at their strengths, with the actress resorted to playing a second fiddle love interest as Jane Foster to the title character, Thor. She did a nice job in the limited role in 2011's Thor, but it was clear to many viewers that, particularly with the less-than-super sequel, the actress hadn't gotten her due yet inside the MCU.
Natalie Portman was notably — and abruptly — absent from Thor: Ragnarok, with a throwaway line explaining why she was no longer around. And while the actress made a brief cameo in Avengers: Endgame using repurposed footage, Natalie Portman has been invested in other sorts of endeavors like Jackie, Annihilation, Vox Lux, Song to Song and the upcoming Lucy in the Sky, to mention only a few of her recent titles, as well as her feature directorial debut, A Tale of Love And Darkness, which she also starred in. All of these films were stark departures from what you would expect from anything found in the MCU.
It seemed like Marvel and Natalie Portman were going in different directions, to say the least. That is why it came as such a big surprise when Portman joined the Comic-Con stage and revealed that she was set to appear in Thor: Love and Thunder, reprising her role of Jane Foster with an added twist.
During this year's heavily-hyped panel, it was revealed that not only would Jane Foster live to see another day inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she would be taking on the role of a woman Thor, which would certainly suggest that the actress would not only play a huge role in this upcoming sequel, but the future of the Marvel franchise in general. This is quite a departure from what was expected from Natalie Portman prior, with many folks believing she was firmly on the outs of the extended superhero saga. Now, one wonders: Will Portman finally get to live up to her talents in the MCU?
Time will ultimately tell, but there are certainly reasons to be hopeful. And if the spinning wheels at Marvel allow the character to expand in certain key ways, the creative team could really allow the character to grow into something quite special — expanding on what we've seen so far from Jane Foster and Natalie Portman's performance and allow the star to shine and flourish in a franchise that has, thus far, often kept her talents minimized and underdeveloped.
Following The Marvel Comics Route
If the creators will follow the comics, there is certainly a path the MCU can take with Jane Foster that will be both interesting and fairly tragic. Keep in mind there will be some spoilers for the comics, in case you wondered. As it plays out on the page, Jane Foster grows sick with cancer, and she begins a tough battle against the debilitating disease. Thor remains by her side, particularly through the tough rounds of chemotherapy. Eventually, as this happens through a series of events, Thor loses his worthiness to wield the mighty magic hammer Mjolnir. Then, Jane gets ahold of the hammer.
As it turns out, Jane Foster can actually lift the hammer, and when she does so, she became a female version of Thor. She keeps her newfound skills a secret, particularly as she tries to learn how to wield these magical powers. When she finds herself with the powers of Thor, she finds herself at odds with her chemotherapy, since the powers consider it to be a poison and eradicates it out of her system. As a result, as the character gets more powerful, she also become weaker due to the illness. As Thor, Jane Foster feels no ill-effects of the cancer. It's only when she is Jane Foster that she finds herself getting sicker and sicker due to this terrible and tragic disease. Still, eventually she does find herself becoming a new Avenger.
It's hard to know if the movies will follow this plotline closely. Introducing cancer into the mix is definitely a tough one, and one that may not be taken as seriously as it should be — given the lighthearted tone of these films. If the characters of Thor and Jane Foster are broken up, however, there is reason to believe that Thor wants to be by Jane's side through this terrible illness, and that closeness renews their relationship and their love for one another. Perhaps Thor could see himself giving his powers to Jane, in an effort to help her find her strength and be rid of the debilitating disease.
It would certainly be a stark tonal departure, particularly given the extra light-hearted tone established in Thor: Ragnarok, to introduce this type of story into the fold, and it would certainly be a gamble to introduce such a serious topic into the often silly and not-entirely-serious films of the MCU.
As seen in the first half of Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel movies can be serious if they want to be, and they feel confident in their audience to know that the audience will follow them through some dark avenues. But if this idea was brought into the fold, it would certainly give the actress a chance to showcase her exceptional dramatic chops, and it would give the character an emotional gravitas that has only been fleeting in the prior Thor films. It is also clear that, when Jane gets a chance to hone these powers, we could once again introduce some rewarding moments of comedy and action again.
Let Jane Foster Get Some Revenge On Thor
When we last heard about Jane Foster, we were told by Loki that she was out-of-the-picture due to a breakup. It's unclear what caused this fracture, but it was apparent that things between these two ex-lovers didn't end especially well. And when you bring a superhero into the romantic drama, then everything become super-dramatic. Obviously. Sure enough, given the events of both the last two Avengers films and Thor: Ragnarok, we didn't really get any firm conclusion on what exactly happened, or what caused the rift or, more importantly, where Jane and Thor are right now as exes. Are they still friends? Do they still spend time with each other, even though they are no longer romantically intertwined? These are grounds for some material.
When we last saw Thor, he was heading off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. While space adventures with the group could continue, the character is clearly going to find himself in contact with both Valkyrie (whom Thor put in charge of New Asgard) and Jane Foster based on this recently-announced sequel, which will come out before Guardians 3 makes its way into theaters. That, or Valkyrie and/or Jane Foster will be making contact with Thor in space. It's hard to say for sure, but for reasons left unclear, these characters are all getting chummy with one another.
If Jane and Thor cross paths again, there could be some bad blood and things may not have gone well, because we know that Jane Foster has put up with a lot of crap when it comes to dating the Asguardian. Whatever caused these two to separate must have been big, and it certainly wasn't pretty. Alas, somewhere in the action, there could reasonably be a point where Jane picks up the mighty hammer of Thor and realizes that she can not only lift it, but wield its powers. This would be bad news for Thor, who would likely find himself subject to the revenge of his ex-lovers, putting him through all the stuff that she had to go through during their tumultuous relationship over the years.
This idea seems to be more likely than not given that A) the sequel is subtitled Love and Thunder and B) it would definitely fit in director Taika Waititi's wheelhouse to have our two former lovers bickering at each other and Jane finding some sweet, sweet revenge when she gets hold of Thor's powers. The potential is limitless, and it would play into the comedic director's strengths to make what would essentially be an anti-rom com. I'm imagining a comedy in the vein of My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which could be a hell of a lot of fun with the petty and spiteful Thor having to deal with Jane's powers.
If the third sequel went in this direction, it would definitely allow Natalie Portman to flex her action and comedy skills in a major way, while also having some strong dramatic moments where she gets to show new shades of her often-overlooked character, finding her independence and giving her one-time lover a piece or three of her mind. The potential there is strong, and this comedic tone certainly would play well into the well-established tone of the MCU. Although, if the studio went in this direction, it might undermine the importance of Female Thor, and maybe downplay or diminish the potential for this character in future MCU movies. Certainly, there is a lot of wiggle room here, and hopefully, if it goes something like this, it is thought through.
Have Thor Gracefully Hand Over The Powers To Jane Foster
In Thor: Ragnarok, our lead demigod was broken and stripped down in many respects. He lost his family, his home, his love, his pride... even his hair. And his eye! Throughout Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Thor continued to become depressed and disillusioned, thinking about his failures and his inability to cope with what he has loss and how he has failed. Only by the end of the film was his finding himself again through the company of the Guardians of the Galaxy, though he definitely needed some time to himself. As mentioned earlier, he gave leaderships responsibilities over to Valkyrie, and it was clear that he was going to be going through some stuff as he went into space and left his super-heroics behind for a bit.
If the filmmakers continued to follow down that trail, there is reason to believe that we might be nearing the end of Thor as we once knew him. No longer the cocky, exceptionally hunky superhero we once knew him to be, the character is more human than God these days, it seems, and with Chris Hemsworth's involvement in the franchise likely dwindling in the next few years, it might be time for both the actor and the character of Thor to hang up the hammer and call it a day. That might be when it comes time for Jane to take on these big responsibilities, though how that happens is unclear.
Perhaps as Thor says goodbye to his hammer, he asks that his mighty companion pick the person who will most nobly take on these responsibilities. Or maybe a heartbroken Thor will realize that Jane was the strength he always found and needed, and he will reward his one-time love with the great powers he would wield. With that, she would find herself in the surprising position of becoming a normal, everyday woman given the gifts of the Gods. That would certainly be a lot for someone to take on during a seemingly-average Tuesday. The comedic and dramatic potential found therein would be a great opportunity for both the character of Jane Foster to flesh out and flourish, while also letting Natalie Portman expand herself in this series.
No longer resided to helping people simply through her smarts and skills as an astrophysicist, Jane Foster would have the power to excel in her field and really prove herself as a hero and a champion of the people. She would have powers once beyond her beliefs and understanding, and it'd be nice to see how Natalie Portman could showcase her talents in comedy, drama and later action as she finds herself taking on these responsibilities in style.
In that sense, we could see Natalie Portman's Jane Foster turning to Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie for guidance on her newfound powers, and the two of them could form a bond while essentially making Thor a side character in the grand scheme of things, which would most certainly be an intriguing diversion from what people would expect from a Thor film. Though, obviously, with Thor taking on these powers, it would still be a Thor film, after all.
These are only a handful of possible storylines that would play into this narrative. As seen in 2011's Thor, Jane Foster had a great opportunity to expand and play a key humanistic role in this world filled with super-beings. Alas, for all the potential that laid in that first Thor film, Jane was sidelined severely in Thor: The Dark World, and then totally absent in Thor: Ragnarok. But through Taika Waititi's influence, she found some motivation and some inspiration to continue appearing in this series, and it's clear that whatever idea or motivation was given to her was clearly inspiring, so that's hopeful.
We look forward to seeing what becomes of both Jane Foster and Natalie Portman in Thor: Love and Thunder, which is currently slated for release on November 5th, 2021. No matter what happens next, there's clearly a lot of potential with Jane Foster's character. Let's hope Marvel makes it a great one.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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