Thor: Love and Thunder debuted to mixed reviews from critics and fans alike, continuing a trend of Marvel projects feeling a little underwhelming. Taika Waititi’s sequel to her critically acclaimed Ragnarok feels less focused, stronger, dumber, and much less charming. Chris Hemsworth is back as Thor, chasing down the lovable jerk he’s been doing ever since ghost hunters and sell the hell out of it. Waititi’s Korg is also in it – excessively in it, to be honest – and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie gets in on the action too. Newcomers Christian Bale and Russell Crowe steal the show despite their criminal underuse, confirming why they are two of the last surviving movie stars. The real attraction, however, is the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, or at least it should be. So why isn’t it?
Portman left the MCU after the disappointing Thor: The Dark World, a movie so boring and inconsequential that most casual fans forget it exists. She agreed to return after a meeting with Waititi promised her a new take on the character, a chance to be “adventurous, fun and funny.” However, the main change was the superpowers, as Waititi chose to adapt the well-received Mighty Thor comic storyline that sees Jane Foster take on Thor’s mantle and wield Mjolnir after Thor becomes unworthy. In short, Portman would finally play the hero, not the love interest.
love and thunder doesn’t have enough Jane Foster to deliver on the pledge made at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, back when the world was still on a post-End of Game high, and COVID was just a nightmare waiting to happen. Most glaringly, the movie isn’t as bold as it tries to be, especially when it comes to its LGBTQ+ portrayal. There’s something there – don’t worry, no spoilers here – but it’s the bare minimum. And considering a) it’s 2022, and b) Taika Waititi has achieved this, supposedly under the guise of full creative freedom from Marvel‘s honchos, what’s there seems so small that it doesn’t exist.
And that’s such a shame! Especially when the perfect opportunity for proper, authentic, and meaningful LGBTQ+ representation was seated. right in front of their faces. Because who better to become the first sapphic couple in the MCU than Jane Foster by Natalie Portman and Valkyrie by Tessa Thompson? A recent clip from love and thunder the first made the rounds; in it, Natalie Portman says the film is “so gay”, to cheers from the audience. But how is it “so gay?” This could have been the case if only Waititi and company had been brave enough to have Mighty Thor and Valkyrie give up Thor for each other. So why didn’t they?
Marvel promises performance but doesn’t really follow through
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To understand why Jane and Valkyrie would have been perfect together, we must first understand why Jane and Thor don’t make sense. Comic book canon declares that they’re one of Marvel’s most important couples, but the MCU is its own thing, and sadly, Portman and Hemsworth have no romantic chemistry together. Indeed, their romance makes Padmé and Anakin look alike casablancafamous lovebirds Rick and Ilsa.
Don’t get me wrong, Portman and Hemsworth are great actors – she’s one hell of an Oscar winner! And he’s ready to play Hulk Hogan! But their interactions in Kenneth Branagh Thor seem forced, like two incredibly pretty people getting together just because there’s no one else equally pretty around. The setup of their romance is poor, mainly because the movie is so much more about heroic plot shenanigans. The MCU has never been good at romance, and Jane and Thor’s ill-conceived relationship is the perfect example of that. They come together not because they make sense as a couple, but because the script says so.
Things don’t get better Thor: The Dark World. They spend more time together in that one, which only exacerbates their lack of chemistry. There is no heat, no passion and no effort. These are Dua Lipa performing at 2018 Brit Awards. However, unlike Dua, they haven’t improved over the years. Despite the best efforts of Portman, Hemsworth, and Waititi, Thor and Jane remain as sparkling as they were in 2011 and 2013. love and thunderThe paraphernalia does a tremendous job of disguising their lack of passion, but it’s not enough to sell their supposed romance.
What do these two have in common? What do they see in each other other than obvious physical beauty? When Thor cried over Jane in Avengers: Endgamemore than one laughed, not at the obvious joke but at the fact that Thor even reminded Joan. Like, come on, Odinson, you haven’t seen her in half a decade! If your couple isn’t inspiring your audience, even after two films have desperately tried to set them up, then it’s time to consider a change of pace. Waititi should have known better.
The king deserves a powerful queen
Knowing that Jane and Thor don’t make sense together has opened the door to new opportunities, primarily the ability to explore Jane and Valkyrie as a couple. The two have never met before love and thunder, meaning the film had a blank slate to work with. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do anything.
When the trailer for love and thunder debuted, fans expressed surprise at the brief interaction between Valkyrie and Mighty Thor. Those three seconds were more interesting and engaging than the whole story of Thor and Jane in the last two movies. The Mary Sue even posted about it, stating their desire for the film to explore the characters’ relationship and sensing the potential for a romance between the two.
Because there was Something there or at least the potential for it. On the other hand, maybe we’re so hungry for LGBTQ+ content that we look for it anywhere. Still, many people saw the possibility of something going on between Valkyrie and Jane. After all, Taika Waititi directed this film, the same man who snuck in one of 2022’s most complex and intricate films. meaningful LGBT romances in pirate comedy Our flags mean death. Surely he had the guts and the vision to see what an inspired choice to bring these two characters together would be.
Spoiler alert: he didn’t.
Valkyrie and Jane spend a lot of time together, but it somehow seems meaningless. love and thunder is a Thor movie, but why bring in Natalie Portman – as Mighty Thor, no less – and Tessa Thompson if you’re not going to do anything with them? We talked a lot about Valkyrie’s bisexuality playing a role in the film – other characters even call him “king”. However, the so-called depiction is limited to a few nods here and there and other characters referring to her as “king”.
????BREAKING THOR NEWS???? Natalie Portman and Taika Waititi reveal that #thorloveandthunder is…????SUPER GAY???? and that’s what we’re here for! #thor #wonder #taikawaititi #Natalie Portman #tessathompson (????: @Haushinka)
It’s not like Thompson and Portman wouldn’t have been disappointed. Something tells us they would have jumped at the chance to become the MCU’s first Sapphic relationship. Why ignore the genuine and exciting possibility of having a same-sex relationship between two badass women? To spare Thor’s feelings? It’s a simpleton and it would have been good! He might even have encouraged them; he’s that kind of guy. Didn’t the idea of bringing Valkyrie and Mighty Thor even cross Waititi’s mind? Did Marvel bosses stop it? The answer is probably somewhere in between.
A series of unfortunate choices
These days, an authentic and meaningful representation is hard to find. Waititi had the perfect opportunity to do so in love and thunder with two main characters who were supposed to be in the foreground. Marvel was smart enough to realize that Thor didn’t function as a stoic, Shakespearian figure and molded him into the lovable goofball he is today under Waititi’s leadership. They also should have been smart enough to see that Thor and Jane weren’t working together.
The missed opportunity to explore Jane’s potential with Valkyrie seems even more glaring given the major spoilers ahead; read at your own risk – Jane dies at the end of the film. It’s yet another baffling choice from Waititi – perhaps prompted by Portman’s reluctance to commit to more than one film? However, Jane’s stint as Mighty Thor is short and, sadly, forgettable. Completely, devastating, excruciatingly forgettable. It might have been a little more meaningful and memorable had she found solace with a certain Asgardian king in search of purpose. His death could have perpetuated the “bury your gays” tropebut that’s a story for another day.
The point here is that Mighty Thor absolutely should have been bisexual and should have explored a romance with Valkyrie. Cinema is meant to be bold and limitless, ready to explore new and unconventional ideas. The MCU is notoriously risk-averse, but that’s where a director like Taika Waititi comes in – that’s why you bring him in. He’s the man who often includes orgy jokes in supposedly PG-13 movies. Is his mark all about suggestion and not execution?
The opportunity for a Jane-Valkyrie romance is obvious to anyone who wants to see it, and it’s frankly shocking that the movie didn’t explore it. Because if a director as experimental and outlandish as Taika Waititi isn’t willing to take such a risk, what can we expect from the MCU’s Jon Watts and Peyton Reeds? Are we forever doomed to having nothing but vanilla romance in our superhero content? Are Thor and Jane really the best Marvel has to offer?
It’s all up to you now, James Gunn. Save the MCU from its boring, self-imposed, and uninspired confinements if you can. And we saw Peacemaker; we know you can.