Avengers: Endgame triggered a huge shift for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was the end of what was dubbed “The Infinity Saga” and the send-off for most of the central characters in the series, with the torch being passed – for better or worse – to a new stable of heroes. We can be certain we’ve seen the last of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, with Natasha Romanoff returning only for a prequel film that feels more and more like a desperate grasp at old glories rather than a well-deserved solo outing for a beloved Avenger and the actress who portrays her (seeing as she’s officially dead and all). Hulk is now both boring and effectively one-armed, and nobody’s clamoring to see that version of the fan-favorite show up. Hawkeye is being relegated to training his replacement on Disney+. But there’s one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes who could conceivably act as the sole holdover of the original gangsters: Thor.
More appearances from the Asgardian Avenger may not be as tall an order as you’d think. In an interview with the Polish publication Elle Man, Chris Hemsworth was asked if he was done playing Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after his next appearance, Thor: Love and Thunder. His answer (which is translated from Polish here) is surprising considering the departures of most of the other main Avengers: “Are you crazy?! I’m not going into any retirement period (laughs). Thor is way too young for that. I’m only 1500 years old! It is definitely not a film that I say goodbye to this brand. At least I hope so.” Hemsworth also talked about the upcoming film:
“After reading the script, I can say that I am very excited. For sure there will be a lot of love and a lot of lightning in this production (laughs). I’m glad that after all that happened in Avengers: Endgame, I’m still part of the Marvel Universe and we can continue the story of Thor. Of course, I can’t tell you anything about the plot, but to satisfy your curiosity, I’ll say that I had a lot more fun reading the script than on Thor: Ragnarok, and that proves something, because [that] movie was brilliant.”
Whether or not this is good news depends on how Love and Thunder – and the next phase of the MCU – shakes out. Disney and Marvel have made it pretty clear that diversity and social messaging will be their priorities going forward, in keeping with the recent comics. Love and Thunder is threatening to be the worst example of this, with Thor being replaced by his Midgardian girlfriend, who will not only take his position as the God of Thunder (Goddess of Thunder? Whichever one means I’m not a racist.) but his very name. Exceedingly-pleased-with-himself director Taika Waititi has even called her “Mighty Thor,” which is a giant slap in the face to the character known since his introduction to the comics as “the Mighty Thor;” it’s like saying she’s the real Thor, as opposed to the guy who literally is the real Thor. But Chris Hemsworth’s desire to continue playing Thor, and that he thinks he’ll be able to do so, suggests that this is a temporary arrangement and Thor will be back by the end of the film.
Thor’s return to full Thunder God would seem at odds with the MCU’s new mission statement, but it’s possible that this is a restructuring in light of recent events. In an episode of WorldClassBullshitters, the discussion turned to the new No Time to Die trailer and its lack of wokeness, and Jeff Hicks talked about the possibility that the hyper-politicized early version of the film tested so poorly that it was reshot and recut to be something James Bond fans may actually want to see, with Bond producers EON taking advantage of the current pandemic and the delays it’s causing. Perhaps the same is true here; Love and Thunder hasn’t begun filming yet, so, obviously, it hasn’t been tested, but maybe Marvel and Disney are beginning to see the dissatisfaction audiences have with jettisoning their favorite heroes for replacements more acceptable to lunatics who don’t buy theater tickets. A recent report from Doomcock suggested that, in light of their devastating financial losses this year, Disney wants to cash in its woke chips and start making fun things again. While I’m hesitant to take that at face value (as is Doomcock), a shift away from the identity politics course charted for Marvel would lend it credence.
The other warning sign that needs to be dispelled before we can celebrate is Thor’s treatment in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. The Marvel movies always poked fun at Thor’s image as a hyper-masculine man’s man, but until Ragnarok, it never undermined him as a character or a hero. In Thor, his screw-ups and pratfalls were to illuminate how far from grace he’d fallen, how he had to hit rock bottom before learning how to be a hero, and finally becoming a god again – after which he was non-stop cool. The Avengers had him getting knocked around a lot, but it also showed him fry Leviathans with his godly lightning and save some of his fellow Avengers from an onslaught of aliens. Thor: The Dark World (which is way better than people give it credit for being, and leagues ahead of Ragnarok) excised this completely, presenting a Thor who was the lynchpin in keeping the nine realms from devolving into chaos and finally saving reality itself. Age of Ultron had plenty of Thor rescuing innocent people and destroying enemy robots before resolving to investigate the threat from the Infinity Gems.
Ragnarok, on the other hand, was a non-stop jokefest that undermined Thor at every turn (as well as Loki; they turned one of the MCU’s wiliest schemers into a complete buffoon). His quest to find the truth about the gems was dispensed with in a throwaway line designed to make him sound incompetent. Instead, he was humiliated by a goofy space Caligula, he begged to keep his hair (and was denied), and even when he was finally able to tap into his secret Thunder God powers, he wasn’t good enough to save the day and had to let someone else destroy his whole world to stop his evil sister. Infinity War gave him his mojo back in spades, but then Endgame – Thor’s treatment in which, I’m convinced, was a reaction to the popularity of Ragnarok – gave him a beer belly and pretty much nothing to do, undermining what would have been an excellent character arc if it hadn’t been for the relentless sight gag of his deteriorating body. And now, he’s being replaced by a mortal woman who has no combat experience and spent the entirety of her last appearance insulting him.
I think that may be a step too far, even for people who felt Ragnarok was the best Thor movie. There were signs that audiences were tired of Thor being humiliated when Endgame released, and Fat Thor didn’t play as well as the producers clearly thought he would. Sure, he was funny, and that’s due in no small part to Chris Hemsworth’s charisma and knack for comic timing. But after his big comeback in Infinity War, I think people were ready to see Thor live up to his God of Thunder image and wreck some bad guys in the big finale; not only did that not happen, but he gave up his role as the King of Asgard to someone else (who, apparently, earned it because she learned to fish or something). Now he’s going to be losing his whole identity to someone else, in a movie being shepherded by the guy who kick-started the mock Thor movement – not to mention cheerfully proclaimed that he’d “ruin your mythos in a minute, baby.”
If Jeff and Doomcock are right, and Hollywood and Disney are going to low-key scale back on the woke nonsense, this is great news, and I can’t wait to see more Thor adventures. But if they’re going to keep making a fool of him for cheap laughs while politically correct characters steal his (love and) thunder, then I’d prefer Chris Hemsworth find something worthy of his talents, and Thor pick up his enchanted weapons and enter Valhalla a god and a king.