'Thor: Love and Thunder': Here's what the ending means (spoilers!)
Warning: This post contains big spoilers for the ending of Thor: Love and Thunder.
Looks like there's another warrior dining in the halls of Valhalla tonight. Marvel's latest blockbuster, Thor: Love and Thunder, ends with a major Marvel Cinematic Universe death that gives audiences an emotional landing after laughing along with writer-director Taika Waititi's trademark japery. It's also the rare passing that just might stick for a film series that sometimes has an elastic definition of death.
(Last chance to avert ye eyes before being spoiled, true believer...)
The warrior in question is none other than the Mighty Thor herself, Jane Foster, played one more time by Natalie Portman. The Black Swan Oscar winner sat out her ex-boyfriend's previous adventure, Thor: Ragnarok, which saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) still smarting from the premature end of their red-hot romance. That romance is now permanently over as Jane uses the last ounce of her Mjölnir-gifted strength to defeat the movie's villain, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), taking her last breath in the Asgardian thunder god's tree trunk-sized arms. In a post-credits scene, we see her enter the Norse afterworld where she meets another familiar face from Thor movies past.
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, Portman suggested that Jane's death was a major factor behind her MCU return, in much the same way that Harrison Ford came back to Star Wars to lay Han Solo to rest in The Force Awakens. "It was really meaningful to get to play a character that's also human," she says of alter ego's all-too-human fate. "Sometimes people want to make a feminist character just really tough and strong all the time, and I find it much more meaningful when I see a character who has the ability to be powerful and also has moments of weakness. How they summon that strength and then how they fall back into vulnerability."
"That feels much more human to me and much more relatable," Portman continues. "And so it was incredible to have these kind of parallel sides of her life: She's got this human side, that's got this superhero side and each kind of influences the other."
It's worth noting that Jane's story arc in Love and Thunder is rooted strongly in Marvel Comics continuity. Like her comic-book counterpart, Portman's version of the character is revealed to be suffering from stage 4 cancer with only months to live. Unable to find any science-based cures, she naturally decides to turn to magic, traveling to New Asgard for a reunion with her ex's ex-hammer, last seen being broken into dozens of tiny pieces in Ragnarok. But remembering its promise to Thor to protect Jane, Mjölnir manages to hold itself together long enough to give Jane super powers and a spiffy new costume.
Unfortunately this gift turns out to be a classic monkey's paw situation: Every time that Jane hoists Mjölnir, the hammer saps a little bit of the strength her body is using to fight off the cancer. It's a secret she steadfastly keeps hidden from Thor as they pursue Gorr across the cosmos, hoping to recover the children he stole from New Asgard. Inevitably, though, hiding becomes impossible and Jane is confined to her hospital bed while Thor flies off to confront Gorr... with only a small army of kidnapped children for back-up.
But Jane wouldn't be the Mighty Thor if she meekly played by the rules. Knowing full well that it means her death, she picks up Mjölnir and joins the fray, delivering the blows — and the killer catchphrase — that put an end to Gorr's threat. At that point, Jane collapses and watches as the villain's plan enters its endgame. Having found Eternity — the manifestation of the Earth-616 branch of the Marvel multiverse — Gorr is granted one wish, and he uses it to resurrect his dearly departed daughter, Love (played by Hemsworth's daughter, India) whom Thor is now charged with protecting. "She'll be alone," Gorr worries. "No, she won't," Jane replies, gazing up at Thor one last time.
And you'd better believe that Thor is ready to give fatherhood his all. In the film's final scene, he rustles up a hearty breakfast of pancakes for Love before the two of them leap into battle on an alien world. Love and Thunder — together at last.
Meanwhile, Jane is living it up in Valhalla. After the credits roll, we see her go off to her great reward, and she's greeted by none other than Idris Elba. The British heartthrob played the Rainbow Bridge's guardian, Heimdell, in the first three Thor movies eventually earning a warrior's death in Avengers: Infinity War. "You are welcome in the land of the gods," Heimdell tells Jane. "Welcome to Valhalla." With Elba as her eternal companion in the afterlife, why would Jane ever want to come back to Earth?
Elba isn't the only applause-worthy cameo that Waititi saves for the closing credits. The mid-credits bonus scene features a Harry Styles-in-Eternals level MCU introduction for another much-loved British actor. Flashing back to the deity-heavy Omnipotent City, where Thor and Jane traveled earlier in the film to confront Zeus himself (played by Russell Crowe), the sequence finds the Greek god still recovering from having his own thunderbolt used against him by the invading Asgardian.
And it turns out that Zeus is in a ruminative mood, contemplating the way the age of the gods has given way to the age of the superhero on the planet below Omnipotent City. "Now they look to the sky and they don't see us — they look upward to see superheroes," he muses. "When did we become the joke?"
Zeus is most definitely not laughing about being supplanted by the likes of Thor. But he's not the one that's going to go head-to-head with the new dad in their rematch. Instead, he's sending his own kid, Hercules, the super-strong demigod that served several tours of duty with the Avengers in the Marvel Comics realm. And the MCU's version of Hercules is played by none other than Brett Goldstein — best known for being here, there and every f***ing where as Ted Lasso's resident foul-mouthed footballer, Roy Kent.
In the comics, Hercules and Thor eventually fight side-by-side against a variety of foes. But their cinematic relationship is gonna get off to a shaky start as Hercules is all too eager to seek revenge against the thunder god on his father's behalf. And based on Goldstein's battle-ready physique in his quick appearance, he's gonna give Hemsworth a run for his money in the muscles department. F*** your feelings: We're ready for Hercules to teach Thor some manners in Thor 5: Football Furies.
Thor: Love and Thunder is playing in theaters now.