Thor will return. But which one?
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor reunites with ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as they face Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a terrifying alien capable of slaying gods.
Jane is also battling stage four cancer, which not even possession of Mjolnir can cure. While things mostly work out in the end, it all comes at a tremendous cost; and it raises questions about where the MCU is headed next.
Here’s what the ending of Thor: Love and Thunder means, how the requisite post-credits scene is involved, and what it all says about the MCU in Phase 5. Spoilers ahead.
At the end of Thor: Love and Thunder, Thor and Jane Foster follow Gorr to Eternity, the nexus of the universe where those brave enough to venture can have their greatest wish granted.
Gorr is rewarded with a wish but, having seen the error of his ways, he wishes for the resurrection of his daughter. With his dying breath, he asks Thor to look after her. Thor, who wanted to raise a family with Jane, agrees. The two end the movie living together, and Thor learns to patiently raise a rambunctious little girl who glues googly eyes on his weapons.
Jane dies too, succumbing to her cancer and the wounds she sustained battling Gorr. That’s not, however, the end of Jane Foster’s story.
In the post-credits scene, Jane wakes up in a beautiful valley and is greeted by Heimdall (Idris Elba). Heimdall welcomes Jane to Valhalla, the Asgardian afterlife where the mead never stops pouring and the feasts are always plentiful. Only Asgardians who die in battle are greeted with entry to Valhalla, and Jane, having died as a warrior, is rewarded with eternal paradise.
As Jane walks towards Valhalla, Love and Thunder ends with a vague message: “Thor will return.”
Wait, which Thor will return?
“Hang on,” you’re saying. “I thought Jane was supposed to take over as Thor?”
Since Thor: Love and Thunder was unveiled in 2019, the movie was thought to be Chris Hemsworth’s curtain call as Thor. Mirroring Marvel’s The Mighty Thor comics where Jane Foster took over as Thor, Natalie Portman was brought back to reprise her role as Jane Foster.
When Taika Waititi handed Portman Mjolnir at Comic-Con, fans believed Portman would be the new Thor for a new era, possibly encompassing everything from roles in new Avengers sequels to her own trilogy. But this past May, Waititi sent fans into a tizzy when he said it wasn’t “the case” that Jane was taking over Thor’s job in Love and Thunder.
Now we can see Waititi was telling the truth. Jane Foster isn’t Thor, at least not on a full-time basis.
But as verbally confirmed in both the comics and Love and Thunder, Jane Foster was Thor. Not “Lady Thor,” or some other variation. Thor ceased to be a name and became a mantle, one that Jane inherits when Thor Odinson is (temporarily) depowered.
But then just who is the Thor that the credits of Love and Thunder say will return? Will it be Hemsworth’s Thor Odinson, who’s now a super-dad running around planets with an adopted daughter? Or will it be Portman’s Jane Foster, who’s “dead” in a corporeal sense but kicking around Valhalla? Marc Spector departed the Field of Reeds in Moon Knight, so there’s precedent for heroes turning down paradise.
Thor: Love and Thunder has left the door wide open. Between the arrival of Hercules — a prominent Thor rival who’s been tasked by Zeus to hunt him down — and confirmation that “Thor” will return, it’s probable that Marvel is still trying to answer that question themselves. It’s not villains like Gorr who will decide the fate of Thor. It’s contract negotiations with Hemsworth and Portman.
Do the comics hint at what’s next?
Referencing the comics offers a possible answer into what Marvel Studios has planned. Towards the end of her starring role in Marvel’s The Mighty Thor comics, Jane Foster ended her stint as Thor in the storyline Death of the Mighty Thor.
In short, Jane’s cancer became too severe and, after defeating the villain Mangog, Jane reverted back to her normal self and died in front of her love, Thor Odinson. Jane’s spirit awakens in Valhalla, where she is greeted by Odin. Though Odin is prepared to welcome her to eternal paradise, Jane instead returns to the physical world.
Less than a year later, in the 2019 crossover event War of the Realms, Jane becomes the new Valkyrie after Brunnhilde is killed fighting the Dark Elves. She’s armed with a new weapon, Undrajarn, a bracelet that can transform into anything she needs.
The transition between Death of the Mighty Thor into War of the Realms could provide a thematic template for what the MCU does with Jane Foster. Should Natalie Portman be game for more movies, it’s not impossible for Jane to return from Valhalla and become an entirely new hero.
Thor: Love and Thunder is now playing in theaters.