Thor: Love and Thunder took Natalie Portman's Jane Foster in a completely new direction and told a story equal parts exciting and heartbreaking. The promotion to Goddess of Thunder came as a huge departure from the simple scientist and occasional damsel-in-distress role she played in earlier Thor films.
By all accounts, Portman handled the role incredibly well, seamlessly shifting into the persona of an MCU action hero. She brought a very authentic version of the Mighty Thor to the big screen, while also maintaining a connection to her roots in the live-action setting.
Natalie Portman and others behind the making of Thor 4 spoke on the change to Jane Foster's character in the new Assembled documentary for the film, including the actress' fears over continuity issues.
Portman Worried About MCU Continuity in Thor 4
In the newest Assembled documentary on Disney+, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, and others behind Thor: Love and Thunder shared insights on their approach to continuity from previous Thor films.
Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, noted that Portman "had some real concerns" about Jane's shift in the new movie:
“[Portman] was, kind of… You know, this was a very different direction for the character, and I think had some real concerns about, ‘Hang on, does this match? The continuity from this to that and…’ And we just said, ‘That doesn’t matter.’
Hemsworth compared the character change to the one undergone by Thor in the previous film, Thor: Ragnarok, saying "That’s what happened in Ragnarok. We went, ‘Who cares about anything we’ve done before?’" and described the shift as "a rebirth or new exploration of the character."
The film's director, Taika Waititi, was aware that "people missed Natalie’s character" and were unsatisfied with her story being unresolved. To him, "the idea that she becomes another version of Thor, that just seemed like the perfect in, and the perfect way to bring that character back.”
Kyle Gardiner, stunt coordinator for the film, pointed out that “Natalie came in very early, ready to work" so that she "could do as much as possible" in the film.
Portman herself remarked that, despite her appearing in plenty of action films, she'd "never really done any fight training or anything:"
“Despite having been in lots of action movies, I’d never really done any fight training or anything. It was really fun to get to train for the first time in my life to be strong, you know? Usually, as women, we’re training to get as small as possible. So it’s like exciting to actually be working towards being bigger.”
Is Continuity Holding the MCU Back?
Now, there's some very interesting points to raise from all this, especially from what Chris Hemsworth shared. By and large, the MCU has worked to maintain strict continuity of character development and presentation throughout its history. The question arises: should continuity come before telling an interesting story?
Even asking that might seem like heresy to the most devoted MCU fans, but Hemsworth made an excellent point regarding Ragnarok. By all accounts, the pre-Ragnarok version of Thor, while being close to his comic counterpart, was lagging behind in fan interest. Waititi's film took the character in a completely different direction, and ultimately that decision reignited love for the God of Thunder.
Obviously, the MCU can't (and shouldn't) disregard continuity completely. It's impossible to build a shared universe of its scope without it, after all. That being said, the ability to shift and take characters in different directions if something isn't working or if a great story thread demands it is almost just as important. If fans aren't showing up to the theaters or tuning in to Disney+, it really doesn't matter how comic-accurate a portrayal is.
Over a decade into the largest cinematic universe ever produced, it's high time to come to terms with the idea that characters are going to change and be taken in new directions. If the boundaries were never pushed, fans wouldn't have gotten projects like Thor: Ragnarok or Avengers: Infinity War, both of which are regarded as among the best films in the franchise. Ten years of Age of Ultron wouldn't have bred that.
As the D23 Expo convention approaches, fans are bound to get an exciting glimpse of what the future holds. Stay tuned here to see all the coming reveals.