Written by THOMAS BACON
Thor: Love & Thunder promises to tell the story of Jane Foster's battle with cancer - and Marvel has made the right decision in exploring this theme.
Thor: Love & Thunder is avoiding a huge mistake by exploring Jane Foster's cancer storyline from the comics. Back in 2019, as part of their initial Phase 4 announcement, Marvel Studios revealed Natalie Portman would be returning as Jane Foster in Thor: Love & Thunder. The MCU would be adapting a popular story from Jason Aaron's popular comic book stories, in which Jane became the Mighty Thor, proving herself worthy to wield the power of Mjolnir.
There was, however, one reason for concern; writer and director Taika Waititi had a habit of ignoring the comics altogether and doing his own thing. "Here’s the thing about me, guys, I did not really do my research," he explained (via The Empire Film Podcast). "I read one issue of Thor as my research. Not even a graphic novel — one of the thin, thin ones. And by the end of it I was like, 'Well we’re not doing that; let’s not really look at those anymore.' Cool art, I love the art, but I can’t stand the way everyone talks." This approach had worked for Thor: Ragnarok, but this time the story was too important, too well-constructed by Aaron, to be handled in such a manner. Fortunately, even at Marvel's Comic-Con 2019 panel, Waititi indicated he'd changed, pointing to the Aaron run for his inspiration. This time, he seemed to imply, he'd be attempting to honor the comics a little more.
Merchandise from Thor: Love & Thunder seems to suggest he will fulfill that promise; it confirms a cancer storyline for Jane that is actually fundamental to her heroism. In the comics, prior to becoming the Mighty Thor, Jane was diagnosed with cancer. She swiftly learned that this meant she would pay a fearsome price for becoming a hero: every time she lifted Mjolnir, every time she transformed into Thor, the magic reset the effect of her chemotherapy. Jane understood there must always be a Thor, and so she resolved to continue becoming Thor, even though she knew doing so was killing her. This, fundamentally, was why Jane Foster was worthy to become Thor. She understood the universe needs a Thor, and she would pay any price to ensure it had one. There is simply no way to separate Jane Foster's Mighty Thor from her cancer storyline. And, fortunately, Marvel doesn't intend to try.
There were good reasons to be concerned. When Waititi made Thor: Ragnarok, he deliberately chose to focus only on the laughs. The setting of Odin's death was changed after test screenings because viewers felt too sorry for him, and a one-liner was tossed in after the destruction of Asgard to lessen the emotional impact. But this time, Waititi seems to be trying to balance his humor, ensuring the story hits a wider range of emotional beats. "You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, then you’ll laugh so much you’ll cry some more," Thor: Love & Thunder star Chris Hemsworth observed (via Twitter). Presumably, the cancer plot is one reason for the tears, and it's worth noting that, in the comics, it all ended in the death of the Mighty Thor.
It's also interesting to note, though, that Jane Foster's Mighty Thor arc has been combined, in the movie, with another from Jason Aaron's run: the story of Gorr the God-Butcher. That's actually quite appropriate because Gorr is opposed to the gods on an ideological level, convinced they do not deserve to exist and should be slaughtered. Jane Foster's Thor is, therefore, a direct challenge to everything Gorr stands for. She believes with all her heart that the universe needs at least the one god, and she's a mortal determined to fill that void. That philosophical difference is likely to be the center of Thor: Love & Thunder.