Thor has been through quite the emotional journey since he made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2009. Played by Chris Hemsworth, the Asgardian god of under has experienced all sorts of triumphs and tragedies throughout his life. And while all factored into his various forms of new identity crises, he faces a new one in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
In the film, Thor (Hemsworth) embarks on a quest for inner peace, only to find himself getting into trouble with the Guardians of the Galaxy. But his retirement is interrupted when a vengeful disciple named Gorr The God Butcher (Christian Bale) vows to kill all of the gods. To stop the massacre, Thor enlists the help of Korg (Taika Watiti), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has become The Mighty Thor now that she wields the once broken Mjolnir. Together, they travel the cosmos and meet exciting gods while trying to end Gorr’s reign of terror.
ThatsItLA joined their fellow journalists for the “Thor: Love and Thunder” virtual press conference. There, they had a chance to talk to Hemsworth, Portman, and Thomspon about how their heroes handle their current identity crises.
As Thor protected Asgard and saved the world from certain doom, the hero underwent an evolution. And Hemsworth credits Waititi for guiding the character to where he is now. “Taika brought out the immature young adolescent quality that I embody inside as Thor now, which he didn’t in the original films, which was exciting and new and fresh,” Hemsworth said. “The sort of North Star is about having fun. Embodying this space as a child would and enjoying all of it and being caught up in the wonder and the fascination of all of it and not getting bogged down in the serious nature that we can when we’re making films. Personally, with these kinds of films, it’s got to be fun.”
“It was very hard to figure out how to make him relatable. And that was the big challenge,” Waititi joked. “I’ve become friends with Chris, and I think just his personality and his energy and who he is, is the kind of person that I’d want to be on an adventure with. And you know, as someone who you can trust will be there to kind of look after you like a real-life hero.”
And Hemsworth can see a lot of himself in the changes that Thor’s experiencing. “There’s obviously a familiarity with the obvious points, but it’s he has changed so dramatically over the years as I have and that’s what’s been kind of fun is as the character has evolved, and I’ve had different opinions, I’ve sort of melded in cross paths and so on,” he said. “The origin story is I think he didn’t know the easiest bit, but it’s the most obvious one. And there’s a set of rules and guidelines I feel like you have to stick to, and it works, and it’s familiar and relatable for people.”
But what happens after that is the challenge for not only the writers and directors but the actor who play these recreated title heroes while still staying true to their spirit. “That’s been the luxury of working with different directors and different casts. They all bring out something very different in you. As Taika said, I feel like the character has probably become more me over the years in, I hope in a fun way.”
And while Jane Foster has helped Thor save the day in the first two films, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is a chance to see the character in a new light as she wields the powerful Mjolnir. “Yeah, it was pretty wild. Of course, after seeing Chris wear the costume for so many years and then to try, you know, the version on myself, getting for all the arm cuffs and the boots, and everything was pretty surreal for the first time,” Portman said.
Of course, Jane as The Mighty Thor does come with a few changes, like some added muscles. “Natalie led the charge in the gym,” Hemsworth said. “We went to the gym and tried to keep up with her.”
“That’s very sweet, but I was especially grateful to everyone’s imagination to cast a 5’3” actor in a 6’ roll,” Portman said. “I think that takes a real leap of possibility in your mind and probably not something I will, you know, get the opportunity to do to be imagined as by any other group. So, it was a great challenge. Tessa and Chris obviously had a lot of experience in that in that world. So got to learn a lot from them.”
But Thor and Jane aren’t the only heroes trying to find themselves in the grand scheme of things. Valkyrie is also in a new place in her life as the King of New Asgard, and how Stan Lee’s words reflect how Valkyrie processed her trauma to be the person she is now. “I think something that Stan Lee talked to a lot about whether it’s a villain or hero, the thing sometimes that connects them to their power, whether it’s used for good or bad, is actually their trauma,” she said.
Thompson shared some of the conversations she had with Waititi about subverting the idea of the female superhero archetype with humor. “You have this moment where she comes out, and you think it’s going to be that badass thing. And then she immediately falls over,” she said. “That was really fun to try to inhabit the spirit and the kind of physicality that it takes to be a hero, which is its own skill. It’s like, Chris is so tremendous at it.” Thompson continued. “To allow her to be fun and goofy. And it’s just been really nice with this one.”
“We also talked about the idea of someone that has a job they really love, but they’re also kind of disgruntled. Valkyrie was a professional soldier for 1000s of years and now finds herself kind of stuck in bureaucracy,” Thompson continued. “So, she’s really missing being on the battlefield and missing her sisters. And so it’s been great fun to get to have that again with Natalie in particular as The Mighty Thor.”
“And I think that’s something that Taika has always done really well in his films, and in this one especially, I feel like he really was excited to lean into the emotion in a way that felt rich for us,” Thompson added. “I think really different than what we’ve seen, particularly with themes of love and relationships.”
The idea of presenting a superhero and a demigod as vulnerable gave Portman a newfound perspective on the figures and renewed respect for her fellow actor. “This was such an incredible way to explore a female superhero that could be quite vulnerable and weak and find strength in that and be more like a human I could relate to personally,” she said. “And then also, I think it just gave me renewed respect for what Chris [Hemsworth] has been doing for over a decade and what Tessa [Thompson] has been doing because I see how much work goes into it that. I don’t think I was aware of when I was just like the chick in the first one. I didn’t see everything that went on behind the scenes. When I got an insight into like all of the choreography and the training and everything. I was like, ‘wow, this is a triple job of what I was doing back then.’”
But the humans weren’t the only ones with a job to do. Stormbreaker has a personality of its own in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” And it’s akin to Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation. “Look, it’s hard to see, you know, the ex-girlfriend turns up, dresses as him. That’s a shock. And all of a sudden, his weapon that he held so dear and so on for so many years is now belongs to someone else,” Hemsworth said. “And then he has Stormbreaker, who starts to sense a little jealousy there. So, you know, that kind of evolved through the film didn’t think it was in the original script, but it was fun.”
“Look, you gotta remember Stonebreaker is made of Groot’s arm,” Waititi said. “So Grott was like a teenager when he did that. So, we felt like Stormbreaker was a young weapon has only just been born about five or six years ago. So, it had to feel a little bit like an adolescent and was going through changes. And having mood swings.”
And just because you wield the power of Thor doesn’t exactly make you Thor. So, Portman went into the details of what makes Mighty Thor so different from Thor. “I think he’s obviously very assured and experienced in being a superhero, and she’s just trying to figure it out. She’s new at it, and also keeps reverting to human form,” she said. “So, there’s a kind of danger always that like it might be her last moment. Getting to experience that. I don’t know that might be. That might be a big spoiler. Sorry.”
“Thor: Love and Thunder” opens in theaters on July 8, 2022.