It’s tough being Chris Hemsworth’s Thor right now. As the new trailer for Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder shows us, the latest episode of the Marvel superhero’s adventures has him replaced as the god of thunder by his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, now known as the Mighty Thor, and stripped naked by Russell Crowe’s Zeus as assorted females ogle and faint. It’s enough to get the men’s-rights brigade gasping in horror, and duly there are already umpteen threads on Reddit decrying Hollywood’s double standards.
If a female character were treated in the same way, there would be an outcry, goes the common refrain. Some point to the fact that Hemsworth complained (pretty half-heartedly, it must be said) about having to take his top off in the last Thor episode, 2017’s Ragnarok. Won’t somebody please think of the poor Aussie actor’s feelings in all this? Can’t those mean women and liberals just leave him alone, for Odin’s sake?
Out there in the multiverse somewhere there is probably a movie in which Thor finally cracks under the weight of all that objectification and goes on a bloodthirsty rampage of revenge, like some horrific cross between the Two Ronnies’ classic The Worm that Turned sketch and a male-led take on Kill Bill. Fortunately, we live in a very different version of reality. As this column has already noted, Waititi is entirely comfortable sending up Hemsworth’s hunky doofus status because the Aussie himself is clearly entirely comfortable with this new, cheerful and open-hearted (if slightly blond) version of the Norse superhero. Because he’s funnier, and more fun to play. That’s the thing about being a 6ft 3in musclebound behemoth with a face gorgeous enough to launch a thousand spaceships (I assume) – little things like being ogled probably aren’t top of one’s list to get upset about. Everything really is OK here.
Still not convinced, guys? Anyone worried that the MCU might be about to go the same way as Jason Aaron’s Mighty Thor comic book, which really did see the god of thunder replaced by Jane and forced to labour under the Odinson moniker, should take solace from the words of Waititi himself in a recent interview with Total Film. “We stick pretty closely to Jane’s storyline, and what happened to Jane [in the comics],” said the director. “Because that was such an influence on the film. We’re trying to take the best parts of that. And also, it’s really fun, the idea that Thor got Stormbreaker, that big axe, and now his hammer’s back and it’s in the hands of someone else.
“It’s no longer his hammer. It’s the idea that someone’s taking his place. I think a lot of fans are gonna potentially assume, ‘Oh, OK, this is the passing on of the torch’ … I’m not privy to any plans Marvel has for the future, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
Thor’s real problem in Love and Thunder doesn’t look as though it’s going to be Natalie Portman’s Jane, or losing his clothes, at all. The key baddie in Waititi’s film is Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher, who is on a mission to murder all the universe’s known deities and looks like a cross between Marilyn Manson and Mother Teresa. The new trailer also gives us our first look at the supervillain Waititi has claimed could be Marvel’s greatest so far, and it’s clear the studio has bet the house on Bale’s star power here. In the comics, Gorr has near-reptilian features and tentacles, but even the baddie’s creator has pointed out that if you’ve got Christian Bale on your team it’s probably a good idea to make the most of him.
By the way: getting Crowe to play Zeus, the pompous and self-important king of the Olympian gods? Somebody out there deserves all the box-office riches that will no doubt come Love and Thunder’s way for that little nugget of stunt-casting. And at least, dear Redditors, it wasn’t a sneaky and conniving woman who cruelly stole all Thor’s threads.