Natalie Portman's Marvel Universe Exit Is The Best Thing For Jane Foster Right Now
In news that is less than surprising for fans of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Natalie Portman, the actress has confirmed that it seems highly unlikely that she'll ever star in another Thor, or Marvel, movie again. Discussing the potential reprisal of her Thor character, the astrophysicist Jane Foster, with The Wall Street Journal, Portman confirmed that she's "done" with the Marvel Universe, stating: "I mean, I don’t know if maybe one day they’ll ask for an Avengers 7 or whatever, I have no idea. But as far as I know, I’m done, but it was a great thing to be a part of."
Of course, Thor and Marvel fans have already had some idea that this was coming, considering that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige had previously suggested that Portman's character wouldn't feature in the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnorak. Explaining this fact to The Empire Film Podcast back in May, Feige suggested that there were "many reasons" for Portman's absence and that we'll see these "in the film." Personally, I'm a little disappointed that Portman's Foster won't feature in Thor: Ragnorak, though, and that's pretty much because I always felt as though she was a character deserving of far better development than she ultimately received on screen.
When Foster was introduced in the first Thor movie, her character felt full of potential. A beyond smart female astrophysicist? I was all about how refreshing that character felt. I wasn't even too concerned by the idea that the character enjoyed a love story with Thor, because, honestly, the movie was as much about her as it was about him. Their storylines crossed and supported one another as much as was possible in a film literally titled Thor, and who could blame Jane for falling for Thor? Dr. Foster might have been wonderfully smart, but she was still only human, and I totally would have been smooching up on that God of Thunder myself if only I were to be given the chance.
But then the second movie, Thor: The Dark World, happened, and I couldn't help but feel as though Foster's character got short-changed in being written into the sequel little more than a love interest, and a damsel in distress at that. It's worth remembering, for instance, that, in 2015 (two years after the release of The Dark World), Jane Foster became the female Thor within the Marvel comic universe. She wasn't just worthy of lifting Mjolnr, Thor's mighty hammer, but she was also more than capable of using it just as great as Thor did. Though Foster had been Thor's love interest for the entirety of the comic series, this new twist proved that the character had always been more than that. And that's exactly what I wanted to see from Portman's character in the Marvel cinematic universe.
On the one hand, I can understand why Foster wouldn't feature in Thor: Ragnarok, particularly if there was no room in the plot to develop Jane back out of the solely love interest role that she occupied in The Dark World. Judging from everything we know about Ragnarok so far, the film definitely sounds as though it doesn't require a love interest in the slightest bit. In fact, it sounds more like a trippy buddy movie between Hulk and Thor, where they traverse the cosmos together like true friends (and, I'm sure, plenty of humor). However, even without Jane being featured, it also sounds like the film is going to be full of strong women to fill the void.
In addition to villainy from Hela, the Death Goddess (being played by the always on point Cate Blanchett) and heroics from Jamie Alexander's returning Lady Sif, Ragnarok is also featuring Creed's Tessa Thompson as the outstandingly powerful Valkyrie. From the bare bones of information which have been released about the film so far, it sounds truly apocalyptic and quite possibly the biggest scale Thor film to date, set in a universe that we've only so far experienced a mere fraction of. There's no room for a love interest storyline in there, and, quite frankly, there are very few superhero movies which ever feel like they deliver love story subplots well within their narratives.
These love stories have a tendency to undermine the female characters involved in them, (think Iron Man's Pepper Potts, whose presence sadly dwindled with every film, Black Widow in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, after much of her arc became about romancing Bruce Banner, or even Rachel Dawes from The Dark Knight who died because of her relationship with Batman). Jane and Thor enjoyed a love story together in the first film that made a lot of sense, and I understand the importance of their romance in keeping with the canon of the comics. However, as the world of Thor expands, it's beginning to feel increasingly like there's less and less room in the cosmos for characters who seemingly have no role beyond being Thor's love interest.
It would have been wonderful to see Jane becoming more of her own character, using her smarts and her talents even further to help save the day and eventually even becoming as powerful as her Norse God of a boyfriend. It would still be wonderful to see her eventually return to the franchise to take over as the new Thor. That's the sort of character arc that a phenomenal actress like Portman is worthy of portraying, and one that I hope she does get to play out in the future.
In the meantime, Thor: Ragnarok is due for release in July 2017, and, though I'm desperately hoping that nobody feels the need to give Thor a lady friend with whom to snuggle up while he saves the universe, speculation seems to suggest otherwise. News reports have appeared to hint at the idea that Thompson's Valkyrie could be the love interest of Ragnarok with Deadline, in particular, describing Thompson as playing "Chris Hemsworth’s love interest" in the third Thor film. At the very least, I hope that they continue to develop Valkyrie's character beyond being a romantic prop for Thor, and give the character her space to be powerful, smart, funny, and totally awesome on her own merits. Just like Jane Foster could have been.
Images: Walt Disney Motion Pictures; Giphy (2)