Based on the marketing for Taika Waititi’s latest Marvel venture, Thor: Love and Thunder, you would think this was Jane Foster’s movie, right? Or, at the very least, partially her movie? In fairness, it almost is, but the film’s refusal to commit to a shared story between Thor Odinson and the Mighty Thor leaves what could have been a truly beautiful and empowering story of love and loss feeling hollow. So hollow, in fact, that even Natalie Portman’s insane gains can’t make up for the spectacular way in which Thor 4 failed Jane Foster.
In the post-post-credit scene of Thor: Love and Thunder, Jane is welcomed with open arms into Valhalla, greeted at the pearly gates by Heimdall. He invites her in, and she smiles before the screen cuts to black. In the tragic aftermath of yet another just-okay MCU movie, my first thought when reflecting on Jane’s epic return and subsequent death left me with one question: Why bring her back at all?
It certainly wasn’t to allow her character any type of grand personal growth. Throughout the film, Jane doesn’t change as a person (apart from physically), and even if she did, it would have happened off-screen. From start to finish, Jane is a hero through-and-through, always putting the safety of others first—which, in fairness, is a stark change from her one-dimensional portrayal from previous Thor films—but her development ends there.
Bafflingly, Waititi skirts over a mind-boggling amount of character moments for Jane, including the scene in which she becomes Mighty Thor in the first place. Rather than show the audience her transformation into Thor, we are instead relayed that information by Valkyrie, who apparently became Jane’s bestie off-screen as well. The relationship between Valkyrie and Jane, or lack thereof, makes these characters feel like afterthoughts, and does nothing to showcase any kind of meaningful connection between the two. Based on Waititi’s track record from Thor: Ragnarok—which gave Valkyrie (its only female hero) an insane amount of trauma but no space to actually deal with her emotions or alcoholism in a meaningful way beyond as a punchline—this didn’t come as a huge surprise. Even the scenes where Jane grapples with her cancer as she transforms back into herself (much sicker than she was before) fall victim to the film’s inconsistent pacing and tone, these moments undercut by jokes shortly after they occur.
In fact, Thor is the one who benefits most from Jane’s stagnant inclusion in the film, and, in particular, from her death. Early on, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord tells Thor that he seems aimless, like he doesn’t have a purpose. He tells Thor that he needs something to make him “feel shitty” in order to regain a sense of purpose, attributing his own motivation to the pain he felt after he loved and lost Gamora. About halfway through the film, Thor tells Jane that he will love her in spite of her cancer, for all the time she has left (and that he’ll “feel shitty” about her when she’s gone, which is evidently his end goal). As Jane’s time runs out, it becomes clear that the true cancer responsible for her death is not her illness at all, but Thor’s character development.
At the end of Thor: Love and Thunder, Korg’s voiceover (the film’s constant crutch) claims Jane sacrificed herself in order to save the universe, but the truth is messier. Jane gives her all to shatter the Necrosword, attempting to kill Gorr, but the true Hero Moment is saved for Thor himself. He allows Gorr to “win” by letting him make his sole wish of getting his daughter back, his heart turned soft by Thor and Jane’s offer to take care of his daughter after he’s passed. Harkening back to Starlord’s advice, Thor is faced with his “shitty thing” when Jane’s cancer fully takes over her body and ultimately kills her, falling limp in Thor’s arms. This death, which the film treats as if it were a mighty heroic sacrifice, instead felt straight out of the less-than-feminist ‘80s action movies that inspired the film. In order to further Thor’s story, in order to make him a father, in order to make him feel something, Jane had to die. They completely fridged her.
Thor: Love and Thunder provides what is probably the most striking and obvious case of this trope in recent years. As defined by comic writer Gail Simone, a female character is “fridged” when she is a hero’s loved one who is “hurt, killed, maimed, assaulted, or otherwise traumatized in order to motivate another character or move their plot forward.” Thor 4 lays it out very plainly:
1. Thor has no purpose.
2. Starlord says Thor should lose a loved one to regain a sense of purpose.
3. Thor reconnects with Jane.
4. Jane dies so Thor can obtain his purpose and motivation to continue to be a hero.
Fans of the comics will know that Mighty Thor’s death was inevitable due to her cancer’s advanced stage. In fact, Jane meets her untimely end within Mighty Thor Vol. 2, but the framing around her death is entirely different. Rather than dying in order to make Thor feel emotions, Jane sacrifices herself to save the city of Asgardia from flying into the sun. The key difference comes down to intent: Jane Foster’s Mighty Thor was always a character with an expiration date, but Thor 4 set Jane up to die a love interest’s death, not a hero’s.
To make matters worse, Jane’s death is an incredibly jarring change of pace from the MCU’s recent trajectory. Some haters have even taken to calling the MCU the “M-She-U” to indicate their hurt little feelings at having to see so many female stories told within the Marvel Universe as of late. But Thor 4 feels like Marvel films of old, where female characters were merely there to further the plot of their male superhero love interests, putting Jane back into the phase of the MCU she originally hailed from.
With that said, it would be a lie to say that Jane isn’t a complete badass in the film. Her fight scenes are incredible and Natalie Portman’s workout regime absolutely paid off, but a number of her more awe-inducing moments are undercut by Thor himself. Jane utilizing her power gets turned into punchlines, with the Mighty Thor being overshadowed for a joke about Thor’s “ex-hammer’’ or Stormbreaker’s jealousy. Even her choice to risk her own life to save the children of New Asgard becomes another moment for Thor’s personal reflection. Despite getting to sit in the theater and watch this awesome female superhero kick absolute ass, it’s all soured at the end; her brilliance and power becomes a joke I no longer want to laugh at. The butterfly-inducing, gooey Wonder Woman-theater-experience feelings floated away just like Jane did, in a gust of glittery god-dust.
Every other hero from the original Avengers has now passed their mantle (or shield, or bow) down to the next generation, while Thor has actually taken his hammer back for himself, leaving Jane Foster stuffed in the fridge—er, in Valhalla, hero no more. With nothing to give Jane’s storyline other than tired tropes and underdeveloped storylines, Thor: Love and Thunder is the one that should “feel shitty” about its misuse of this iconic character.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in Chicago. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.