'Thor: Love and Thunder' Ending Explained, Hits Disney Plus This Week
Streaming and on digital Thursday, how does Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman's Thor 4 set up future Marvel adventures?
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Thor: Love and Thunder is available on digital this Thursday, Sept. 8. It's also streaming on Disney Plus, with the option to watch either the theatrical cut of the film or an IMAX Enhanced version. It arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Sept. 27.
Hemsworth stars as Thor in a battle with Christian Bale's Gorr the God-Butcher. When Gorr kidnaps a bunch of Asgardian children, Thor joins forces with his warrior Valkyrie, gentle-hearted rock dude Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to save the day. Here's how that turns out (spoilers!).
Gorr's kidnapping of the children turns out to be bait, as his ultimate goal is to use the Asgardian mode of transport known as the Bifrost to reach the very center of the universe, where a cosmic being called Eternity will grant his wish. Created by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko in 1965, Eternity appears in Marvel comics when characters like Doctor Strange take on particularly cosmic adventures.
Both Gorr and Jane are mortally wounded in the final battle, but Gorr gets his hands on Thor's ax Stormbreaker and manages to reach Eternity, followed closely by Thor and Jane.
Knowing he's defeated, Thor appeals to Gorr's better nature. No longer under the corrupting influence of the god-killing Necrosword, the repentant God-butcher chooses to use his dying wish to resurrect his young daughter who died in the film's opening scenes, on condition Thor promises to look after her. The girl comes back to life, and Thor keeps his promise.
Jane's transformation into Thor is part of Marvel's recent wave of characters who show that anyone can be a superhero, not just lantern-jawed white guys we've seen in comics and films for decades. Whether it's Falcon taking on the mantle of Captain America, Kamala Khan being inspired by Captain Marvel to become Ms. Marvel, or Miles Morales as Spider-Man in the comics and Spider-Verse films, iconic characters are telling a story that includes everyone. Even the kidnapped Asgardian children (and their teddy bears) get in on the action as Thor shares a touch of lighting power to fight off Gorr's shadow creatures (known in the comics as Black Berzerkers).
Sadly, Jane isn't around to be part of Thor's new family. In her human form she's dying of cancer, and although Thor's hammer Mjolnir imbued her with the powers of an Asgardian god, this power proved to be too much for her human body. It seems weird to make a big fuss about showing that a woman can be as powerful as Thor (in the finale, Jane angrily rejects being called "Lady Thor") and then undercut that by showing she can't handle it.
The lingering question, meanwhile, is what was the catchphrase she whispered to Thor before she died?
In the closing scenes, King Valkyrie and the now one-armed Asgardian warrior Sif teach the kids to fight, including Axl, son of the late Asgardian Heimdall. Played by Idris Elba, Heimdall was the guardian of the Bifrost and could magically see anything happening anywhere, but was killed by Thanos in the earlier film Avengers: Infinity War. The post-credits scene reveals, however, that having died in battle, both he and Jane make it to the Norse version of heaven, Valhalla.
The post-credits scenes also reveal that Russell Crowe's comically accented Greek god Zeus survived his apparent death too. Honestly, does no one stay dead in this film? This is a big part of why the film feels shallow, as character's deaths mean nothing and emotional moments are undermined by relentless gags (your mileage will definitely vary for the screaming goats, for example).
Even Korg, the comedy sidekick smited (smote?) by Zeus' thunderbolt is able to cheat death. Happily, a Kronan's mouth is all that's required to grow a new rocking' bod -- and he even finds love, holding hands across a pool of lava with a guy called Dwayne. Good for them.
Sad god to dad god
The reason for the film's title is revealed in the final moments. Thor serves up a nutritious breakfast of panflaps for Gorr's daughter, providing her the nutrients needed to fight the good fight for those who can't fight good. Korg's voiceover describes the pair as "Love and Thunder."
This is an example of an action hero growing as a person and softening to becoming a surrogate father. It's happened to everyone from James Bond to Wolverine (in Logan), while perhaps the defining example is Leon: The Professional (which also starred Natalie Portman, as it happens). Appropriately, the young kid Love is played by Hemsworth's own daughter.
Together the God of Thunder and his rambunctious adoptive daughter are set for more classic Thor adventures, which seems like a fitting send-off for Hemsworth as one of the last surviving heroes from the MCU original lineup. There isn't an obvious upcoming MCU movie or series that would involve Thor, but there's always a possibility he'll show up again.