Friday, September 22, 2023

Thor: Love and Thunder’s post-credits scene is a casting announcement

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After much joy and loss, Thor: Love and Thunder left our space viking in a relatively happy place.

Deadly defeated, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) had one last wish – courtesy of an all-powerful being called Eternity – to either destroy the universe or choose love. Before dying, the astrophysicist, the thunder goddess Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), begs him to choose good over evil, humanity over destruction.

Inspired by how she gave up her own life for Asgard and the rest of the universe, Gorr asks Eternity to bring his daughter back from the dead (she dies of starvation and exhaustion in the opening scene of the film). Thor (Chris Hemsworth), promising both the dying Jane and the dying Gorr, tells them that he will take care of Gorr’s daughter, love her and not leave her alone.

In the final minutes of the film, we see Thor fulfill that oath. Our beloved demigod races across the universe with his adopted goddaughter (literally, she’s a goddess). They protect people who cannot protect themselves. She learns to love him. He teaches her how to live.

And they call themselves, appropriately, Love and Thunder.

But not everyone is on board with this happy ending.

Image of a spoiler warning

As Thor: Love and Thunder established, every type of mythology – Greek, Norwegian, Wakandan, even Pixar’s bao – and all the gods that humans worship are real.

In the mid-credits scene, Zeus (Russell Crowe) laments his defeat at Thor’s hands to his gathered admirers. (Enthusiasts? Fans? It’s unclear.) Earlier in the film, Thor, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and Mighty Thor/Jane go to Zeus’ hometown of Almighty City to request an army to defeat Gorr . Instead of helping, Zeus laughs at them. Instead of taking in that laughter, Team Thors kills its guards and takes its thunderbolt.

Zeus is annoyed that gods have become a laughing stock. He also regrets being ashamed in front of his fellow gods.

He tells his captive audience that there was a time when he was adored and loved by all, and decided that mortals should be reminded of how powerful the gods are. To remind those mortals how weak and frail they are, Zeus says he will send his son… Hercules. That’s right, the demigod who killed the hydra and did all that work.

The camera turns to reveal Hercules who is played by Brett Goldstein – better known as Roy Kent or that actor with an indelible eyebrow from Ted Lasso

Goldstein’s cameo is truly a casting reveal, as is Charlize Theron’s in the end credits scene of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Harry Styles’ in Eternals† Goldstein’s Hercules will likely appear in Thor’s next adventure, if not sooner.

Zeus seems to set up Hercules as a villain, and he could be portrayed as an antagonist in the MCU, but comic book Hercules is actually more of a good guy. Armed with superhuman strength, durability and invulnerability, he has teamed up with the Avengers and even Thor multiple times. He usually takes on his half-brother Ares, the god of war.

But the best thing about comic book Hercules is that he’s some kind of flop nepotism baby. In a comic book storyline, Hercules decides to become a movie star, but the movies he plays are so embarrassingly bad that he loses the adoration of mortals. Zeus finds out about his son’s terrible movies and leaves him with what the Olympic equivalent of “on read” is, barring him from Olympus until he earns back that adoration.

There are more than a few fun and crazy Hercules storylines like this one. As Thor and Hercules fight drunkenly because… Hercules has forgotten his name (and partly by a pig). Or Hercules and Thor switch roles and powers and then fight† Or Thor and Hercules fight over which of these absolute units can cross a bridge first! And since Marvel has singled out Goldstein, a comedic actor and writer, it looks like it will likely (hopefully!) lean into the character’s inherent silliness.

In addition to the Goldstein casting, there is an actual end credits scene.

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor
Jasin Boland

In it Jane Foster is in Valhalla. She just helped save the world and led Gorr to choose love over destruction. But her cancer was just too advanced, so she died a hero’s death. Heimdall (Idris Elba), the protector and guardian of the gods, greets her and thanks her for caring for his son. He also tells her that she is very dead. He knows because he’s dead too, died at Thanos’ hands in Infinite War† It’s a pretty short scene, but it confirms that Jane is now a hero and worshiped as a goddess. If Portman doesn’t return, it’ll be a beautiful, heroic ending for a character Marvel sometimes didn’t really know what to do with.

But there is also some uncertainty: we do not know the rules of Valhalla. We don’t know who else is in Valhalla (Tony? Odin? Loki? Freya?). We don’t know what heroes like Heimdall do all day in Valhalla? As we saw in love and thundereven if death is glorious, it may not be permanent.

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