When the first batch of set photos from the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok were released, one face we didn’t see was Natalie Portman’s. If you’ve been following the MCU closely, you know why — in May of last year, MCU mastermind Kevin Feige confirmed that Portman would not return as Jane Foster in the third movie while on The Empire Film Podcast. But, you know how it goes with these things — no one in the cinematic universe universe is above a little trickery, even if it’s completely unconvincing (see: Star Trek Into Darkness).
No trickery here, though. Portman wasn’t in the set photos because she’s not in the movie. Chris Hemsworth talked to Entertainment Weekly about the new direction for Thor, saying “he’s certainly enjoying being a drifter, being a solo cowboy out there.” So, he’ll definitely be living the single life, although there’s a chance something might happen with Valkyrie (who might just be fine being a rad single lady herself, thanks).
Doesn’t seem like a problem considering the source medium. While superheroes are generally forever, their supporting casts change all the time — there are only so many stories you can write involving the same people before they get boring for everyone. Fresh characters help writers come at superheroes from different angles, which helps prevent the whole Marvel enterprise from getting tired.
Then, there’s the challenge of film. The handy thing about comics is that the characters don’t have to age (unless the writers want them to). In film, actors and actresses are either going to get too old for or too bored with their roles — and the MCU is finally getting to the point where it’ll need to consider how to handle that dilemma going forward.
They could do straight recasts, James Bond-style, but the answer can probably be found in the comics. Superhero mantles have been passed around more frequently in recent years, with Sam Wilson (the Falcon) stepping in as Captain America, Riri Williams becoming Iron Man, Amadeus Cho becoming the Hulk, and Miles Morales becoming (a) Spider-man.
And, let’s not forget about Jane Foster becoming Thor — if that prospect doesn’t get Natalie Portman back in, nothing will.
Header image: Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment