Right now, superhero films are all the vogue, but one star seems to have bowed out of them. Natalie Portman's Jane Foster isn't set to return in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, and fans had believed it was because she'd left under something of a cloud, given Portman was known to be furious over Marvel's treatment of Patty Jenkins during filming of Thor: The Dark World. But is Natalie Portman's Marvel career really over, or is there still potential for her to return?
#NataliePortman played the character of Jane Foster in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. She added a much-needed human dimension to the Realm Eternal, allowing us to glimpse the mysteries of the Nine Realms through eyes of wonder. The character also served as a bridge to add some pretty entertaining background cast to the films, including the popular Darcy Lewis, played by Kat Dennings.
Unfortunately, filming on Thor: The Dark World was plagued with behind-the-scenes drama. Director Patty Jenkins was dropped unceremoniously, and reportedly without warning. Given she would've been breaking ground as the first female director of a superhero movie, that decision understandably sent shockwaves through Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter was told by insiders that Jenkins wasn't acting "decisively" enough to get the ball rolling on the film, and even THR couldn't help but point out that, with no script in place at the time, it was pretty much impossible for Jenkins to act "decisively."
Natalie Portman had been one of Jenkins's strongest advocates, and was said to be furious. Although Portman was contractually obliged to stay with Thor: The Dark World, she didn't seem enthusiastic about sticking around, and nobody was particularly surprised by the news that Portman wouldn't reprise her role for Thor: Ragnarok. Although it's worth noting that — with the bulk of the film set on other worlds — her character likely wasn't particularly relevant to the script in the first place.
But Could She Return?
Portman is nothing but professional, and has refused to publicly comment on the spat. In August, The Wall Street Journal asked about a potential return to #Marvel, and she commented:
"As far as I know, I’m done. 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. It was a great thing to be a part of."
Given the behind-the-scenes controversy this was a pleasant and mild statement, showing no hint of animosity towards Marvel Studios. In a recent interview with Deadline over the biopic Jackie, Portman's attitude became even more interesting. Asked about future Marvel movies, she responded:
"Yeah, well, hopefully one day I figure it out."
The interesting aspect of this interview, though, is that Natalie Portman definitely isn't ruling out a return to the #MCU. Given her past conflict with Marvel Studios, that's something you wouldn't expect.
The key point is that Marvel Studios is now a very different company. A lot of Marvel's past behind-the-scenes drama was tied to Marvel's reclusive CEO, Ike Perlmutter, and the Marvel Creative Committee, a group of 'experts' from inside Marvel who oversaw the movies. Patty Jenkins wasn't the only one to fall foul of the Marvel Creative Committee, with Jon Favreau bowing out after Iron Man 2, and even Joss Whedon leaving the MCU after the MCC's interference with Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Matters came to a head in 2015, with Kevin Feige threatening to quit. Disney forced a corporate restructure, with Marvel Studios removed from the rest of the Marvel company, and Feige reporting directly to Disney CEO, Bob Iger. We're now over a year into the new structure, and it's worth noting that all rumors of behind-the-scenes drama have ended. Jon Favreau has even returned to the MCU, reprising the role of Happy Hogan in Spider-Man: Homecoming!
With Marvel Studios having completely changed shape, and strong indications that the reinvigorated company now has a very different corporate culture, I'm not surprised to hear that Portman is no longer ruling out a return to the MCU.
Why Should Jane Foster Return?
Over in the comics, Jane Foster's character has become increasingly important. The 2014 "Original Sin" event transformed Thor's status quo, revealing that he was no longer worthy to hold Mjolnir (the reason for this still hasn't been explained). We were introduced to a new, female Thor, and gradually learned her story; this new Thor was in reality Jane Foster!
The female Thor has been an absolute hit for Marvel, and her adventures — penned by Jason Aaron — have been among some of the most enjoyable Marvel comics of the last couple of years. Aaron's concept is fascinating, Jane Foster, we learned, has been diagnosed with cancer. In a heartwrenching twist, every time she wields Mjolnir she undoes the effects of chemotherapy. Her heroism is literally killing her, but this is what makes her worthy, because she knows that the world needs Thor, and refuses to back down.
It's true that the MCU version of Thor has been radically redesigned, with his origin only having the faintest nod to Donald Blake. Still, the truth is that where the comics go, the films tend to eventually follow. The popularity of this female Thor suggests that Marvel Studios may well eventually consider this.
Personally, I'd be delighted. I have a lot of respect for Natalie Portman as an actress, but don't think she was given much opportunity to shine in the two Thor films. It would also be exciting to see a major actress transition from a background role to a potential franchise-lead!
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For now, the truth is that we have no evidence that Natalie Portman will ever return to the MCU. None of her comments sound particularly hopeful, but at least she isn't ruling it out - in spite of the troubled relationship she's had with Marvel Studios, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of animosity. My real hope is that, sometime in the future, Portman will return; not just as a love interest, but as a star.