In an interview with Andrew Freund prior to the release of Thor: Love and Thunder, Natalie Portman agreed with him that this movie is “the gayest movie ever made in the MCU.” And it’s certainly been marketed that way. At an advance screening, director Taika Waititi and Portman called the movie “super gay,” and “so gay.” Waititi and the cast have been hyping queer fans up for the movie, constantly mentioning how queer the film is.
The only problem is, it’s really not.
Spoilers ahead! Yes, Thor: Love and Thunder is a very cute movie with queer elements. Valkyrie and Korg are canonically gay in this. Valkyrie gets a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when she kisses a Zeussette’s hand. In a short conversation, Korg mentions Valkyrie’s dead “girlfriend” and reveals he has two dads and comes from a species that’s seemingly all-male and all-gay. Korg also really enjoys Thor’s brief strip show. The movie’s imagery is filled with bright pops of rainbow color. Heimdall’s son has changed his name from Astrid to Axl (and while it’s never specified whether his character is transgender, the name change from the feminine Astrid to the more masculine Axl could be a trans metaphor). A polyamorous pod of space dolphins shows up at one point. And the comedic bit about Thor’s love triangle with his hammers gives off strong homoerotic vibes. Thor: Love and Thunder is often playfully gay and fun. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for queer representation in Marvel movies.
However, while this may be satisfying queer representation for some viewers, it’s not quite enough for others. Thor: Love and Thunder still doesn’t include enough explicitly queer elements. Although Korg finds a mate in Dwayne the rock (which was a hilarious bit), this happens at the end of the movie without any development. The pair are onscreen together for a very short moment as part of a quick “where are they now?” montage. Romantic intimacy (whether that be physical, verbal, or emotional) between two queer characters is absent from the film entirely. The gay rocks aren’t even allowed to have sex—they hold hands over lava to make a baby. As for queer romantic relationships, the MCU’s Eternals wins on that front with the franchise’s first gay kiss. Had Thor: Love and Thunder not been marketed as so firmly gay, maybe the lack of gay romance wouldn’t be as much of a disappointment.
Fans were especially looking forward to a romance for Valkyrie in this movie since Tessa Thompson said at Comic Con last year that her character’s “first order of business” in this movie would be to find a queen. That plot point is nowhere to be seen in Thor: Love and Thunder. In an interview with LA Times, Thompson explained that it’s important “not to hang the character’s hat solely on her sexual identity just because she’s a queer character. I think that’s one way of minimizing her humanity…” This is a justification often used to avoid giving queer characters onscreen romances. Meanwhile, Thor’s character arc in this movie mostly revolves around his romantic relationship with Jane, but no one is arguing that this minimizes his humanity. Thor’s love for a human woman is what brings him closer to humanity and is what made him worthy in the first place, just as he reiterates at the end of Thor: Love and Thunder. A romantic relationship for Valkyrie could have been used to flesh out her character more.
Overall, Valkyrie could have used more development. She’s a fan-favorite character, a total badass in a fight, and Tessa Thompson plays her wonderfully. But she spends most of the movie doing the same thing she did in Ragnarok: fighting and lamenting over her fallen sisters and girlfriend. Her role as the new King of Asgard is made irrelevant to the story early on. It would’ve been great to see more of Valkyrie as King, as a friend to Jane Foster/The Mighty Thor, and as an individual.
Jane Foster/The Mighty Thor also could’ve benefited from more screentime and development. Her storyline in this movie is very compelling. Natalie Portman does a beautiful job of portraying the character as a person who never gives up. She never gives up on trying to find a cure for her cancer, on her love for Thor, on finding the Asgardian kids, and she never gives up hope. She’s an admirable character. The movie could have used more of her. She’s been a bit reduced to Thor’s love interest. Like with Valkyrie, Jane could’ve been better fleshed out if screentime had been allotted to show what she was like on her own as The Mighty Thor before Chris Hemsworth’s Thor showed up.
The original Thor himself gets the best treatment in this film. Chris Hemsworth is a delight as always. Taika Waititi turned Thor into a hilarious himbo in Ragnarok, and he improves on his work here. Thor’s golden retriever attitude and genuine sensitivity are the heart of this movie. Thor begins this movie keeping everyone at arm’s length through relentless humor instead of through the traditional route directors usually take by having male characters act cold and cruel to push people away. By falling in love with Jane, Thor opens his heart again. Thor has lost every single person he’s ever cared about. But keeping his heart open allows him to find happiness in a new family with Gorr’s daughter. The ending to this movie is so sweet, it leaves you feeling all warm and happy inside.
Overall, Thor: Love and Thunder gets a ⅘ movie score ⅘ Incluvie score. It’s not the gayest Marvel movie ever made—that title belongs to Venom: Let There Be Carnage (read more here). But it’s still a fun, silly feel-good movie with some queer representation sprinkled in.