Thor: Love and Thunder & The Legacy of the Quadrilogy

This is why we need a fourth Thor solo movie.

Thor: Love and Thunder
Thor: Love and Thunder

Our movie history is littered with trilogies: there’s The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather, The Dark Knight, The Matrix – the list goes on. On a story level, it makes sense, since most narratives have three basic parts: the beginning, the middle and the conclusion. In the first movie, we’re introduced to the characters and the world, and by the last movie there’s a resolution of sorts. Sometimes the trilogy is conceived from the very beginning – there’s a decision to make three films, and while each film exists distinctly on its own, they are more powerful when viewed together. Other times it’s not intentional – the film does well, so we’ll make a sequel because people like it so much.

The quadrilogy, made up of four films in a series, occurs for three reasons. One, the movie studio is trying to restart or cash in on the franchise, so they release a fourth film, only it doesn’t do as well as expected, so everything falls to the wayside. This happened with the Indiana Jones movies, where we had the first three films in the 80s, and an attempt to reinvigorate the franchise with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008. This was the same intention with The Matrix Resurrections, and while it was better received than the last two Matrix films by some, it didn’t perform well at the box office.

The second way a quadrilogy happens is when the last film in a trilogy is split into two parts, so what was initially supposed to be a trilogy becomes a quadrilogy because of runtime. One such example of this is The Hunger Games, which is a trilogy of books, but the last book is split into two films so as to cover more content. The Divergent series was going to use the same strategy, but the fourth film Ascendant was cancelled and never came to be.

The third reason? Well, everybody had so much fun the first three times that they just wanted to do it all over again. This was the case for Toy Story 4, since the third movie had more or less tied up the narrative. In an interview with The Washington Post, Pixar director Josh Cooley commented that while Andy’s story is complete, they felt that for Woody “there was more to tell of him to complete his arc.” While Toy Story 4 wasn’t particularly necessary, following Woody into a whole different chapter of his life was enjoyable. It helps immensely that the movie is so well-made.

The existence of a fourth film in the Thor series is a result of reasons one and three. It’s clear that the cast had a hoot working on Thor: Ragnarok together, and given the last film’s beloved status in the MCU, Marvel obviously wants to cash in on that success. Thor is also the first character to get a fourth solo movie, and the reason is a pretty straightforward one – he needs to complete his character arc. For Steve and Tony, they could afford to only have three solo movies because their characters are still the key focal point in the team-up movies. Steve’s character arc was far from done after the third Captain America movie, but his character arc is resolved in Avengers: Endgame, and it’s the same for Tony.

Thor’s story is still far from done, and so the existence of this fourth movie is to move the final pieces of his narrative into place, and to, in some way, also establish a link to the third Guardians movie coming in 2023. Based on the official teaser trailer Marvel has released, Thor’s journey is that of self-discovery and introspection. Who is he without the war and battles? Can he ever be satisfied with an existence defined by peace? The main themes and ideas have actually been explored before, in the first Thor movie. Odin strips Thor of his powers, and he has to discover who he is outside of his God of Thunder status. The person who helped him with that in the first film was Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). He may be a God, but she falls in love with the man.

We get a quick glimpse of her as Thor at the end of the official teaser, and fans are of course excited to see where director Taika Waititi will take the direction of the story. Dr. Jane Foster didn’t appear in Thor: Ragnarok since the two had broken up, and since most of the movie took place in Asgard and the garbage planet of Sakaar, it didn’t make sense to include her since she’s from Earth. There were no plans to bring Portman back into the fold again, until Waititi himself approached her and sold her on the new direction her character would have in this film. While Jane is a brilliant scientist, she mainly played the role of love interest in the first two Thor movies, so the opportunity to do something new with the character was probably too tantalising to pass up.

So you see, this fourth movie isn’t just for Thor, it’s for Jane as well. In the comics, Jane was diagnosed with cancer, and despite Thor’s urgings, decided to move ahead with regular medicine instead of any magical intervention. When she is found worthy, she cannot bear to sit back when she could prevent suffering as a superhero. But this means that every time she transforms back to mortal from goddess state, whatever progress she makes in her cancer treatments becomes moot.

The constant resolution of character arcs in the MCU have occurred two ways: either they find love and peace, or they die in the midst of being a superhero. Tony had five good years of being with Pepper and a father to Morgan before his death in Avengers: Endgame, Steve gets to live out the rest of his life with his first love Peggy, while Natasha sacrifices herself to save so many others. Could Thor: Love and Thunder maybe bring some middle ground to the table? Perhaps inner peace and fighting worthy battles don’t have to be as mutually exclusive as we think – Thor could have both, and Jane could help him see that.

Also, considering how Thor’s entire family is dead in this current universe, Jane is definitely there to bring not just the thunder but the love as well. So, while this isn’t a fourth movie that was conceived from the very beginning, it’s now essential due to the new ideas it will breathe into the franchise, as well as be the bones for a possible Valkyrie movie (Jane becomes the first Valkyrie of the new generation in the comics).

Wherever the narrative takes us, be prepared for lots of love, and lots of thunder.

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