‘Thor 4’: Will Taika Waititi Include Jane Foster’s Tragic Story From the Comics?

Cancer might seem to be a weighty topic for a superhero movie to cover, but if anyone can tackle it, it’s Taika Waititi. For one thing, his Thor: Ragnarok became far and away the most financially successful of the Thor Movies, and he’s returning to direct Love and Thunder, which might include a story about Natalie Portman’s character having cancer. 

For another thing, Waititi just won an Oscar for writing Jojo Rabbit, which dared to cast Adolf Hitler as the imaginary friend of a boy in Nazi Germany, with Waititi himself playing the buffoon dictator. Still, there are no guarantees, with the script still in flux. 

Taika Waititi on the red carpet
Taika Waititi | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

What happened to Jane Foster in the comics?

One of the most famous images at Comic-Con was of Natalie Portman holding Mjolnir aloft. The moment was striking for two reasons. One, it marked Natalie Portman’s return to the MCU after she sat Thor: Ragnarok out. Second, it was Natalie Portman picking up Thor’s hammer. That’s arguably even cooler than Captain America doing it.

In the comics, Jane Foster picked up the hammer twice. The first time was the speculative What If series in 1978. The second became canon when Thor became unworthy of Mjolnir, while Jane became worthy of it. The only problem is, Jane has contracted breast cancer. 

The comics put Jane through the wringer, when her husband and son both perish in a car accident even before she was diagnosed with cancer. After that diagnosis, her friends in Thor’s realm learn of it, but she refuses all magical treatments. While becoming Thor overpowers the cancer, the disease returns when Jane Foster transforms back into her earthly form because being Lady Thor also kills the chemotherapy. So it’s a double-edged sword. Triumph is only intermittent. 

Will Jane Foster have cancer in ‘Love and Thunder?’ 

The gravity of that storyline might be part of what drew Portman back to the MCU. She had departed under a cloud because she was displeased that her choice as director of Thor: The Dark World, Patty Jenkins, left after “creative differences.” However, Portman was lured back by Waitit’s story.

The only thing is, Waititi himself seems to be uncertain as to what will ultimately make it into the Love and Thunder screenplay. Screen Rant reported that the writer-director said, “That comics run was a big inspiration and was an influence on the first few drafts. But at Marvel, we always change everything. I could say one thing right now, and in two years, it will be the complete opposite — or that thing won’t exist. We continue writing even in post-production.”

It’s worth noting that the screenplay has taken on a second writer, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, although it’s also worth noting that Waititi is not credited with the Ragnarok screenplay at all.

Marvel has become such a machine, that the machine can even absorb 11th-hour crisis, such as director Scott Derrickson departing the Doctor Strange sequel and being replaced by Sam Raimi. So all this back and forth over the cancer storyline could mean everything or nothing. It’s impossible to know for sure until the film is locked. 

Cancer is not taboo for superhero movies

Whether cancer rears its ugly head in Thor: Love and Thunder or not, cancer is far from off-limits when it comes to superhero stories. Some people tend to think, “Oh, cancer is too serious a storyline for a popcorn flick like a Marvel movie.” People who think that forget that it’s already been done, by the crassest Marvel movie of all: Deadpool.

Amid all the snarking and fourth-wall-breaking by Ryan Reynolds, it’s easy to forget that cancer was part of Deadpool’s origin story. When Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he goes in for experimental treatments. Those treatments go awry, leaving Wade disfigured, but with regenerative powers. 

Simply put, if Deadpool can do it, Thor can too, so it would be regrettable if Thor: Love and Thunder ends up not including such a potentially powerful story.