Thor isn't just the self-proclaimed mightiest Avenger: he's the first Marvel Studios character to headline a fourth solo film. Part of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder reunites star Chris Hemsworth with director Taika Waititi, who joined the MCU to "Ragna-wreck and reinvent" Thor's franchise with 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. After lightning struck in 2011's Thor — and again in two Thor sequels and the four-film Avengers saga — Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige credits Hemsworth's 11-year journey as Thor for making Thor: Love and Thunder the MCU's first solo part four.
"I think [the fans] respond to Chris Hemsworth, and I think they respond to everything that he can do. And Taika certainly brought another dimension that was always there within Chris," Feige told Vital Thrills. "There were moments, even going back to interviews between the two of them on our New Mexico set [on the first Thor], where Chris was… I was like, 'Is he trying to be funny? Or is it…? No, he is being funny. He's, like, hilarious.'"
Though the laxer iteration of the Asgardian Avenger wouldn't fully emerge until after Hemsworth collaborated with Waititi to reinvent the character in Ragnarok, Feige recognized another, less-serious side to the traditionally Shakespearean superhero.
"I saw a clip of [2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron] the other day, where [Hemsworth's] trying to make Ruffalo feel better about smashing a bunch of people, and it's so funny," Feige said. "And it's like this expert timing. Taika was like, 'What are you guys doing with him just, you know, holding a hammer up with lightning? Let's do that and tap into everything Chris can do.'"
Feige continued, "I think the audience responds to that. And for so long, we said, 'Well, he's a Norse god. How do we make him relatable?' And spent so much time, I think, making sure that the audience connected with him, that they are so with him now that yes, we could go to a part four."
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Thor embarks on a journey unlike anything he's ever faced — a quest for inner peace. However, his retirement gets interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a galactic killer who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to his surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer. Together, they set out on a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher's vengeance.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe as Zeus, Jaimie Alexander as Sif, and Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios' Thor: Love and Thunder opens only in theaters July 8.