This is not a review of “Thor: Love and Thunder”

“Let me tell you the story of the Space Viking.”

So begins Korg’s humorous fireside chat with a group of young children at the beginning of the latest Marvel flick. Only the story isn’t just about the adventures of Thor Odinson—it’s about love and loss, worth and wrath, and the sheer delight of seeing Jane Foster finally come into her own in the MCU.

Modeled after the comic book arcs in which Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) wields the power of Thor through the hammer Mjolnir, Love and Thunder has big shoes to fill. Not only is Chris Hemsworth’s Thor the first MCU character to get a fourth solo film, but this is an entirely different scenario than, say, the mantle of Captain America being passed on. This is two Thors, existing side-by-side…and they used to date.

The Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) and Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) star in Thor: Love and Thunder

But how does Jane become Thor in the first place? How does Thor Odinson react to seeing her after almost a decade apart? And how is their new journey impacted by the arrival of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale)? The way Korg would tell it, the answers all lie in a classic Thor adventure. But those of you who have been fans of the MCU since its inception are in for a non-traditional and bizarre (but ultimately wonderful) wild ride that includes everything from hilarious screaming goats and an Old Spice commercial starring King Valkyrie to emotional vulnerability and personal tragedy.

In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Thor Odinson has been traveling the universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy. And while he’s tried a lot of things over the last few years (ranging from getting back in shape to trying meditation to finally figuring out a catchphrase before he kills the bad guys), he still feels unfulfilled. Thor has tried his best to fit in with the Guardians, but despite everything he doesn’t seem ready to fully accept them as a found family—he still mourns the loss of his parents and brother, the dispersal of the Avengers after Tony and Natasha’s deaths, the destruction of his home world, and his own lack of identity. He’s the God of Thunder, sure, but behind the armor and the muscles and the quick quips…who is Thor?

Around the same time that Thor and Korg leave the Guardians to go look for a dying Sif who sent Thor a distress message, Dr. Jane Foster is going through her own crisis—a devastating one for the brilliant astrophysicist. She has recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer. And none of the treatments or therapies she has tried have made a difference. Torn between wanting to pretend that nothing is wrong and realizing that she is inevitably going to die a painful death, Jane becomes desperate for answers that do not exist.

Or do they?

At first glance, you might feel compelled to say “yes, they do!” Why? Because it’s a Marvel movie, of course, where people who become heroes are often invincible.

But this story isn’t about invincibility. In this world, not even the gods are safe from the arms of Death. (In case the name God Butcher wasn’t a clue…yeah, gods really are not invincible anymore.)

Christian Bale as Gorr

Jane Foster does become The Mighty Thor, thanks to the magic of Mjolnir, and enjoys enhanced strength and vitality—but it isn’t permanent. Beneath the thunderous power bestowed upon her by the hammer’s ancient enchantments, she is still a human suffering from the most human of all ailments…the betrayal of one’s own body. Jane might be intelligent, and the Mighty Thor might be strong, but cancer cannot always be beaten. In spite of everything, Jane is as physically vulnerable as Thor is emotionally vulnerable.

At its core, that’s really where the heart of the film lies: in the beauty of vulnerability. We often think of this as a weakness, and sometimes it can be. But being vulnerable also allows for other things to flourish. Things like open-mindedness, justice, love, loyalty, and friendship, which once you strip away the smashing fight scenes and fancy CGI, are the true tenets of any superhero adventure worth it’s salt.

I can’t say too much else without giving away the rest of the main plot points, but suffice it to say that Dr. Jane Foster, aka the Mighty Thor, finally gets the platform that she deserves in this film, while Thor Odinson gets the closure that he needs in order to move boldly into the next stage of his life. It’s a parallel journey for these two heroes, and one that I know will be a defining moment in phase four of the MCU.

Let me tell you the story of the mortal woman who saved a god and the world.

Grade: 8/10 Screaming Goats

Do I need to watch the other movies first? I mean, it helps.

Can I take my kids? Yes, but be warned that a major plot point involves the death of a child and the kidnapping of other children. Also you see full Thor ass. I mean, it’s a great ass. But just a heads up.