The fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to take shape, as we can officially slot Thor 4 onto the studio’s upcoming schedule. According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Taika Waititi is returning to the franchise after helming Thor: Ragnarok, with the God of Thunder himself, Chris Hemsworth, “expected” to come back as well. (It wouldn’t exactly be a Thor movie without, um, Thor.)
Even though MCU flicks generate billions of dollars at the box office, the news does come as a bit of a surprise, if only because Waititi and Hemsworth have both been busy lining up other projects—like directing Jojo Rabbit and starring in a Men in Black spinoff, respectively. But with the New Zealand auteur and Hemsworth formally committed to another Thor entry, let’s break down the pros and cons of Thor 4, and what it means for two of the hottest stars in Hollywood.
Pro: Chris Hemsworth’s Comedy Career
Hollywood has slowly picked up on an undeniable truth: Chris Hemsworth is really good at comedy. Like Tom Hardy and Justin Theroux, Hemsworth may be a character actor trapped in a chiseled and conventionally attractive body (which also won People’s Sexiest Man Alive). More than any other director, Waititi was able to hone Hemsworth’s comedic chops in Ragnarok, transforming Thor from a Shakespearean alien into a charming dude-bro with a penchant for physical gags.
That behavior has extended to Thor’s characterization in Infinity War and Endgame—I will never forget the God of Thunder repeatedly referring to Rocket Racoon as “sweet rabbit”—while Men in Black: International allowed Hemsworth to lean into his comedic persona, even though the rest of the film was hot garbage. Hemsworth will probably want to leave the MCU eventually—he’s one of the few members of the Marvel old guard who’s still got projects lined up—but he did say he’d return to the Thor franchise if he could work with Waititi again. Hemsworth has gotten his wish, and now we (and his enterprising career as a jacked comedic performer) are all the better for it.
Con: The Live-Action Akira
In a corresponding move, Warner Bros. announced that production on the live-action Akira, which Waititi was tapped to direct, had been shut down. The 1988 anime film by Katsuhiro Otomo is considered one of the most influential in the genre. (Fact check: Yes, it absolutely slaps.) It’s also IP that Warner Bros. has been juggling for years—before Waititi’s involvement, Jordan Peele considered taking on the project before explaining he would prefer to explore original ideas.
Waititi’s brief position as its director, along with a tentative May 2021 release date, was the closest the live-action Akira had come to getting off the ground. With this latest setback, it’s worth asking whether a live-action Akira will ever happen. But maybe skipping out on a live-action Akira is for the best—even if the word around Hollywood that it was a “difficult film to cast ethnically at its high budget, in this moment of political correctness” is laughably bad. An extremely cursory review of Akira would lead you to believe it’s some cyberpunk anime with a dope red motorbike—and while that’s technically true, the film quickly devolves into some trippy, Lovecraftian shit that must be seen to be believed. I’m … not quite sure how Tetsuo’s horrifying transformation would work with CGI; perhaps Waititi wasn’t, either.
Pro: Thor’s Franchise Goodwill
Thanks to the underwhelming one-two punch of Thor and Thor: The Dark World, the God of Thunder was indisputably responsible for Marvel’s worst solo franchise. But with Ragnarok—plus his roles in the last two Avengers movies, including an iconic turn as “Fat Thor”—he earned a lot of goodwill among Marvel fans. Unfortunately, it appeared that Marvel figured out the perfect Thor formula far too late—Hemsworth has been at it since 2011 and had to wait six years for good material to work with while Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. celebrated their well-earned retirements.
Obviously, the Waititi-led material is good enough that Hemsworth will return for at least one more film—something that MCU diehards will almost assuredly welcome with open arms. The MCU has had to adjust on the fly to make 20-plus projects work (remember when Ed Norton was Bruce Banner?!), but Thor becoming a beloved franchise after The Dark World has to count among its most shocking developments.
Unclear: The Asguardians of the Galaxy?
A third Guardians of the Galaxy movie is also on the way, once James Gunn finishes his work on the new Suicide Squad. With the way Endgame wrapped things up, it looked like Thor was joining the crew for their latest intergalactic adventure, going so far as to coin the term “Asguardians of the Galaxy,” much to the chagrin of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. (It’s also worth mentioning Thor was washed as hell and still looked exactly like the Dude when all of this went down.)
Now, with Thor 4 also on the docket, Thor’s inclusion in Guardians 3 is up in the air. Will the Guardians show up in the fourth Thor movie, or vice versa? Will Hemsworth double-dip with two movies in Phase 4? It’s unclear—we don’t even know which of these films will be released first. But here’s hoping the announcement of Thor 4 doesn’t deprive audiences of more great Guardians-Thor crossover content. It’s still got plenty of potential; plus, Chris Pratt would definitely feel emasculated sharing an entire movie with Chris Hemsworth, which would be worthy penance after Pratt showed off his bare ass on Instagram.