From the Cover of Thor: Love and Thunderby Disney/Marvel:
“Thor: Love and Thunder” finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), 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 Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.”
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) is the 4th Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and takes place sometime after the events of Avengers: End Game (2019), in which Thor sets off with the Guardians of the Galaxy. While the movie can be viewed on its own, it may be helpful to have seen some of the previous Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy movies. However, the narrator does a pretty good job of recapping the highlights of Thor’s story. For the most part the violence and action is on par with other Marvel superhero movies, and overall, the film has a lighthearted tone, though there are darker moments and themes. The scenes with the villain, Gorr the God Butcher and his shadow monsters may be especially frightening for younger viewers. Overall, the movie is recommended for older children and teens and is probably one to watch together so you can help navigate some of the more complicated topics addressed.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
At this point in the MCU timeline Thor has lost his entire biological family (mother, father, and brother Loki) as well as his found family of the Avengers and is still reeling from all of this loss. We see him briefly traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy, another found family but one he doesn’t quite fit into. To top it all off his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster comes back into his life only for him to find out she’s dying. These themes of processing loss and trying to find a place in the world in the aftermath of that grief are likely to resonate very strongly with children who have backgrounds of trauma. And ultimately at the end of the film we briefly see Thor become the guardian to a child who loses her own father.
Finding Purpose outside of ‘Survival Mode’
The last time we saw Thor was in Avenger’s End Game where he was suffering from severe depression following the loss of his entire family as well as struggling with guilt due to feeling like he’d failed at defeating Thanos. And even prior to these events he had been catapulting from one fight to the next for many years, ever since he was first cast out of Asgard way back in the events of the first Thor movie. And all the while he is trying to save the world from various threats, he is also dealing with successive grief of losing his mother, father, brother (multiple times), friends and eventually even his found family of The Avengers. The start of this movie is the first time we really see Thor having a quiet moment and having to give thought to the question of ‘what now?’. This can be very similar to the way many children with traumatic pasts feel. They have often experienced multiple traumatic events and losses and spent most of their energy in survival mode, like Thor. When they get to that point where things finally quiet down it can be challenging for them to try to figure out who they are and what their purpose is without the need for constant fighting to survive. Youth may not be able to recognize or articulate these feelings but in talking about Thor’s struggles may be able to better see the similarities to their own.
Dealing with Loss
As mentioned above, Thor is dealing with a tremendous amount of loss from the deaths of both his biological family and much of his found family, The Avengers. His former girlfriend, Jane Foster, also comes back into his life only for him to find out she’s dying of cancer. Upon hearing this news Thor goes through several stages of dealing with the pending loss. At first he is supportive and eager to spend whatever time Jane has left with her doing what she wants to do. Then, he attempts to convince her to get treatment she doesn’t want in the hopes of trying to prolong her life and avoid the inevitable loss. And eventually we see him accept that she wants to live her life on her terms and he supports her through it. This can also be a great way to talk about how Thor copes with the loss of Jane in a healthier way than he did with his previous losses (when he drowned himself in alcohol, food and video games and hid from the world).
Respect for other Cultures/Religious Beliefs
As Asgard (Thor’s home planet) was destroyed in a previous film, we see his people now living on Earth in a settlement called New Asgard. The scenes set there show the people experiencing a mix of architecture and customs both from their own world and the modern world on Earth. Additionally, when the group of children are captured, we learn that they are not all Asgardian but from a wide variety of different races and cultures who all live together in New Asgard. There is also a scene later in the film where the heroes travel to Omnipotence City, home of the gods. Here we see gods from a wide variety of cultures and planets all living together cooperatively. And when characters talk about their different beliefs, customs, etc. throughout the movie there is never any judgment from the other characters but instead they listen and accept one another. Youth in care may end up living with foster or adoptive families who have different beliefs, ethnicities, and cultural traditions than their biological families so it’s important to have conversations about tolerance and accepting differences and discuss ways in which you might incorporate some of their own culture into your family.
Intense Opening Sequence
The first ten or so minutes of the film shows Gorr’s backstory in which we see he and his daughter suffering in the desert, watch her die, see him find the god he worships and ask for mercy only to have the god mock his suffering and ultimately Gorr kills him. This can be a lot of intense emotions right out of the gate, especially if one is expecting a lighthearted superhero romp.
Potentially Controversial Messages about Religion/Deities
The main bad guy, Gorr, starts out as a very religiously devoted man. However, upon meeting the god he worships he finds the deity to be selfish and laugh at his pain. This leads to a spiral of him believing that all gods should die and setting out to slay them. Multiple times in the movie he makes statements such as “You went to the gods for help and they did nothing’ or ‘gods will use you but they will not help you.” While the movie itself isn’t trying to send a religious message per say, it’s just something to be aware of if your family is very religious and/or you have younger children who might be confused by some of these scenes.
Pretty early on in the movie we find out that Jane has stage four cancer. There are scenes of her receiving medical care such as an MRI and chemotherapy. We also see a few glimpses, especially later in the film, of Jane looking incredibly ill and gaunt when she stops being Thor. For children who have experienced chronic illness or watched loved ones deal with cancer or other diagnoses these scenes and conversations may be very triggering.
Violence and Peril
A this is a superhero movie there is (not surprisingly) a lot of fast-paced action sequences. The most notable of these are an attack on New Asgard earlier in the film and then two large battle sequences in the film’s climax. There is a lot of hand combat with weapons including spears, swords and of course Thor’s Ax Stormbreaker and Hammer Mjolnir. Given the comic-book nature of the film most of the violence isn’t particularly graphic but there are still a lot of high adrenaline sequences which may activate children’s fight-or-flight response, which may be over-active due to their trauma history.
Kidnapping of Children
When Gorr first arrives in New Asgard, his shadow monsters go into the homes of the villagers and kidnap the children from their beds. We then see a giant cage with legs carrying them all away and they remain in this captivity until the final act of the movie. This may be traumatic for children who were forcibly removed from their homes either to be placed into care or in a trafficking situation.
Character Deaths (including a child and caregiver, among others)
In the very opening scene of the movie, we see Gorr’s daughter die after starving in the desert. Then at the end of the movie she is brought back to life only to immediately watch her father die. We also see Jane Foster die from cancer in this climax scene. Other character deaths are mentioned, including those of Thor’s mother, father, and brother (though they happened in previous movies). And while she does not die, Valkyrie is stabbed during a battle and pretty severely injured and Korg is broken into many pieces and briefly appears to be dead (though he also survives).
Gorr Hears Voices that tell him to do bad things When Gorr first encounters his sword, he hears it whispering that he should use it to kill the gods, which he does. He hears it several other times in the movie as well. This may feel similar to an auditory hallucination and may be upsetting for children who have had these types of experiences in their past.
While addressing Zeus, Thor and his friends are wearing disguises. Zeus uses magic to remove Thor’s disguise but ‘accidentally’ removes all of Thor’s clothing leaving him standing naked and restrained in front of a large crowd of people. Thor doesn’t seem to mind, and all we see is his butt, briefly, and some comments are made about his attractiveness. Zeus later threatens to do the same to Jane and Valkyrie but does not. While the actual nudity is brief, the way that it is done forcibly to Thor while he is also restrained may be very triggering for children who have experienced any sort of sexual abuse (and may be a scene to simply fast-forward through if watching at home, as it is not particularly important to the plot).
In addition to the scene of forced nudity, there are several mentions of orgies during the scene in the City of Omnipotence. There are also mentions of both heterosexual (Jane and Thor) and homosexual (Valkyrie and her girlfriend, Korg’s fathers) relationships that take place throughout the movie, though all are brief conversations and have no mentions of graphic detail.
A child’s name change is ignored by Thor
There is a scene where Thor is talking with Heimdall’s son, Axl. Axl explains that he has changed his name to that from Astrid because it helps him fit in better on earth. However, during this conversation Thor refuses multiple times to call him by his new name and keeps deadnaming him which bothers Axl. By the end of the conversation, as well as later in the movie, however, we do see Thor accept and use his new name. However, the scene may be upsetting to youth, especially those who are LGBT+ who have experienced deadnaming or other bullying.
Why do you think Thor went with the Guardians of the Galaxy?
Caregiver Note: In previous films Thor lost both of his parents, his brother Loki, and several close friends- not to mention the destruction of his entire home planet. Then with the events of End Game he lost his found family (The Avengers). Thor likely feels out of place and so it makes sense that he would find another group to latch on to, The Guardians being a close-knit found family is a choice that makes a lot of sense. Talking about this choice can be a great way to get the ball rolling in having a conversation about the themes of loss, found family, and finding purpose after trauma.
We see New Asgard and it seems to have become a tourist destination and is a mixture of Asgardian culture and also modern Earth culture. How might the children and families living there feel about it?
Caregiver Note: Previously in Thor: Ragnarök the entire planet (and many of its people) were destroyed. The surviving population started a new territory on Earth and named it New Asgard. Initially it seemed like they were very much trying to recreate their former lifestyle and customs in their new settlement. However, by the time this movie rolls around it’s clear that it has expanded and evolved and now seems to be a mixture of many different races and cultures while still having pieces of the Asgardian history and traditions. This can be a great time to talk about how these children might have felt after leaving their old world for a new one and the adjustments they had to make as well as how your own foster or adoptive youth might have felt similarly when entering care. It can also be an opportunity to talk about how your family can include a child’s culture or traditions if they differ from your own.
Jane tells Darcy she doesn’t want to tell others about her cancer diagnosis because ‘People get weird when they find out. Different’. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt this way?
Caregiver Note: Just as Jane doesn’t want to be treated differently because she’s sick, many children with histories of trauma don’t want other people to know what they’ve been through. They may not want to tell anyone they are in foster care or adopted, or that they’ve experienced abuse or other trauma because they worry that others will treat them differently because of it.
How does Thor react when the suggestion is made for the Guardians to split up? Why do you think he reacts this way?
Caregiver Note: As discussed above, Thor has latched on to the Guardians as a quasi-replacement family unit after losing his own family(s). He’s also struggling to figure out his place in the world now that he’s not an Avenger or the King of Asgard any longer. The idea of being alone is probably very scary to him, as it means having to face these feelings of loss. And the last time he was alone with his thoughts he fell into a dark/unhealthy place. Like Thor, the idea of saying goodbye can be especially challenging for children who have experienced trauma and loss as many of the goodbyes they have experienced so far in their lives have been unhealthy or unexpected ones.
Why do you think Thor gets jealous of Jane?
Caregiver Note: Thor is already struggling to figure out who he is and what his purpose is now that he’s not really an active Avenger and has abdicated his throne. To see someone else show up who is dressed like him and wielding his old weapon and power probably further deepens these feelings, especially when Jane is doing it so confidently while he is wrestling with big questions about his identity. Like Thor, youth who have experienced trauma may struggle with feelings of jealousy when they see peers living ‘normal’ lives and not having to worry about the things they do.
Several times during the movie we see people ask for help and not receive it. Have you ever had a situation like this? How did it make you feel?
Caregiver Note: The major breaking point in Gorr’s journey to becoming a villain is that he feels like the gods he worshiped did not care about him and did not help him during his time of need. It can be hard when the people we care about aren’t there for us in the way we want them to be. For children from traumatic pasts, they’ve often been let down by caregivers or other adults when they needed help. Because of this they may have a hard time asking for help or trusting that adults will be there to support them.
How do you think it makes the kids feel when Thor grants them a piece of his own powers in order to fight the shadow monsters?
Caregiver Note: Rather than just rescuing the children and fighting off the monsters to protect them, Thor imbues them with a small portion of his own power and enables them to fight the monsters alongside him. So instead of doing FOR them he’s empowering them to fight their own battles. This can be a great analogy to the way that we as caregivers have to help give the children in our care the tools and guidance they need in order to face their own demons. The scene illustrates the concept of doing with instead of doing for and can be a great opportunity for talking about how you can help empower the youth you care for. Experiencing trauma often makes children feel powerless, so in helping give them the tools to fight for themselves they are able to take back some of the control over their life.
Thor talks about how he ‘walled himself off’ from relationships because he was afraid of getting hurt. Do you think this was a good strategy?
Caregiver Note: When someone suffers a loss it can be hard to let other people in again. For someone like Thor who has had many of his family members and friends die it is difficult for him to care about and get close to others. He talked about how he and Jane ‘built walls’ in their relationship and admits that he’s tried to feel nothing for a long time rather than feeling negative emotions. But through his journey in this film, he learns to accept that allowing room for the bad feelings also makes room for the good ones and that it’s an incredibly lonely life being walled off. Children who have experienced trauma likely feel like Thor does and may be wary of opening themselves up to new relationships for fear of being hurt again. Talking about Thor’s journey may also offer some insight into how they feel about the topic.
Do you think Gorr was a good caregiver? Why?
Caregiver Note: Gorr is a villain for most of the film, engaging in such activities as setting monsters on villages, killing numerous gods, kidnapping children and trying to kill Thor and the other heroes. However, the opening scene of them film shows him trying his best to provide for his daughter while struggling through the desert and it’s obvious he cares for her very much. And in the end, he gives up his own life and his desire for revenge in order to give her a chance at a better life. So, while he’s not a particularly good *person* he does demonstrate qualities that make him a good caregiver. But more important than the answer, both with this and the following question, is having a conversation about what qualities might make a good caregiver and how to recognize that.
What about Thor? Is he a good caregiver?
Caregiver Note: Again, we don’t see a ton of screen time of Thor and Love together, but from the small snippet we do see he appears to be an excellent caregiver. He listens to what she wants, provides for her needs, supports her interests, accepts her even when she displays intense powers, and tries to teach her important lessons about life and how to treat others. Children who have experienced trauma, especially at the hands of previous caregivers, may have difficulty recognizing what makes someone a good caregiver or not so this is another opportunity to explore that.
About the Author: Jenn Ehlers
Jenn is a central Virginia native who received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012. Since then she has worked for a local mental health agency and the Department of Social Services in various capacities and has been involved in her community’s efforts to create a Trauma Informed Network. Currently Jenn works in vocational rehab and mentors youth in foster care. When she isn’t working, Jenn enjoys writing stories, watching Marvel movies, visiting theme parks, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.