Good move bringing Natalie Portman back as Mighty Thor

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Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

By now, you’ve heard the news and seen some (just a little) evidence. Natalie Portman is back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, reprising her role as Jane Foster, the ex-girlfriend of the once king-to-be, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). But in the upcoming film, set to be released next February, it will be the lady who is so mighty.

That’s right, Portman is Mighty Thor in Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” taking over the main mantle from her former flame and breaking back into the MCU. As Cobie Smulders once exclaimed at a party, “gentlemen, where are the ladies!?” Agent Hill, they are arriving.

Quite frankly, it’s about time. You don’t just cast and waste an actress like Portman, who became the only actress born in the 1980’s (hello fellow 1982 baby, Natalie) to win an Academy Award when she took it home for the dark and twisted yet diabolically sharp “Black Swan.” You don’t have her be a placeholder as the worried girlfriend in a couple decent “Thor” films and just say enough is enough. Thankfully, Marvel CEO Kevin Feige thinks the same way and is setting her up in the best possible world.

So, what about the evidence? Earlier this week, fans got their first look at what I will call concept art, aka a t-shirt that was handed out to the cast and crew during filming. The Jewish Light’s Alec Baris shared that sneak peek yesterday with you. The t-shirt graphic shows the three heroes-Jane as Mighty Thor along with Thor and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie-standing side by side waiting to take on Asgard’s enemies. If the comic rendering is any indication, you can expect Portman to be in very good shape. Perhaps they put her on the Kumail Nanjiani (who buffed up for Chloe Zhao’s “The Eternals”) diet or she just underwent Hemsworth’s brutal training regimen.

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“Love and Thunder” is set up to be a smash hit, due in large part to the return of Waititi behind the camera. He brought a nerdy, slightly eccentric comedic vibe to the MCU and to the titular Thor character, which lightened up the God of Thunder to mass audiences.

Here’s the thing. Portman can also do much more than just hardcore drama. She can be funny and different. If you’ve had the pleasure of hearing her rap (I’m being serious), you will understand just how wisecracking the 39-year-old Israeli-born New York raised actress can be. She went to N.Y.U. and was phenomenal as Jackie Kennedy (nominated for an Oscar as well) and broke/melted/stabbed hearts in “Closer” with Julia Roberts and Jude Law. But her comedic side, at least for the most part (not counting “Zoolander” self cameo), has been kept under wraps cinematically to this point. If anyone can put it on display, it’s Waititi, who scored big-time two years ago with “Jojo Rabbit.”

It’s just another case of the MCU loading up their swing for the years ahead. Portman won’t just show back up in “Thor: Love and Thunder” next Valentine’s Day; you will catch her voice work in Marvel animated series, “What if?” Looking at her IMDB page, Jane Foster is all the actress has been doing for the past few years. Can we expect Brie Larson/”Captain Marvel” type fitness shape when the first production photo and teaser trailer drops this summer? I think we can. If we know anything about Natalie Portman, it’s that she doesn’t take any role lightly.

And, according to Thor, she is still overall better than Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). See you soon, Marvel addicts.