Spoiler warning: This story discusses details of the credits scenes of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Unless you want Zeus to strike you down, it’s meant to be read after you’ve seen the film.
In keeping with Marvel Cinematic Universe tradition, Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” contains two scenes during its credits. The first reveals Zeus (Russell Crowe) was not, in fact, killed by Thor (Chris Hemsworth). His godly pride seems to be the most injured part of him. Judging from previous stories in which Zeus was moved to fits of pique … what could possibly go wrong?
In the scene, he bitterly complains about Thor to someone Marvel fans had to guess was on his way to the MCU when they first saw Zeus in the “Love and Thunder” trailers: Yep, it’s Hercules.
The Greek demigod is the bastard son of Zeus from one of those really-not-okay ancient myths in which the magical philanderer disguises himself as a human woman’s absent husband to seduce her. Hercules also has a long and storied history … in Marvel Comics.
His first Marvel appearance was as an antagonist, a plucked-from-time challenger to Thor, in Avengers No. 10 (1964), though that was retconned decades later to be a fake Hercules. It’s now canon that his first real appearance was in “Journey Into Mystery” (the comic title in which Thor debuted in 1962) Annual No. 1 (1965). Ever since, he has been the thunder god’s sometimes-rival, sometimes-ally and an on-again, off-again Avenger.
He has gone mano a man-god with Hulk a few times. It’s a natural matchup, considering how similar they are: Unbelievably strong, invulnerable and hotheaded. Hercules is like a carousing Hulk with serious daddy issues. He has had intriguing relationships with Hawkeye, Wolverine, Black Widow and teenage super-genius and occasional Hulk Amadeus Cho.
Since fans had to suspect Hercules was coming (as well as Marvel versions of the other Greek gods, including the usually villainous Ares), the real surprise in the credits scene was his casting: Brett Goldstein. Goldstein is an Emmy winner for his performance as foul-mouthed tough guy Roy Kent on “Ted Lasso.” Interesting choice, to be sure.
And while his size isn’t as obviously wrong as 6-foot-3 Hugh Jackman’s was to play 5-foot-3 Wolverine, the reportedly 5-foot-11 Goldstein isn’t in the neighborhood of the massive Hercules (listed at Marvel.com as 6-foot-5, 325 pounds). Here comes some movie magic!
The other credits scene is a warm coda to the Jane Foster story. The erstwhile Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman), really dead, finds herself in Valhalla, greeted by the also really dead Heimdall (Idris Elba). That’s a nice button, acknowledging Foster belongs among the Asgardian heroes who died in battle — though are we sure that’s where she really wants to be?
If there are other afterlife destinations in the MCU, might she rather be somewhere she knows more people, animals or whatever? While many might find it heavenly to be greeted by Elba, the only others Foster would know in Valhalla would be Thor’s parents … though one supposes she has an eternity to make new friends.