It seems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been prioritising its villains a little more these days. After all, a superhero is only as good as their villain. (Batman and the Joker anyone?)
Aside from writing more sympathetic villains, the MCU has also been casting big stars for these roles even though it's pretty much a one-time deal. There was Josh Brolin as Thanos, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and of course, the beloved Tony Leung as Wenwu.
Thor: Love and Thunder continues this pattern with Oscar winner Christian Bale slipping into the tattered acolyte robes of Gorr the God Butcher.
And the key for him in inhabiting this role, it seems, is the character's motivations which are very human and relatable.
During the movie's press conference recently, the 48-year-old said: "There's a great pleasure in playing a villain. It's a lot easier to play a villain than it is to play a hero. Chris (Hemsworth as Thor) had a much tougher job, you know. Everyone is fascinated with bad guys immediately.
"And then, the beauty of it is that Taika can make it bloody hilarious and then really moving as well in this story. And then, I don't know if it's pushing it too much to say sympathy, but certainly you sort of understand maybe why this guy is making awful decisions. And he is a monster and he is a butcher, but yeah."
Also taking on something new is Natalie Portman who suits up as Mighty Thor, although it comes at a price. Trying on her suit for the first time — after watching Chris wear his for years — was "pretty surreal", she said.
However, the lithe actress also had to pack on some muscle to look the part. She is playing a Norse god after all, well, sort of. Her male co-stars, including Chris who is pretty much the definition of Adonis, playfully quipped that they had to keep up with Natalie in the gym during their weightlifting sessions.
Natalie, 41, replied: "That's very sweet, but I was especially grateful to everyone's imagination to cast a five-foot-three actress (1.6 metres) in a six-foot role. I think that takes a real leap of possibility in your mind and probably not something I will get the opportunity to do and to be imagined as, by any other group."
mantle cape of Mighty Thor, she added, was "an incredible way to explore a female superhero who could be quite vulnerable and weak and find strength in that".
"It just gave me renewed respect for what Chris has been doing for over a decade, Tessa [Thompson]'s been doing, because I see how much work goes into it that I don't think I was aware of when I was just like the chick in the first one," Natalie added.
Tessa, 38, plays Valkyrie — a dejected and dreary hero who lost her partner in the war against Hela — who first appeared in Thor: Ragnarok and is now King Valkyrie of New Asgard.
"It's been really fun," said the actress of her new title in the MCU. However, heavy is the head who wears the crown and Valkyrie might not really be enjoying the throne after a life on the battlefield.
She explained: "With this one, we also talked about the idea of someone who has a job that they really love, but they're also kind of disgruntled. She, you know, was a professional soldier for thousands of years and now finds herself kind of stuck in bureaucracy.
"So, she's really missing being on the battlefield and missing her sisters. And so, it's been great fun to get to have that again, with Natalie in particular as Mighty Thor."
That sisterhood between King Valkyrie and Mighty Thor provides some of the best scenes the MCU has given its female characters and it harkens back to Yelena and Kate Bishop in Hawkeye. So if you enjoyed that, then you're going to love this.
Thor: Love and Thunder is now showing in cinemas.