As the MCU train chugs on, I think it’s fair to say that Phase 4 has been a mixed bag of quality. Black Widow was a mess. Eternals was hindered by poor pacing and flawed screenwriting, while Shang-Chi and Multiverse of Madness had strong sections amidst an uneven whole. The only one that truly delivered was the terrific Spider-Man: No Way Home. Yes, it’s heavily aided by nostalgia, but of all the Phase 4 movies, it is the most confident about what it intends to be and nails the landing on those objectives.

But fret not. Anyone sounding the alarm bells on the MCU’s sluggish current phase has a short memory, perhaps too influenced by the stakes within the latter half of the Infinity Saga. Once upon a time, Phase 1 wasn’t exactly throwing out four-star movies with every entry, with only the original Iron Man and Avengers as standouts. Sometimes, when you’re starting a new journey, it takes time to get your footing and find the right groove, which brings us to what is becoming something of an old reliable: The God of Thunder.

When we last left Thor, he was still recovering from his existential crisis in Avengers: Endgame. However, in Thor: Love and Thunder, that journey may reach something of a conclusion as Thor, who has jettisoned his role as a ruler, attempts to define what his new calling in life should be: hero, peacemaker, or something greater? In the trailer below, filled with an abundance of fantastic imagery, we get a glimpse of a psychedelic odyssey through space, one in which challenges Thor’s convictions:

As promised at Comic-Con a few years ago, Natalie Portman is back as Jane, but this time she’ll don the persona of Lady Thor. Christian Bale, a veteran of comic book movies, looks intense as Gorr the God Butcher. Those two resemble the wild cards in this movie, and will determine the challenges Thor may need to meet and overcome.

Of course, Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok) is back in the director’s chair, bringing with him a colorful visual flair and a light-hearted sense of humor. It’s a small upset that Waititi and Hemsworth were able to remodel the character of Thor in Ragnarok, reworking the series’ tone to play to Hemsworth’s strengths. Is it comic accurate? Certainly not, but I’d argue neither were the first two Thor movies, those also opting for a comedic tone that would appeal to a broader audience. What Ragnarok did was make Thor funnier, thoughtful, introspective, and more sympathetic. It shed the baggage of the lore to focus on the emotional stakes of the character, and Love and Thunder is poised to do the same.

As we see Jane and Thor re-connect, we wonder what the renewed romance could mean for both characters’ future in the MCU. Hemsworth has asserted that he’ll do these movies for as long as Marvel will have him, but Portman is always up in the air. Meanwhile, Gorr’s assault on all Gods furthers the lesser talked about theme in Phase 4, amidst all the multiverse hysteria. That thing being the existence of omnipresent beings, such as the Celestials in Eternals. Love and Thunder may further establish what Gods are like in this universe, but perhaps give us more info on the cosmic side of things (and potentially leading some day to one infamous planet-eating tyrant…). And hopefully, considering this movie seems to have a lot going on, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie will have something to do and won’t just sit on the sidelines.

But what is most exciting about Love and Thunder is it doesn’t appear to be getting ahead of itself by setting up future films, rather than delivering a strong movie in the present. Instead, the previews have made it clear the movie is focused on Thor’s struggle with his sense of self, and what direction his character will ultimately lead. In a sea of uncertainty in Phase 4, where we’ve been treated to new characters that are trying to find their sea legs, Thor is comfort food and seems to to be in the midst of hitting his stride despite already having a decade+ of movies under his belt. He’s living proof that some of these Marvel characters need time to find the story that fits them best, and we’re happy to have him back to show how it’s done.

Thor Love and Thunder flies into theaters, including large format screens, everywhere on July 8th.