Thor: Love and Thunder
It has been two months since Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was released into theaters, so it must be time for yet another Marvel Cinematic Universe extravaganza. In this case, it is Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth solo outing for the Viking space god. His first couple of entries, Thor and Thor: The Dark World, were dull and ponderous; probably the most tedious Marvel movies to sit through. Then, director Taika Waititi was put in charge for Thor: Ragnarök and the result was far more enjoyable. Waititi, known for comedies like What We Do in the Shadows and Jojo Rabbit, put his sensibilities to good use for a superhero epic that was funnier than usual. He returns for Love and Thunder, making it a successor to Ragnarök in tone, as well as a direct sequel.
Unlike the most recent Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, no homework is necessary to follow this story. It is more straightforward and self-contained. Thor, wracked with self-doubt, must battle a villain obsessed with killing all of the gods. Complicating things further is the reappearance of Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane, who has now gained the ability to wield the hammer Mjolnir. The screenplay is not very successful at linking these plots, either thematically or tonally. While Thor is goofing around, the villain is actually convincingly threatening. It makes for a an uneven fit, with mixed results.
On the positive side, Love and Thunder (108 minutes, plus mid/post-credit scenes) mostly just tells its story. It spends little energy on paying off previous movies or setting up future ones, nor does it feel like fan service. Waititi gets to focus on serving a single master this time. That gives him the room to create some genuinely funny gags and get a great performance (at least as far as the MCU is concerned) out of one of his stars. Combine these things and you get the recipe for a fantastic diversion.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite attain those heights. The serious and the comic are too awkwardly paired and Thor’s personal journey feels lacking in significance. He has reached a level of silliness that makes it so he seems like he comes from a drastically different universe than the vengeful God Butcher. Still, the good outweighs the bad enough for this to be a fun watch.
Chris Hemsworth has really found his stride in the role ever since the character stopped being approached with deadly seriousness. He has wonderful comedic timing, a great deadpan expression and a charming heroic persona. He has truly made Thor his own. Though it doesn’t seem like there is much more to say with him, it would be a shame to see Hemsworth hang up the cape.
Sadly, he still doesn’t have chemistry with Natalie Portman’s Jane, who comes back to the franchise after nine years. Part of the problem is how underwritten Jane continues to be. Yes, she gets to kick butt alongside Thor, but she is entirely defined by her relationship to him, making her more of a sidekick designed to assist him with his issues, rather than a hero of equal value (in contrast, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie could easily be spun-off into her own adventure, as is; perhaps she’ll get a Disney+ show someday).
The aforementioned great performance comes from Christian Bale as the antagonist, Gorr. In the opening scene, Gorr is betrayed by a god and sets out to free the world by killing every single one of them. Bale is a tremendously skilled actor and he effortlessly creates an entire backstory for this character with a few lines of dialogue. The best villains have relatable motivations. Such is true of Gorr. Bale is terrifying with his bald head, scarred body and joyless smile. He immediately leaps into the top tier of Marvel baddies. While he would have been even more effective if Love and Thunder had been able to balance its tones better, Bale deserves a ton of credit for creating an intriguing dramatic character in such a silly production.
The MCU is definitely a variety show these days in terms of genre. There is action, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller and comedy, in different doses depending on the project. Thor: Love and Thunder is a fantasy/action/comedy. The comedy is funny, the action is decent, but the fantasy lacks the wonder that could potentially have tied the two together. It is both entertaining and completely empty.
3¼ out of 5
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Christian Bale as Gorr
Tessa Thompson as King Valkyrie
Taika Waititi as Korg
Directed by Taika Waititi
Written by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson