Thor: Love and Thunder and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Taika Waititi
Much like Thor himself, I find myself in something of a slump recently with a few different roads to get out of it. I won’t go into details, but I’m definitely taking a few steps in some sort of direction and we’ll see how things shake out in the next few weeks. For now though, I’m working on these reviews on my schedule and no one else’s which means that unfortunately, this is coming out long after everyone else has said their piece on it. Still, no harm in throwing my opinion out into the void and seeing if the void spews anything back up! Does this latest entry in the Marvel Forever-verse shock a few more minutes of life into the franchise, or will this be just fine and watchable to the consternation of those who are waiting for a big enough disaster to finally topple Disney’s firm grip on the genre? Let’s find out!!
With everything that happened in that whole Thanos kerfuffle, which included the death of his brother and the near extinction of the Asgardians, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) really needed a break to try and figure things out. To that end, he’s been bumming around with the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as his friend Korg (Taika Waititi), until they run out of Big Lebowski jokes and convince him to go on some wild goose chase for some sort of God Butcher in a bid to get away from his mopey Asgardian butt. Turns out the threat is real, however, as a humble alien named Gorr (Christian Bale) loses his faith in the Gods and is rewarded with the Necrosword; a weapon so dark and powerful that it can kill these selfish Gods while slowly draining him of his life and seemingly his sanity. Well, we’ve got a new Marvel villain to dispatch of which can only mean it’s time for another team-up, and since the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t returning his calls he returns to the last Asgardian colony on Earth to see if a few warriors are still bumming around. Turns out that Thor’s hammer has been restored and there’s a new Thor in the form of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is called Mighty Thor to distinguish from the guy whose name is Thor but lost the title of Thor some time ago… or something like that. Needless to say, there are some mixed feelings there as their relationship didn’t end on the best of terms, but they need to work together, along with Korg and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to stop Gorr who, in classic villain fashion, has stolen a bunch of Asgardian children for seemingly no reason other than spite. Can Thor and Mighty Thor set aside their past difference and come together to stop this threat to the universe? What are the rest of the Gods doing while Gorr is carving his way through their ranks, and what is Gorr truly hoping to accomplish by stringing the two Thors along on this rescue mission? Seriously, are Jane and Thor gonna talk or will they just keep things awkward for the whole trip?
I don’t know if it’s my general malaise as of late, but it’s getting pretty clear that each new Marvel movie has less and less to talk about aside from the finer points of the narrative and some creative tweaks here and there. It’s technically well made, but you knew that before you bought your ticket. Waititi doesn’t stray far from the Marvel formula which, again, is a given, but there are some creative indulgences that do set this one apart and give it a sense of identity in the ever-expanding Marvel canon. Perhaps not enough for it to be one of the standouts of the whole franchise, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit for what it was and it honestly shouldn’t be held against the movie that there are a lot of other good movies that it can be compared to. Reinventing the wheel is what got the Marvel ball rolling in the first place, and not messing with what works is what has kept them on top for so long, so while it would be nice for a bit more indulgence or some riskier ideas, you can’t fix what isn’t broken and I’m certainly not going to sit here and complain about someone doing a very good job of keeping me entertained just because they’ve been doing it for a while.
As I said, the core components of this movie are rock solid and very familiar with the Marvel formula being polished to a mirror shine over the course of twenty-nine movies and over a decade of non-stop production. In fact, the last few Marvel outings with Doctor Strange and even Moon Knight have almost been a return to form after those few rocky features during the pandemic, and this is no exception as it feels somewhat nostalgic for one of the original Avengers to still be kicking around after all this time. Of course, there are tweaks to the formula and Taika Waititi’s presence is felt all over this movie. It’s goofy in all the ways that this version of Thor should be, fitting somewhere between Shakespeare and Hair Metal, and Waititi’s fanciful sense of humor shines through as the movie left a smile on my face after every scene. The direction is solid for the most part, though things do feel a little underwhelming at points as far as sets and locations. As pretty as the skyboxes may be, there are a lot of deceptively cramped areas that our cast finds themselves in, but it stays colorful and bright with enough action set pieces to keep the momentum going in between the fun character moments that Waititi excels at. Now that’s not to say that the movie is nothing but lighthearted fare as Waititi knows how to sneak a few human moments to make this more than just a farce, and there are some moments where the cinematography takes a dark and interesting turn. I particularly enjoyed a late scene in the movie that had the aesthetic sensibilities of Sin City, and the movie does have enough overwhelming ideas and visuals to really hit home the whole GOD thing, but it’s definitely more of a comfort food movie than anything particularly daring.
So that’s all the obvious stuff to expect going in, but here’s where the movie will surprise you. The key to this movie’s narrative, and why it’s either going to work for you or not, is that this is a romantic comedy told through the structure of a superhero movie. We did get something similar to this with WandaVision, but that was kind of the other way around where a superhero story was being told through the filter of clichéd family television tropes. Here, the emotional core is very obviously that of a romantic comedy with several of the tropes playing into the narrative of the movie. Thor is more than just a goofy guy with an ax, as hilarious as that dynamic turns out to be, but someone at a crossroads in his life where he has to move forward as an adult or stay the hunky man child forever, and even with Hemsworth hamming it up all the way through, I found it to be a compelling character arc. As I said, I’m at a similar sort of crossroads in my life and it’s good to see a positive representation of someone kind of stumbling his way into the next phase of his life. Of course, it wouldn’t have as much impact if it wasn’t for Portman who brings Jane back with a vengeance and has one of the more interesting stories we’ve seen in the MCU; due in large part because of its brevity as the fleeting nature of her tenure as Mighty Thor is part of the emotional roller coaster that she puts us through.
Of course with pretty much every Marvel movie you’ve got the same issues and it’d be nice if they weren’t so predictable. You can probably guess that once again the villain feels like the least important aspect of this story, and while Bale is given enough room to try and imbue this character with some genuine pathos, he’s still pretty cookie cutter when it comes to motivation and relative threat. Fortunately, there’s a secondary villain of sorts who steals the show in the middle of the movie, but even with that, there’s no escaping the villain problem that continues to haunt Marvel movies to this day. Other than that, the narrative feels a little loose and trivial with the big villain plot not feeling all that threatening (not to mention a rather underwhelming cameo from the Guardians of the Galaxy), but the tradeoff is that the characters get a lot more time to interact with each other and like I said, this is a romantic comedy in the guise of a superhero movie, so letting the characters talk back and forth was an obvious priority here and honestly works out better than if they had put even more emphasis on the uninspired villain’s treacherous schemes. That was the mistake that The Dark World made and I’m glad they didn’t fall into that trap again.
You know what to expect from Marvel movies and this one doesn’t stray far from the mold. It’s perfectly reasonable to be burnt out on the Marvel formula at this point, but I still maintain that most entries have enough unique ideas and fun character moments to make them worth watching, and this one is no exception. It’s been a very long time since I saw Ragnarok so I’m not sure how it stacks up against that one, but Waititi definitely gave us another enjoyable film with the God of Thunder and I certainly had a good time with it; especially with the places that they did change from the usual formula in the way it plays with romantic comedy tropes and the tragic writing for Mighty Thor. Check it out if you are still invested in these movies and the world they’ve created, but you can also probably wait for the Disney Plus release if you don’t feel like making the trip to the theater. Whatever you feel like doing, I’m sure The Thor abides!