(EDITOR’S NOTE: This review will be spoiler free. If it ain’t in the trailer, it ain’t here.)
Thor: Love And Thunder, the fourth titular film with the God Of Thunder and director Taika Waititi’s second effort in the franchise, has opened to lower Rotten Tomatoes score yet higher box office totals than it’s immediate predecessor, the excellent Thor: Ragnarok. If the critical consensus is that Love And Thunder is trying too hard to recapture the formula and magic from Ragnarok, the movie-going audiences have responded with a hearty, “We do not care. We just want to give money to the MCU.”
And it is clear that Love And Thunder has a lot of effort and flare and jokes. Waititi and star (and co-producer Chris Hemsworth) clearly felt the pressure to make this film a bigger spectacle. Because of that, you see a lot more storylines and punchlines and yelling sheep. But how does it all come together as a final product?
Ok, I guess… and that’s kind of the problem.
Let’s jump into the plot real quick.
Taking place after Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love And Thunder finds Chris Hemsworth no longer the drunk, chunky buffoon he had been. Returned to, as rock-pal Korg (voiced by Waititi himself) says, a “god bod”, Thor is out to stop Gorr The God Butcher (Christian Bale), a dude who is… well, butchering gods. As far as his title goes, Gorr’s is spot on for what he does. To stop him, Thor gets together Korg, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, returning from Ragnarok), and… well, a different Thor. This new one, called the Mighty Thor, is Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor’s ex-girlfriend wielding his former hammer, Mjolnir.
That’s it. That’s the film.
Now, I know it seems like I was able to summarize that pretty quickly, but one of the problems with Love And Thunder is that it’s trying way too hard to keep way too many plates spinning. Besides the main storyline, Thor is trying to come to terms with his feelings for Jane, who had dumped him via Dear John (well, Dear Thor) letter. Jane is dealing with her own issues, not just adjusting to her new powers, but reconciling with why she has them. Valkyrie is trying to figure out what her place is as ruler (King) or New Asgard, a community on Earth housing the remainder of her and Thor’s people. Also, Thor is kind of missing Mjolnir, and that pisses off his new weapon, the mighty axe known as Stormbreaker. We also have The Guardians Of The Galaxy pop in for an appearance as well as Russell Crowe as Zeus, doing some kind of weird thing that was wildly unnecessary. The film also tries to shoehorn in, what feels like, a million jokes a minute. And wants to do it all in under two hours.
Look, I’m all for shorter MCU films. The Eternals major problem was they tried to make three 90-minute movies into one 150-minute one and it just fell apart. However, with Love And Thunder, Waititi (who also co-wrote the script) just has way too many threads he’s trying to tie together, and it does all of them a disservice. I think any one of these storylines could have been interesting enough without the others (save for the Guardians and Crowe, whose existence feel solely like fan service), but because none of them have enough time to develop and grow, we’re not really to care about anything or anyone too much.
All Marvel films are defined by their casts, and Love And Thunder is no exception.
The more a character has to do, the better they are. Hemsworth and Portman have wonderful chemistry together, and are both actors who know how to play multiple vibes to a scene at once. They’re able to make emotional moments have a laugh and to make comedic moments have heart. Tessa Thompson and Waititi are serviceable, but have way less to do and it makes it harder to care about them.
The real star here is Bale. He brings real menace and terror to Gorr, which are not things I expected to see in a Thor film. Much like Cate Blanchett in Ragnarok, Waititi realizes he has an actor who can absolutely own the screen and he just lets Bale run wild. People discussed how the most recent Doctor Strange film had horror elements (thanks to director Sam Raimi), but Bale just may be the creepiest and scariest thing the MCU has ever given us.
As a director, Waititi has clearly wanted 80’s action films to be the chief influence. And like a great 80’s comedy, This Is Spinal Tap, he turns everything up to 11 with Love And Thunder. More jokes. More color explosions. More action. A badass Guns N Roses- based score (with GNR songs peppered in through the whole film). A fight taking place in a color-less Shadow Realm comes alive with blue and yellow hues from the hammer and axes and lightning or our heroes and it’s one of the more gorgeous things from either of Waititi’s Thor efforts.
Waititi wanted to put his foot on the gas. I just wished he had slowed down a little to let some of these great actors and fun stories have a minute to rest.
Two weeks ago, I made my MCU master-ranking. Thor: Love And Thunder would be the new #22 film, behind Iron Man 3 and ahead of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER: 7.9/10