Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Christian Bale, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Jaimie Alexander
It’s been a while since we last saw Thor in his own movie. The character has certainly had his ups and downs in his time in the MCU, as have his movies: Thor (2011) was a great intro to many now-beloved MCU characters; Thor: The Dark World (2013) was, as the title suggests, a dark time for Thor, as the movie was panned by fans and critics alike; then 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok breathed new life into all the characters and Thor’s own personal journey, thanks to Taika Waititi. Waititi once again takes the helm (or the hammer, as it were) and guides us through yet another chapter of the Norse god of thunder’s long life. Does he continue to do Thor and his comrades justice, or is Thor heading for his own personal Ragnarok?
(Note: This is a spoiler-free review, other than the final paragraphs before which there will be a warning, but other past MCU movies and events may be mentioned.)
Post-Endgame (yeah, it’s been a while…), we now see Thor (Hemsworth) pimping himself out across the galaxy for his superhero services, along in part with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He receives a distress call from Sif (Alexander), and learns that there is a new villain on the rise, named Gorr (Bale), who is hellbent on killing all the gods in existence due to his own personal vendetta. Sif informs Thor that Gorr’s next target is New Asgard, the home of what’s left of the Asgardians after Asgard was destroyed by Surtr and many more Asgardians murdered by Thanos after that. In his fight against Gorr, Thor is reunited with his one-time love, Jane Foster (Portman). Having been dealing with her own issues, Jane is called by Mjölnir to take up the mantle of Mighty Thor. Together, and with the help of New Asgard’s king, Valkyrie (Thompson), and old friend Korg (Waititi), they must team up and work through their issues to stop Gorr from fulfilling his vengeance.
Waititi really allowed Thor to explore his humorous side in Ragnarok, and we had a whole spectacle of colour and classic rock music that made it feel like its own unique brand within the MCU. He has kept to very much the same formula with Love and Thunder, but perhaps takes it a little too far in some scenes that feel rather unnecessary and only there for a laugh. Don’t get me wrong, much of the humour is great fun and is really in-keeping with how we’ve come to know Thor and his comrades, not to mention being introduced to characters like Zeus, with Crowe flouncing about in a little skirt as the Greek god of thunder, but it felt too heavily relied upon at times. It’s a similar problem with the soundtrack – I’m all for a little Guns N’ Roses, but three times in one movie? Did Disney pay for the rights, or did Axl Rose pay Disney? Not to mention a character that takes on the name Axl (fair enough that it is derivative of Axel, which is indeed an old European name, but that’s not the point). There’s some heavy subject matter in this movie, and it was ultimately handled with grace and respect, but there could have been a better balance in overall tone.
Hemsworth gives yet another fun-filled and well-rounded performance as the lovable Thor, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that physique of his, after he clearly worked so damn hard on it. Apparently he did a Hugh Jackman/Wolverine and went all out and got into the absolute best shape of his life. The hard work shows, as he does look much bulkier and defined than in any previous appearances of Thor. Fortunately he’s able to provide the character with much more than just a shredded body to look at. Speaking of which, Portman too bulked up somewhat to go all in as Mighty Thor, which is a good contrast to how this story requires her to portray Jane without the power of Mjölnir. It’s great to see Portman back in the MCU, and she fits back in solidly. Thompson’s Valkyrie is just as strong yet humble and provides good support to Thor and Jane, but she also gets a little more character development, which is great to see. Bale has always created great villains when cast as so, and his role as Gorr is no different. He doesn’t allow the character to be some flat villain, a rebel without a cause. Rather, Gorr has reasons for his malice, reasons that we are privy to in the movie’s opening scene and which see him right through to the end of the movie, culminating in an interesting finale. Overall, a solid ensemble, with some fun quips from Waititi’s Korg now and again.
As the penultimate movie before Phase Four of the MCU wraps up (finishing with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever later this year and then Phase Five beginning in 2023 with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t exactly bring much new to the universe’s ever-growing table, but rather acts as more of a standalone, as most of the movies that have thus far made up Phase Four have been, truth be told. There’s potential for new characters to play a larger part in the future, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Waititi wrote a great story and stayed true to the characters, but he could have done with reeling in the pomp and pageantry just a tad. Then again, perhaps that’s what people look for in a Thor movie these days. Either way, Love and Thunder is another entertaining romp through the galaxy, and I still look forward to future appearances of Thor.
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Despite Jane making it to Valhalla, and potentially remaining at peace forever and never making another appearance in the MCU, I hope she makes a return as Mighty Thor some day. If not, I expect Thor’s death is probably in the works, and she will be his reward in Valhalla after some gallant death (maybe around the time of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty?).
After we find out in the mid-credits scene that Zeus was in fact not killed by his own lightning bolt and instead vows revenge, we learn that his son Hercules, played by Brett Goldstein, exists in this universe. It’ll be interesting to see where they will both stand in the future, particularly Hercules.