Movie Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemseworth, Natalie Portman, Tess Thompson, Christian Bale, Taika Waititi, Russel Crowe

Plot: Feeling as though he’s without purpose, Thunder God Thor reunites with ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster and is surprised to find her wielding his powers. Together with Korg and Valkyrie, they are challenged by a being known as ‘The God Butcher’.

Review: One of the most common criticisms we have seen in regards to the latest flick from the MCU is one of tone. Some viewers have felt that it delves into silliness and comedy and sits at odds with the tone of the series as a whole. Whilst this is true of some sequences, some people have missed a trick of the narrative here. Some parts of the story, such as the first action sequence are being recounted by Korg (Waititi) and have a degree of embellishment. Perhaps this came in too subtle, but the bit when Thor (Hemsworth) straddled the axe Stormbreaker as though a witch’s broom and soars into the sky. You may not link this to Korg’s confused conversation with Thor about how the hammer lets him fly in the last film, but you must have noticed that this isn’t the norm.

We are very much back in the technicolour, Saturday morning cartoon universe of Taika Waititi’s Thor, one of the more entertaining and lunatic parts of the MCU franchise. Thor’s first few appearance took more influence from Shakespearean grandiose, reflected in the director choice of Kenneth Branagh. When it felt like the dryer take on the superhero was running out of steam, Waititi steered it towards a He-Man animated world by way of heavy metal album covers. This was a jarring, but well received shift in the run of Thor movies, and they seem happy to let Waititi do his thing a bit longer. At times the space/Norse mash-up settings look like a sugar-induced fever dream but it only plays setting to a characters dealing with human emotional experiences.

Thor’s journey this time around is reconciling with his lost love Dr. Jane Foster (Portman) and learning to accept that he will have to face an existence without her once more. Jane has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with a limited amount of time left. Through her past connection with Thor, she felt compelled to approach the destroyed enchanted hammer Mjölnir, which grants her the powers of Thor. She summons a similar set of armour and wields both the hammer and lightning powers. This is a story arc lifted from the comics, and brought to life well on screen mostly in part to Portman’s talents as an actor.

This also gives us an excuse to spend more time in New Asgard, the Norwegian fishing village that has become home to the Asgardian survivors of Infinity War. The transition from working class refuge to tourist trap under the leadership of King Valkyrie (Thompson) gives us some goofy sight gags, and it was a laugh seeing Darryl (Daley Pearson) from the One-Shot shorts films turn up again. This location serves as a reintroduction of the awesome Valkyrie who, despite joining the team and appearing through most of the film, feels underused and doesn’t have much in the way of character development. We were hoping to see her return to the City of the Gods to sweep away that one of Zeus’ handmaidens.

Omnipotence City is one of the other major set-pieces of this film and is so packed full of background details that we can’t wait to get our hands on a home copy of the film to pick through and spot all the different gods. Boa, God of Dumplings is likely to be a hit with the marketing department. This sequence is based around a meeting with Zeus (Crowe), a ridiculous figure that sees the once Oscar contender and tabloid bait bringing his all the ludicrous depiction of the mighty deity. Certainly a highlight of the film, and a good use of one of the surprise casting choices Waititi has made with this film.

There’s two major problems we have with this film’s story that detracts from the action and creative worlds. The first is a total of three fake-out deaths, a technique we’re generally not a fan off when they’re given little to no room to breathe. In each case we find our heroes alive after what appears to be a genuine case of being deaded, and twice it lessons the emotional impact of the story. As much as we like these characters, this feels cheap.

Second, and more problematic, is the rushed development of our new villain, Gorr the God Butcher. Excellent design and Christian Bale is as fantastic as always, but for a character built on pathos there should have been more time spent with him. We open with a prologue introducing us to the human Gorr, see some tragedy befall him, a dissatisfying interaction with a god and him literally stumbling over a weapon that serves his new-found purpose. We like what we got, but this could have been spun into a more thorough look at his transition from grieving father to reality-threatening, corrupted maniac. Like some previous villains, he does have a powerful motivation but with all the other characters and shenanigans with Korg or the Guardians of the Galaxy it gets skimmed over.

Thor has never been the emotional core of the MCU, and despite the romantic plot being at the centre of this it’s much more a rollicking space yarn full of weird characters and insane locales. Waititi has a unique sense of humour that fits well into genre films, and without him this character may have been shuffled off the bench by now. It’s not as tight a narrative as the previous film, but still bonkers fun.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN