[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
Back in 2017 Disney gave the Thor franchise new life when they handed the directorial rights to Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) which brought Thor back to the forefront of the fun, action-packed, strong Marvel superhero movies.
What Thor: Ragnarok brought to the table was a colorful, fun-filled adaptation of a comic where Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (Extraction, Men in Black: International, Red Dawn), and the Incredible Hulk teamed up and had a laughable, humoristic approach in between all the well-planned out storyline and impressive CGI scenes.
Fast forward five years to the newest Thor movie, Thor: Love And Thunder, (which is in the Gem Theaters) and it was obvious Waititi was trying to replicate everything that made Ragnarok such a huge success ($853,983,879 made worldwide). The only problem? He leaned so heavily into the comedic aspects of Ragnarok, and the newfound cheesiness that Thor has grown into, that this newest film felt like it was trying too hard to make the audience laugh and not trying hard enough to make a superhero movie a superhero movie.
Not only that, when the jokes and chucklesome moments actually do land they seem to do so with no knowledge of who their prime audience is. While over 80% of the movie feels like a PG, poorly acted, watered-down version of Ragnarok that laughs at fart jokes and can’t conceptualize how little Thor takes seriously, there is the rest of the movie which screams PG-13–and even R-rated–in some points with jokes of orgies and abrupt, dark, calamitous plot points that actually move the story along.
For instance, Thor laughs off so much of the movie–destroying sacred temples he has sworn to protect, ruining his friends’ buildings and statues on accident, and laughing along with the scummy gods that live high above the rest of the universe–that whenever something serious happens, like children being kidnapped or giant gods being slaughtered, it seems like another movie has somehow crept its way into Love and Thunder to bring darkness and despair to a fun-loving children’s movie.
Thor’s nemesis in this movie, Gorr the God Butcher–played by Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, VICE, American Psycho), has such a deep distrust of gods (for good reason) that he decides to slay them all down one-by-one with a sword (that wasn’t really a sword in the comic books) on his way to “Eternity” which is a being at the center of the universe which will grant the first person to reach them’s wish. The only problem with Gorr? He is barely in the movie at all and yet brings the best acting, the best CGI, the best makeup and the best storyline to the whole film.
Gorr’s backstory is loosely put together at the very beginning, and done so with poor CGI like much of the movie, but with his shadow creatures and darkened tone throughout the movie it simply does not mesh well with the colorful, fun-loving ideas that Ragnarok proved work in the Marvel cinematic universe.
Not only that, the original hype around this film was Thor’s old fling Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman (Star Wars I,II,III, Annihilation, V for Vendetta), returning to the screen after being absent in Ragnarok. In Love and Thunder Foster is succumbing to stage four cancer, yet the audience has no idea how much time has passed between any scenes or any movies for the whole film, making the drastic fear of her dying go by the wayside until the very end when it’s actually completely possible, and plausible, to save her.
Foster has long been predicted to have Thor’s old hammer, Mjölnir, through some sort of space-time jump or a possible second Foster from another dimension bringing it to her, but director Waititi took the easy, silly way out (as he always seems to do) and [spoiler] gives the hammer to Foster because of a drunken promise that Thor made to Mjölnir when dating her back before Ragnarok ever happened (or did it happen yet? Nobody knows because time is not a concept in this film).
And while Thor and Foster’s relationship provided so many sparks in the first two movies, their chemistry is heavily dulled in this movie which makes her character a bummer to see on the screen with Hemsworth. Now that Foster has the hammer, something Thor is extremely jealous of, Thor’s newest weapon is also feeling similarly and begins to “act out” as only a giant axe could. But what’s funny is that the relationship between Thor and his envious axe feels more real and more flirtatious than anything on screen between the two power-wielding gods.
But it’s not all bad. Where this movie really brings its best foot forward is with the shadow creatures that Gorr brings about to attack Foster, Thor and ‘King’ Valkyrie–played by Tessa Thompson (Creed, Sorry To Bother You, Westworld). This is where the CGI money was obviously spent, and spent well, but it’s also the only parts of the film that truly feel like a Thor movie considering the beginning feels like a new Guardians of the Galaxy film and the end feels like a fever dream between Interstellar and Mr. Nobody.
Gorr’s creatures, his sick mentality which is caused by the curse of the Necrosword, and his overall look bring this movie back to reality–even though none of this is based in reality–and it causes the audience to remember why they came to the film in the first place.
Poor CGI at the beginning and end, a smorgasbord of plot holes from the first scene to the last, and a love interest that faded years ago all fill this movie with more questions than answers for fans of the Marvel movies. But, as time has shown, ever since Marvel and Disney went full-scale, balls-to-the-wall with Avengers: Endgame the movies since have been sub-par compared to the awe-inspiring character introductions we were spoiled with during the 2010s, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
And it all ends with the audience being forced to care about someone who wasn’t in the movie at all until the final two minutes, setting up future adventures but making the difficult call to put an end to multiple stories that could have blossomed under the right circumstances.
Even though you’ll ask yourself questions like “Why doesn’t he just call the Guardians back?” or “Why can’t anybody die when they’re stabbed through the back?” or “Why does Zeus act like the most pompous-yet-girly god of all time?” you’ll still enjoy the lights and the action as well as the continuation of some storylines you may have forgotten about.
It’s hard to put into words what exactly went wrong when making Love and Thunder. The redeeming-yet-quick end to Gorr’s story meshed poorly with the non-redeeming end to Thor and Foster’s story, all while keeping the audience waiting around for something to move forward. Director Waititi didn’t feel like killing off the character he voiced, Korg, nor any other characters that would’ve made Thor’s actions a little more understandable. And the constant, flailing attempts at humor–even when talking to children who have been abducted or when Foster is going through chemo–all just feel like they should’ve been worked on a little longer in the studio.
Overall, this movie took some serious liberties with the characters in it and the audience watching it. Slamming 10-15 kid-friendly jokes before flashing Hemsworth’s bare butt and speaking about orgies with a particularly racy version of Zeus–played by Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind)–makes the movie feel awkward. Also, the strange love concept between two god-like characters, which has to be fully explained in multiple montages and bedtime stories, makes the movie feel cluttered with uneasy and unnecessary additions that could’ve been better if the film were longer or put together differently in the editing room.
Compared to Thor: Ragnarok this movie has fallen off a cliff, but compared to Thor: The Dark World this movie is an amazing work of art, so see it yourself and decide where it lands between the two, but after the third movie set the bar so high it’s hard to give this movie a truly honest rating.
Overall: 3.5 / 5 Mjölnirs