Thor: Love and Thunder

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“Thor: Love and Thunder” is the sequel to 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and the fourth Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Taika Waititi is back to direct the sequel with more creative control this time. The film stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor alongside Tessa Thompson, Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, and Natalie Portman.

The film opens with a prologue for the villain Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), witnessing the death of his young daughter. When his people’s god is insensitive to their suffering, Gorr kills him. Now wielding the god-killing necro sword, Gorr is on a mission to eradicate every god in the universe. 

Thor is currently traveling in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy and feeling lonely without his one true love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She’s now on Earth, dying of stage four cancer. Thor’s damaged hammer, Mjolnir, calls out to her from New Asgard. Jane figures it might be worth checking out if it has some healing abilities which turns her into another version of Thor.

Thor finds out Gorr’s next target is New Asgard. Assembling a team that consists of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi, and now the new Mighty Thor, set out to stop Gorr, who’s managed to kidnap all the Asgardian children and is holding them hostage in the Shadow Realm.

The team attempts to recruit the remaining gods, starting with Zeus (Russell Crowe), to help stop Gorr. Zeus shuts this down immediately because his character is presented as sleazy and cowardly. This version of Zeus serves as an antagonist to the heroes. Disappointed by Zeus’s decision, the team sets out to defeat Gorr. Along the way, Thor finds himself in a tangled relationship with Jane, his hammer, and his ax… 

“Thor: Love and Thunder” has structural issues. The film skips over a considerable part of the plot, Jane’s transformation into the Mighty Thor. Her arc consists of a lot more talking than showing. Instead of showing Jane weigh out the options to Mjolnir’s calling or showing what happens when she accepts the hammer. Instead, Jane is suited up and ready for battle when Gorr attacks New Asgard.

Similarly, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) was underutilized. Introduced with a compelling backstory, then shortly forgotten. His character was sidelined for most of the film. Occasionally popping up before the third act. Bale chewed the scenery in the limited screen time he was given. Gorr was terrifying and visually expressive, which could have made him one of the best MCU villains.

I didn’t take anything seriously because the entire film is telling us not to take it seriously. The script attempts to weave Jane’s terminal illness with Gorr’s grief, but most of the emotional moments are erased for unnecessarily forced humor. “Love and Thunder” has an ongoing gag about screaming goats that I found annoying after the umpteenth time. At one point, they’re shooting an Old Spice commercial-product placement at its finest. 

Thor might have the most convoluted character arc in the entire MCU. In every film, his demeanor changes. Thor in “Love and Thunder” subsequently falls into a self-parody. Thor is no longer a god; he’s a dumbed-down comedian. Thor has experienced so much loss that this could have been an excellent opportunity for him to find the perfect balance of a carless adventurer and caring protector. Sure, I laughed a bunch at Chris Hemsworth’s perfect comedic timing and one-liners, but the franchise has forgotten what being worthy means.

Waititi is at his best when he finds the balancing act of tragedy mixed with humor but still manages to pull at your heartstrings. “Thor: Love and Thunder” fails to do that. The film feels like a parody of the superhero genre. At one point, Jane is trying to come up with her superhero catchphrase. “Love and Thunder” is under 2 hours, making it the shortest MCU film in years. So much time is wasted on self-referential humor and setting up a funny bit rather than spending more time on the characters. The second half is where “Love and Thunder” slows down and finds its footing, but it’s too little, too late.

“Love and Thunder” felt like a theme park ride experience. Visually dazzling, full of fun characters, and action set pieces blasting classic rock music, it’s hard not to have fun. “Love and Thunder” is not fresh and exciting like its predecessor “Ragnarok.” Taika attempts to make a 1980s-inspired rom-com action adventure with a lame joke after every piece of dialogue. I was disappointed that most of the emotional moments were erased for a cheap laugh. I like how the ending sets up Thor’s character going forward, which should help refresh the character.