While Thor has been one of the more popular Avengers and heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), he wasn’t always a sure bet and none of us would have ever imagined that he would be the first character to get a fourth solo movie outing, ahead of the more popular Iron Man and Captain America. Credit has to be given to star Chris Hemsworth, who, as an unknown actor to wield Mjolnir back then, has effectively made the character his own in the last decade, as well as New Zealand director/writer Taika Waititi, whose 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, reinvigorated the Thor films.
As with Waititi’s frenetic pacing and rather scattershot approach to storytelling, Thor: Love and Thunder skips the formalities and catch-up that established the likes of recent outings including Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Hawkeye, and throws viewers right into the centre of Thor’s story and where he is in life right now.
Having to pick up the pieces leftover from Avengers: Endgame, Waititi builds up the God of Thunder travelling with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but in a mid-life crisis and close to giving up on his superhero-ing days. The first 15 minutes are really to dispose of the character baggage, and chart Odinson on a new chapter, where after killing Thanos and finding a new home for the people of Asgard, there is still an emptiness in his heart, left by a departing Doctor Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) over eight years ago. Seeing all these characters on screen again after years feels like a wholesome reunion.
Although they have made appearances in the Avengers movies, fans last caught up with Valkyrie Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Foster in Thor: The Dark World (2013), and much has changed. Love and Thunder provides the platform to tell their own personal stories without taking away too much focus from the main plot.
For starters, these supporting characters are better written here, especially Foster. Valkyrie was always played off as a drunkard warrior but now viewers finally understand why she turns to drinking. She still drinks a lot but we learn a little bit more about her sisters and ex-partner. Yes, Valkyrie is finally certified bisexual in the MCU and now, bored with bureaucracy and heavily missing the battlefield, readily takes up her sword to fight alongside fellow sister-in-arms, the Mighty Thor, who you should know by now is a super-powered Jane Foster.
Portman’s Foster is no longer a mere girlfriend or scientist, and has received the biggest upgrade – Mjolnir. Having been portrayed as Thor’s love interest and nothing more in all the previous films, Love and Thunder adapts the Mighty Thor comics and sees the sick scientist become a superhero with the help of well, Thor’s previously broken mystical hammer. If you’ve read the comics, this film follows closely so you know what’s plaguing her, and the cost of bearing the mantle of Thor. In addition, no matter how much love she has for Thor, fate seems to take the upper hand in how it eventually plays out.
Fans will no doubt adore the return of the great chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman. This is her best performance in her Marvel career, with Portman approaching her role with vivacious energy and determination – something we’ve not seen in her previous outings. Whether Love and Thunder will lead to more Mighty Thor stories remains to be seen, but it would be a shame if Marvel stops Portman’s journey just as it’s picking up speed.
Speaking of Marvel careers, Christian Bale is hanging up his cowl and painting himself white for Love and Thunder as Gorr, the God Butcher, a normal man let down by his God, and now seeking to kill all Gods. Of all the villains Thor has gone up against, Bale’s Gorr is the most creepy, weird and disturbing. As just a normal, everyday person, Gorr’s pain and need for vengeance is also deeply relatable, making him one of the most fleshed-out villains in the MCU franchise. Where Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Ragnarok was a force to be reckoned with given her God-status, Bale’s Gorr as a simple man turned God-killer has a much more interesting backstory and motivation.
Watching Bale play a villain after years of being dubbed the best Batman superhero fans have seen is also an experience. Without spoiling too much, Bale’s performance is reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter film series, but with a touch of more violence rather than magical hocus pocus.
Alas, where the film drops the hammer is with the tone of pacing of the film. While Waititi clearly has a firm grasp of the movie, he trades some elements for laughs, and at times, certain scenes and characters are there merely to add to the craziness, and nothing more. Yes, we love the goats, but their presence are just for the laughs and cheapens the movie. The Guardians have a small cameo at the start of the movie, and nothing more, and when it comes to The Mighty Thor, Waititi trades good storytelling for quick cuts that miss out on narrative opportunities. Foster and Valkyrie have never met, and the movie doesn’t reward audiences with a first meeting of the two females, jumping immediately into them becoming fast friends and warriors. And Foster as a scientist knowing immediately how to harness her abilities and fight as well as Thor? That’s just a given that she can do what she can, and the movie doesn’t show any form of transformation journey.
Her relationship and eventual breakup with Thor is touched upon, but shown as a montage that avoids providing any insight. Now, the two are just thrown back together, and shown to still be very much in love. And while Love and Thunder feels like a classic Marvel film filled with adventure, comedy and full of heart, it makes sacrifices for humour. Russel Crowe has a small role as Zeus, and he’s not acting but making a mockery of the Greek God and it feels out of place.
That’s not to say Love and Thunder isn’t fun. It successfully captures the magic that was present in Ragnarok. The comedy lies in poking fun at the otherwise serious characters and sprinkling ridiculous elements throughout the film such as giant goats whose bleats are but punchlines. There is also an entire love triangle storyline between Thor, Mjolnir and Stormbreaker that is hilarious.
Love and Thunder brings a sense of familiarity that many fans would akin to the earlier Marvel films that delivered action and story. However, it slightly misses the greater purpose because at no point in this movie does it feel like Thor’s life would be in danger or that he would be at risk of losing his life or limb. Love and Thunder has gone back to giving fans a light-hearted viewing experience, accompanied by a banging soundtrack that features Guns N’ Roses’ greatest hits, from Paradise City, Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain and the iconic Sweet Child O’Mine, as well as some hits from Swedish pop band ABBA, so do we really love the movie, or the familiar tunes thrown within? It’s the former for us.
Whilst Love and Thunder has been a joyride, our main quibble is that the movie does suffer from the same problem as all the other Phase 4 movies – it lacked connectivity to the overall MCU. What made Phase 3 such an engaging phase is that the films are connected to one another in some way. Movies in Phase 4 each marched to the beat of their own drum so much so that there’s no connective tissue that gives viewers a better understanding as to where all these stories might lead to.
From what we’ve observed, movies in Marvel Phase 4 have felt experimental in genre and tone, and Waititi continues this path, but how long can this go on? Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Marvel Studios’ first horror film. Eternals and Black Widow leaned heavily into drama. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was an experience of its own, having brought the best martial arts action we’ve seen in any Marvel project (we’re still mad about you, Iron Fist), but they all feel inconsistent in providing a unifying theme for Phase 4.
Although it is not Love and Thunder’s responsibility to connect the dots for viewers, what other films have briefly tapped on (or some delved deep into) is the concept of the multiverse. With all the hoo-hah surrounding the multiverse and variants, Love and Thunder feels like a separate entity. It’s a double-edged sword because whilst on one end, it gives viewers a breather from the tiring concept, it does not help in strengthening what is already a very messy and weak phase. The post-credits, however, does ramp up some excitement of characters we can expect to see some time in the future.
Thor: Love and Thunder marks a return to the Marvel we all know and love – funny, adventurous and full of lovable characters, supported by a strong cast, improved writing, and a banging soundtrack. Viewers walking into the movie will undeniably have a good time watching the God of Thunder navigate his life and complicated situations so if Ragnarok is your favourite Thor movie of the series, prepare for Love and Thunder to come close to taking its spot.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
If Ragnarok is your favourite Thor movie, prepare for Love and Thunder to come up real close. With some of the best heroes allthorgether (get it?), the theatre is bound to be filled with thunderous laughter and a greater appreciation of some previously underwritten female characters.
Story - 7.5/10
Direction - 7.5/10
Characterisation - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8.5/10