Thor returns for his fourth solo film (good for him)! I won’t spoil anything, but you can expect love and thunder, among other things. But did I like it?
Thor begins Love and Thunder better than we left him in Endgame: he’s happier, at peace with himself, and back in shape. But what’s a homeless god to do with the remainder of his days? Thor’s answer to that question: protect his people. Asgard is threatened by a new villain who seeks to kill all Gods. This butcher (Gorr) fights a one-man war to avenge the death of his daughter by the negligence of supremely selfish beings. Meanwhile, Jane Foster quests to cure her cancer, and crosses paths with her ex-lover in the process.
Who would have guessed Odinson would be the first Avenger to get a fourth movie? His franchise was always the least popular of the original MCU gang… until Ragnarok breathed some new life into Thor’s status quo. But that movie proved to be a double-edged sword, for it took a traditionally serious character and made a comedy out of him. And then he became a joke.
Love and Thunder doubles down on humor at the expense of Thor’s character. L&T featured Thor doing stupid or immature things I would have expected from him 10 years ago. He’s grown into a mature and competent leader, only to regress into a bumbling jester.
Is it funny? Yes. The antics make me laugh. But Hemsworth and Waititi’s new take on Thor is frustrating because the character isn’t living up to his dramatic potential. He’s got the most epic character journey in the MCU on paper, but you wouldn’t guess it watching this movie.
Love and Thunder is an incredible Thor story though! It could easily have been the best Thor movie if it reigned itself in a little more. But it chose to be an outright comedy instead, and shot itself in the foot.
My spiel aside: I thought Love and Thunder approached its drama better than Ragnarok. The later film had the bad habit of undercutting its serious moments with jokes. Love and Thunder‘s serious scenes are few and far between, but they hit me harder because they’re played straight and let the characters be vulnerable.
This was the most emotionally invested I’ve ever been for a Thor story! His arc still satisfied me (though I know it could have been better). And they made me care more about characters like Jane Foster, whom I’ve been indifferent towards before now.
Let’s talk about Jane now: Natalie Portman gives the best performance of her MCU tenure. What’s that they say? “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”. A lack of Jane Foster for so many years made me appreciate what she brought to the table: she wasn’t a quippy best friend, disposable love interest, or the biggest badass in the room. She was merely a brilliant scientist tossed into a fantastical situation. And her influence on Thor, as Love and Thunder demonstrates, is one of the most impactful in his lengthy lifetime. She’s a big part of his story and I’m glad she was treated with respect.
Christian Bale is incredible as Gorr! Mr “The God Butcher” is a great villain ’cause his assertions are correct: gods are terrible people, and the universe would be better off without most of them. Even good gods like Thor cause much collateral damage wherever they go (as demonstrated in one of L&R’s early scenes).
My biggest problems with Gorr: he was TOO correct, and I wanted to see him more. The later is easily explained (I was a fan of the character), so I’ll focus on my former point for a moment… Waititi must have realized that Gorr was an antagonist for whom we could easily root. So he had Gorr perform moustache-twirly villainous deeds to turn us movie-goers against him. Only problem is that said deeds made little sense for the character. They only existed because the writers couldn’t bear us siding with the bad guy (or they lacked the effects budget to show Gorr doing cooler, more sensical badguy things).
L&R shies away from a compelling morally gray story for a simple resolution. Here is yet another way L&T falls short of its potential… Marvel’s shown that it’s not afraid to give us (kinda) sympathetic villains in the past (like Thanos). Why they butchered Gorr’s anti-heroic side is a mystery to me…
PLUG: If you want a well-done portrayal of a character who dislikes gods and maintains a thought-provoking moral stance, look no further than Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight. That show gets a recommendation from me!
Longtime readers will know I’m usually tough on effects-heavy movies. But Thor 4’s visuals actually impressed me. Surprise!
Taika Waititi upped his game since Ragnarok. He’s notably improved his delivery of spectacle. Nothing feels as cookie-cutter as Marvel’s big set-pieces often look of late.
The action was earned and necessary. Nothing felt tacked on or gratuitous. Waititi allowed character moments and dialogue scenes to take centre stage in lieu of more stake-less CGI fisticuffs. A lot of people will be mad at Love and Thunder for failing to deliver on their expectations of a full-on action movie. But I didn’t care. The action is not what I care about with Marvel anymore.
That all said, the action we DID receive was largely disappointing. A mere few moments stood out to me as worthy of remembering. Nothing was bad per se– just uninspired. But I can’t blame the choreographers TOO much. This is Thor’s 8th adaptation to the big screen. We’ve seen him in all manner of combat over the past 10 years. I bet I’d struggle to think of anything exceptional as well, at this point.
Here I want to give a special shout-out to the costume designers, who crafted some of my all-time favourite Thor looks in this film. I love how bold they get with each new adventure! Now let’s see them try to adapt Thor’s 90s outfit in #5!
Thor: Love and Thunder successfully subverted my expectations in some clever ways! Not everyone will be satisfied with the story’s resolution. But I loved it! It’s not often Marvel can shock me anymore. So I’ll take what I can get. Good on them for having the guts to follow through on a controversial decision.
Love and Thunder lives up to its title! Love is, in fact, its core theme. Is that theme’s execution heavy-handed and forced? Sure. But L&R’s sentimentality worked for this cynical heart. Its emotional core is strong and affecting if you let yourself become invested.
A few more criticisms now: Thor 4’s pacing is strange. The film runs 2 hrs but feels far longer. Maybe it’s all those (likely) improvised comedy gags which pad the story? ‘Cause a lot of jokes weren’t efficiently incorporated. They didn’t build enough on the characters that they ALL deserved to be included.
Also, L&R’s stakes feel low because most of the characters’ actions lack serious consequences. I can’t fault the film excessively here, because there are some consequences, and they do matter. But most of the time these characters can get away with literal murder and they brush it off as if nothing happened.
Branching off that point, I must note that everything is too easy for our protagonists. It always bothers me when new characters get superpowers, then immediately use them effectively. We’ve seen our main heroes struggle for their power over multiple films, or their combat prowess is baked into their backstory. But here people like Gorr and Jane get powers and show prowess years ahead of their should-be level. Lack of struggle helps move the plot along but it also cheapens the story.
Thor: Love and Thunder is technically quite flawed, but I enjoyed myself enough to say it’s Worth a Watch.
Do you want to see Taika Waititi return to direct Thor 5? What did you think of Thor: Love and Thunder? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,
FOR MY SPOILER THOUGHTS ON THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, CHECK OUT THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP WITH RYAN AND JOE!