Back in 2011, Kenneth Branagh set out to make Shakespeare out of Thor. By 2017, Taika Waititi took over directing duties and understood it’s best not to take the Norse god too seriously. With Thor: Love and Thunder, Taika literally strips Thor of his seriousness and puts his signature brand of humor on full display. That’s not to say Love and Thunder is all jokes. There are serious elements at play centered around existentialism, love, loss, forgiveness, and death. Maybe this entry is more Shakespearian than it will get credit for.
The movie begins with the main antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), promising to kill all gods for their indifference toward his daughter’s failing health. Armed with a Necrosword, Gorr sets out to obtain the other tool he needs to fully carry out his plan: Thor’s ax Stormbreaker. This brings Gorr to New Asgard, where he kidnaps the children of the settlement as part of his plan. With the help of his friends Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and a Mjolnir-wielding Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sets out to save the kids and stop the maniacal god butcher, all while battling an existential crisis.
Jane Foster is back after Mjolnir summons her to offer help as she battles her own enemy (the film establishes Mjolnir and Stormbreaker are sentient, which provides for some unique comedy). With the newly bestowed powers of the god of Thunder, Jane joins Thor in the fight. Gorr is not the only challenge our hero couple must face. Their reunion leads to conversations about their breakup, the state of their relationship going forward, and introspection about their lives.
The Jane/Thor relationship becomes the driving force of the film. A more appropriate title might have been Thor: Love and Loss as our superhero couple and antagonist face both. Heavy stuff for sure, but no worries. Marvel makes a point to throw a kitchen sink’s worth of quips our way before things become too serious and emotional.
This makes Thor: Love and Thunder a frustrating watch. The film aims for those tear-jerking moments but doesn’t allow you to reach for tissues before it inserts another joke. Many work well, like the running gag where Stormbreaker is not too fond of Thor making amends with Mjolnir. Others do not. How many times do you need to hear two giant goats scream before it gets annoying?
Hemsworth has become as comfortable playing Thor as Robert Downey Jr. was playing Tony Stark. Hemsworth IS Thor. Portman’s return as Jane is far more satisfying than Dr. Christine Palmer’s return to Dr. Strange earlier in the year. The chemistry between her and Hemsworth makes for a believable relationship. Thompson is always great, and I need more of Valkyrie going forward. Maybe a six-episode miniseries on Disney+? Korg as Taika (or the other way around) remains a formidable source of comedy.
Two former DC heroes make their MCU debut with The Dark Knight himself (Bale) playing Gorr while Jor-El (Russell Crowe) plays Zeus. Crowe is delightfully ridiculous in limited screen time. Bale, on the other hand, is far from ridiculous; he gives the MCU its creepiest villain to date. His terrifying look is enhanced by some Mad Max-esque aesthetics.
Thor: Love and Thunder also provides some unique visuals, specifically a scene that starts bright with color as our heroes travel to the Shadow Realm. As they travel the color slowly fades away into black and white as they venture closer to their final destination. The visuals are unique compared to Marvel’s usual offerings, and it should be considered one of Marvel’s best visual ideas to date.
When the final credits role (and yes, of course, stay through them all), Thor: Love and Thunder achieves exactly what most of Marvel’s Phase 4’s titles have set out to do: tie up loose ends, introduce new characters, and bring back old ones all while teasing the direction of the MCU. In that regard, it offers nothing new. Hidden under a surface of a million jokes, is a heartfelt, fun movie that sometimes manages to be good. While it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor, Thor: Love and Thunder is a satisfying entry filled with humor, action, love, and thunder.
BORJA’S RATING: 6.5 out of 10