Out of the original 6 Avengers, 1 has retired, 2 have sacrificed themselves to save the galaxy, 1 traveled back in time to spend his life with the one he loves, 1’s whereabouts are relatively sporadic, and 1 is looking to shed his dad bod back into his god bod as described by the rock like creature named Korg (Taika Waititi) in a summarized narration of events.
Within the shedding of weight Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) underwent, Marvel let a missed opportunity slip through their fingers. You may recall in Infinity War and Endgame Thor and leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who make a quick appearance, the entire team, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) had a friendly passive aggressive back and forth about being in charge of the group going forward. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) joked that Quill was gaining weight and needed to eat less. To make Thor: Love and Thunder more meta than it already is, a training montage of the two heroes on a Bowflex would have fit in perfectly with Waititi’s silliness infused follow up to Ragnarok.
Im not the only one who could have played that particular scene out in their mind and be legitimately hopeful for it to be in the final cut. Oh well, we can’t have it all, right?
We are now neck deep into Marvel Studio’s post infinity saga phase 4 that has seen an influx of new movies and series, streaming on Disney Plus added to the unprecedented connected cinematic universe with some familiar faces getting a proper send off, some other familiar faces getting upgraded and promoted, and new blood joining the ranks. Currently, in the 3-year span that started in 2021 (dates pushed and rearranged to fit the current state of the world) phase 4 has seen 13 total projects released so far with more on the way over the next year and a half. Gone are the days of getting 3 films per year, at best, those were truly the years that the MCU was at full strength.
Despite a new 6-episode series dropping every few months and the next film following on its heels, every phase 4 release has had one common denominator that is generally agreed upon by the casual and hardcore fan alike. Phase 4 has had no significant direction to it – the way phase 1-3 had, teased with the Avengers initiative in Iron Man and cemented in a post credit scene in Avengers. In the past, missing a film or 2 was never a big deal, there was no prerequisite to jumping into the vastly expanding universe until phase 4. The previous film Multiverse of Madness required viewers to watch Wandavision. Those who didn’t, were probably confused.
Tangent aside, returning to helm Love and Thunder is writer/director/star Taika Waititi who reimagined the Thor character in Ragnarok and made the character infinitely more interesting. In doing so, Waititi’s talent as a screenwriter (winning an Academy Award for his script of Jojo Rabbit) brought a new admiration to playing the God of Thunder for Hemsworth. Bright colors that pop off the screen and a more comedic flavor made Thor more relatable than his time as a Shakespeare inspired brooding God. Hemsworth’s performance thrives on his ability to be more comedic and loose with his performance.
Speaking of Waititi’s talent behind the camera, the kiwi understands the necessity for balance within his films. Balance of comedy and more dramatic and grave situations. Ragnarok is a dark film with a ton of loss mixed in when the jokes start flying. Love and Thunder follows suit, but the underlying difference being Love and Thunder relying too heavily on the silliness with jokes and references that take away from the melodrama. Read any negative review of this film and that will be a main criticism. I too, agree with that criticism to a degree, especially when the tone of the film is serious, and a joke is undercutting the severity of the moment. But I also appreciate the silliness that Taika brings to this franchise and Hemsworth injecting his charisma and charm into the role with little to no added effort.
Opening the film, is of a man and his daughter, who’s dying from dehydration and starvation. Praying for the God’s help doesn’t come to fruition leaving Gorr (Christian Bale) to vow and seek revenge on every living God who did nothing to help his daughter. Thor being a God sets the two on a collision course that would see the two go head-to-head in a fight to the death. It’s inevitable. On the Midgard side of things, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who has been absent in the MCU for 9 years makes her return only to be diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer. Both characters are set on dark paths, with Mjolnir possibly becoming the saving grace for Jane turning her into the Mighty Thor. With every time Jane switches to Thor, her cancer gets worse.
Hemsworth being the star gives his typical performance but is quickly outshined by Portman who commands the screen as Mighty Thor. Finally, Thor and Jane’s relationship is redeemed after The Dark Work with the two having an energetic and sweet chemistry together. Korg narrating a flashback of the two provides the missing ingredient the two lacked under different direction. Again, it all boils down to the right director and screenplay. Opposite them is Bale, who didn’t go to extreme lengths in body transformations to capture the villainous role of Gorr the God Butcher. With a name like that, you’d expect to see Gods get butchered, not the aftermath, but none exist, it’s just taking his word for it with the minimal screen time. With the limited time, Bale is excellent and nearly on the level of a Loki or Vulture or Killmonger but doesn’t get that added time to showcase his abilities as a character.
Does Love and Thunder deserve the backlash from the narrative choices Waititi chose to focus his film on? I don’t think so, the film is quite a joy ride with the balance of tones and an absolutely wonderful black and white graded sequence with minimal color.
That doesn’t mean those who criticize are wrong either and I can understand their perspective on the matter. A fine ensemble is put together once again with outstanding cameos and return and new addition that includes king Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Zeus (Russell Crowe), the aforementioned Guardians and a pair of screeching goats that will get a laugh every time they appear on screen. Love and Thunder has the better villain but is edged out by its predecessor. Waititi proves himself once again to be the “it” director who doesn’t shy away from the spectacle of the MCU and make it his own.
Written By: Taika Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Directed By: Taika Waititi
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Barry Idoine
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman
Release Date: July 8, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Based On: Thor by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber, The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron