Thor: Love and Thunder Review — Wacky Waititi Strikes Lightning Again
After a long wait, Thor: Love and Thunder has finally hit cinemas and shown once again director Take Waititi’s wacky take on the God of thunder was no fluke. The second Thor film by Waititi feels rooted in the tone of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, but also acts as a direct sequel to the much maligned Thor: The Dark World from 2013. It puts the focus back on telling complete, entertaining stand-alone stories over the grand world-building that many recent Phase 4 MCU projects have felt like, even if it may be an acquired taste.
The film’s 2-hour runtime doesn’t waste any time setting up the plot, starting with Christian Bale’s humble devout-turned-God-killer’s introduction. The backstory here can be summed up in two lines and about 4 minutes of setup, which is both good and bad. While Gorr’s motivation and reasoning for turning to the dark side is simple to understand, it’s not backed by heavy character nuance as we saw with the franchise-best Thanos. Gorr sets his eyes on killing all Gods in the universe (or at least, just this one), which, as you would expect, sets him up for a confrontation with Thor and, by extension, New Asgard.
Love and Thunder follows Thor (Chris Hemsworth) after the events of Avengers: Endgame as he yearns for a new purpose in life, occasionally helping out the Guardians of the Galaxy. While he’s out there showing off his godly powers with his godly weapon Stormbreaker, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is battling cancer on Earth. We don’t get a lot of backstory on what she’s been up to since we last saw her in The Dark World besides a quick montage, but she has apparently moved on from Thor. While researching for a cure, Jane discovers that Thor’s previous weapon, Mjolnir, is capable of granting everlasting life (of sorts) to whoever wields it. Following its trail to New Asgard, now ruled by King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Jane is deemed worthy to wield the hammer. With the powers of the God of thunder, she quickly establishes herself as the Mighty Thor.
All of these threads come together quite fast, about 20 minutes into the movie, as Thor, Jane, Valkyrie and of course, Korg (Taika Waititi himself) come together to track down Gorr and rescue the Asgardian children he has kidnapped. It’s a fast-paced film, so jumping around locations is a given, mostly driven by plot, not character motivations. Compared to Ragnarok, this film feels like it was made solely for the sake of making a movie based on IP contractual obligations rather than advancing a naturally progressing story. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, which it is in droves.
Let’s get to the meat of the movie here— the relationship between Jane and Thor. Prior movies had tried to make Jane interesting, but they never reached the potential that a performer like Natalie Portman can deliver on. I’m happy to say that Love and Thunder’s Jane Foster is a big win, and the film actually managed to make me care about her relationship with Thor. Jane is as badass as you’d expect on-screen with the hammer, but it all would be moot if the romance didn’t work. It’s not a particularly deep relationship, but the screenplay by Waititi and Jennifer Robinson adds enough nuance to serve the story. Given her last appearance in the MCU was a decade ago, and with Thor having gone a soft personality reboot under the direction of Waititi, it’s no surprise to see Jane act and talk a little different (and better imo) here.
The action has style, with Jane Foster packing some pretty sweet moves with the new (and improved?) Mjolnir. It’s a shame to see Valkyrie not get the same treatment, both in battle and in character development. With her being the new King of Asgard, there could’ve been a Black Panther-type reckoning with how New Asgard and its residents are being treated on Earth. Rather, the new home of the Viking gods is now a glorified tourist destination, with a couple of good, self-referential jokes thrown in.
For a movie filled with colour, I was quite surprised to see the effective use of its lack in one particular scene on Gorr’s dominion. The action scene, packed with tension, is a testament to Waititi’s penchant for striking visuals in an almost entirely black-and-white world. It’s a little underwhelming then to see the climax drop in quality in terms of tension and stakes. Either way, the film’s conclusion does elevate Gorr to a mildly higher standard (if only by Bale’s commitment) than what we usually get from Marvel. I would love to see the troves of obviously deleted scenes that fleshed out Bale’s villain, but alas, I can only judge the movie for what it is in theatres now.
Ragnarok was a film loved for its fresh use of music and colour, and Waititi’s second venture is no different. The film looks vibrant and fun, although some of it is marred by shoddy green screen every once in a while. The music works on the same level as Ragnarok, but Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine doesn’t quite hit the same as Immigrant Song. Like last time, the songs aren’t just there for flair, acting as an extra layer of narration and story if you listen closely.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a fun, vibrant, wacky Waititi adventure with two Gods of Thunder, magic space Vikings, and some bangin’ music. It’s not the lightning in the bottle that Ragnarok was, but it’ll suffice for a good time at the movies.
Originally published at https://thescreenzone.com on July 8, 2022. You can also support The Screen Zone by subscribing to our YouTube channel, where we publish video game and movie reviews in video format. You can also support The Screen Zone by subscribing to Save State, the publication’s free newsletter.