REVIEW: ‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ is an Irreverent Joy Ride

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Thor Love and Thunder - But Why Tho

Taika Waitit breathed a new life into the Thor series with RagnarokVibrant and hilarious, the synthwave-fueled ride to the end of Asgard established my love for Chris Hemsworth, and now in Thor: Love and Thunder, Waititi and crew bring out chaos and humor only fit of 90s metal bands.

Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder find the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey to find himself outside of just saving the world.  But Thor’s retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods after his own personal tragedy. To combat the threat, Thor aims to save a group of children abducted by the God Butcher with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) -who is now a Mjolnir-wielding Thor herself. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

With Thor: Love and Thunder, Waititi is on his comedic A-game, once again solidifying what works with the God of Thunder: humor and roaring action. While the MCU has hit a point where forced jokes that don’t land have become par for the course, Waititi manages to make humor a central part of the story, embracing the dark, the crass, and even the romantic sides of humor to pull together a joy ride that absolutely works. Plus, expert use of cameos and a Zeus fit for the myths of old where all he wants to do is bed someone in a slimy and narcissistic trickster fashion. In the simplest of terms, our crew is a group of himbos hiding their emotions under their muscles and by the end of the film, they’ve confronted most of them, or at least started to.

Even with the romances or the ones hinted at, Waititi also manages to take the broader narrative into a space that asks about the lives we lead, the memories we make, and the importance of finding something to feel absolute “shitty about” if we lose it. And without having to focus on handing a mantle or killing off an existing hero, Waititi gets to chart a course for the future that doesn’t cast aside the existing hero but manages to situation them into something more significant.

Thor changes over the course of the film, as intended, but this growth never loses sight of the character that was resurrected from two beyond lackluster introductory films. Hemsworth’s joy is clear in the film in the largest moments of action and his chemistry with absolutely everyone is amazing. While Portman feels more forced into being on the same wavelength as Valkyrie and Thor, even her chemistry hits. Hemsworth gets to laugh and cry, smash things, offer comfort, and be genuinely intimidating when the time comes to seek support from the universe’s gods. And to be honest, I love this for him.

That said, the real showstopping performance in Thor: Love and Thunder comes from a viscerally creepy Christian Bale as Gor. With moments of comedic genius of juxtaposing him doing something violent with the kids watching him, Bale is actually terrifying in moments. From how his body moves to how his face contorts, Bale is a special sort of dark magic that levels out the vibrant joy of the film.

And of course, while I wish this film had centered on expanding Valkyrie, especially with the electric way Thompson and Hemsworth play off of each other, Jane Foster’s return is a good one. Even with my extreme reservations for her entry as the Mighty Thor, Waititit nails it. She has her moments to shine, her moments to drive emotion, and it feels like she’s back in the MCU on her terms.

And while the story and the humor work extremely well, it’s the way that the soundtrack is expertly mapped onto bright and hard-hitting action sequences that makes this film stands out against the rest of those released in this phase of the MCU. Without overusing lightning effects, we get to see large action set pieces (with CGI that actually looks good, sorry Multiverse of Madnessand large-scale fights in a true variety of locations that offer something fresh.

No one action sequence feels the same and that’s a good thing. But it’s a fight at the start of the third act that takes the hyper-colored elements of the film and crashes it into a black and white world that marks one of the strongest entrances in suspense and action for the film and from what we’ve gotten in this phase.

Thor Love and Thunder - But Why Tho

My largest issue with the film is the stark tonal dissonance between the first two acts and the finale. While protecting the children of Asgard is a central piece of the plot, the road that our trio takes to get there bounces around between multiple jokes about orgies and some pretty intense violence only to end with a finale that puts the youngest in the audience at the center. Why is this an issue? Well, the film’s humor, including references to 80s pop culture, many uses of the “orgy” and a fully naked Thor, doesn’t necessarily make the family-friendliest of films. The film is ultimately a good one, but the stark differences from start to finish showcase the biggest issue with the Marvel Cinematic Universe this round: the audience.

The “start” of the MCU was in 2008, and now, we’ve been able to age with the films and their characters. It’s not farfetched to have films that cater to the older audiences who have been with these characters since the beginning. I mean, Thor’s first appearance 11 years ago – and Waititi’s signature irreverent humor points this out.

That said, Disney has made concerted efforts to reach younger viewers, most notably with Ms. Marvel, while also trying to make sure it doesn’t lose its core older audience with a more mature offering like Moon Knight. When this happens with different properties it makes sense. However, trying to make your audience include everyone, even with a PG-13 rating, takes away some of the glorious irreverent messy chaotic fun. Especially after parents thought Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness deserved an R-rating (something I don’t agree with but, here we are).

This issue also plagued Eternalsas it did Multiverse of Madness, and continues to leave me wanting the studio to pick a lane. Ms. Marvel works because it knows its audience. Moon Knight worked because it knew its audience, and of course, the non-MCU adult Marvel offerings have worked for the same reason as well.

That said, Thor: Love and Thunder is the best outing for the MCU since Endgame. This is specifically because Waititi never loses sight of who Thor is and doesn’t have to dedicate his movie to passing a torch. While there are some heavy exposition moments done to make the audience care about Jane – you know a character we haven’t seen for years – overall, Waititi shows and doesn’t tell. His mind for comedy and visuals helps land some of the grandest moments of the film. The gods are never explained just shown in their grandeur and beauty. Power’s aren’t harped on, they’re showcased (including an amazing hammer throw from Jane).

A visual smorgasbord of film, Thor: Love and Thunder is joy and feelings with screaming goats, rainbow bridges, and a cast that knocks everything out of the park – even with third act faults.

Thor: Love and Thunder is theaters nationwide July 8, 2022. 


Thor: Love and Thunder
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

A visual smorgasbord of film, Thor: Love and Thunder is joy and feelings with screaming goats, rainbow bridges, and a cast that knocks everything out of the park – even with third act faults.

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