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‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Review: A Disappointingly Shallow Marvel Encore for Taika Waititi

Thor: Love and Thunder seemed guaranteed to be a slam dunk. director Taika Waititi is back at the helm after an incredibly entertaining 2017 Thor: RagnarokWith Chris Hemsworth‘s Asgardian Avenger finds its endearing comedic groove and Natalie Portman to make her epic return live action Marvel Cinematic Universe after a nine-year absence.

Surprisingly, the 29th MCU film to hit theaters on Friday misses the mark. In an attempt to balance comedy with drama and fuse several classic comic book storylines into a single narrative, Thor’s fourth solo adventure spreads too thin and ends feeling superficial (even down to his two post-credits scenes).

It starts out promising enough, with a strong introduction Christian Balle‘s villainous Gorr the Godslayer. After his harsh desert home world claims his daughter’s life, his encounter with an indifferent, uncaring god drives him to launch a campaign to slaughter every divine being in the universe.

This sequence is atmospheric and patient, giving Bale’s performance time to breathe and letting us feel his growing despair, confusion and anger. Then the Marvel Studios logo rolls in and the roller coaster begins. Emotional Resonance? No, that’s all you get in this movie.

Mantis, Peter Quill chatting with Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder

Don’t expect to spend a lot of time with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Studios

The last time we saw Thor was in 2019 Avengers: Endgame, he had decided to join Guardians of the Galaxy for some space adventures after Thanos was defeated. But the God of Thunder completely outdoes his new allies, making him seem like an overpowered video game character while crushing their foes and making the Wardens look a little useless.

We get a colourful, visually striking action sequence and a generous helping of superhero collateral damage, but Thor and rocky ally (he’s literally made of stones) Korg (Waititi) soon decide to go their own way and jettison the Guardians storyline throwing Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan and their friends are largely wasted before the joke can develop. It feels like this film can’t wait to break away from the troublesome continuity and return to the Asgardian storyline of Thor’s solo films.

On Earth, Thor encounters his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Portman) in combat when Gorr attacks Thor’s fellow Asgardians. She wields his ancient hammer Mjolnir, deemed worthy in her darkest hour and gaining powers similar to his.

Thor in Thor: Love and ThunderThor in Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor relaxes in one of the film’s rare moments of calm.

Marvel Studios

Given the very understandable human health issues Jane faces, this story should be the emotional heart of Love and Thunder. The film just doesn’t take the time needed to process the challenge she faces, as if afraid of getting too real and overly eager to take us into the next adventure (some dramatic moments will also subverted by its two post-credits scenes).

That need for speed extends to the action – Jane in particular makes stunning use of her new abilities, but neither the editing nor the cinematography give us time to enjoy this. It’s unlikely that many shots from this film will stick in your brain like moments from other MCU adventures have – nothing quite reaches the dizzying heights of Captain America’s Elevator Fight, Three Spider-Men swing into battle or The Scarlet Witch’s Encounter with the Illuminati.

The awkwardness between Jane and Thor is quite fun at first – mostly due to Portman and Hemsworth’s charisma and chemistry – but it doesn’t develop in a particularly convincing way. A One Note joke about Thor and his new weapon Stormbreaker proves more memorable, and even that feels quickly played out.

King Valkyrie wears a Phantom of the Opera shirt while riding a white horse in Thor: Love and ThunderKing Valkyrie wears a Phantom of the Opera shirt while riding a white horse in Thor: Love and Thunder

Valkyrie is obviously a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Marvel Studios

Rounding out the hero team is King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), bored of her role as leader of the magical tourist trap that New Asgard has become (this location includes an excellent low-cut cameo). Though the film doesn’t explore her boredom enough, Thompson infuses the character with enough mischief that she’s a joy to watch. Even her choice of clothing hints at an intriguing inner workings – her Phantom of the Opera shirt is far more intriguing than any superhero costume.

One of the strongest scenes is a quiet conversation between Jane and Valkyrie, as it’s a rare example of the film slowing down and giving its actors and writing room to emotionally connect. Putting Hemsworth’s magnetic on-screen presence and hilarious timing aside, one can’t help but wonder if this adventure would have been better without Thor.

After his memorable introduction, Gorr’s threat is greatly reduced. The comic book counterpart of The God Butcher (introduced in Jason Aarons beloved 2012 thor: god of thunder run) feels like a major threat as Thor follows a trail of divine carnage across the universe.

Love and Thunder merely alludes to this, largely reducing Gorr’s villainy to kidnapping Asgardian children as part of a larger conspiracy. He doesn’t feel like a direct threat to the heroes, which makes him feel more like Gorr the God Disruptor.

Gorr looks menacing with space in the background in Thor: Love and ThunderGorr looks menacing with space in the background in Thor: Love and Thunder

Gorr is presented magnificently in this adventure.

Marvel Studios

Still, Bale’s performance and aesthetic choices lend the character plenty of spooky, spectral boogeyman vibes (apparently inspired from Aphex Twin is deeply disturbing Come to Daddy music video). A midpoint confrontation with the heroes is among the MCU’s most visually stunning sequences, with ingenious use of shadow and color.

This movie is nothing like that cameo loaded like its immediate MCU predecessor, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madnessbut it throws in a scene stealer Russell Crowe as a narcissistic Zeus. Unfortunately, its role is largely limited to a single glossy set piece that proves largely forgotten as the main narrative blows through it.

Love and Thunder doesn’t do justice to the incredible stories that inspired it. Neither borrowing from its director’s style nor maximizing the dramatic potential of its cast, it feels more like a shallow, unsatisfying mashup. It’s still a fun, goofy entry in the MCU canon, but it’s not the classic Thor adventure that its awesome hero seems to be thinking on.


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