Thor: Love and Thunder review – Patchy, but plenty of fun
Chris Hemsworth and Taika Waititi re-team for this God Squad adventure, but it can’t match up to Thor: Ragnarok.
When Thor: Ragnarok was released in 2017 it was something spectacular. Transforming Chris Hemsworth’s muscled God of Thunder into a comedy protagonist and bringing writer/director Taika Waititi’s wit and style to a larger audience, it was a smash-hit that many cited as their favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe entry to date.
And it also presented this sequel with a bit of a challenge. Re-teaming again, Waititi and Hemsworth would have to try and recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle from their previous film, creating something just as funny, creative and moving.
But even if they managed this near-impossible task, they’d suffer from their own success. Thor: Ragnarok was a breath of fresh air from the earlier Thor movies – but if they did the same thing again, would it just feel like wind?
And so it’s really not a surprise that Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t hit with the thunderbolt that Ragnarok did. It’s a funny film with some good choices, moments of stylistic flair and entertaining casting, and it’s still better than the majority of Marvel releases out there.
But it’s also a surprisingly baggy and unfocused story, which never quite convinces with either of its central arcs and possibly suffers from an overabundance of cast and ideas.
The film starts with Hemsworth’s Thor at a crossroads: following the events of Avengers: Endgame he’s travelling with the Guardians of the Galaxy, stepping in to help turn the tide of hopeless battles and generally causing chaos. But more crucially for the story he’s also…shut himself off from love? Or something?
While the idea of Thor trying to find himself in his post-King, post-Avenger life is intriguing, the main arc of Thor’s closed-off heart just does not chime with anything we’ve seen in his movie appearances thus far, and feels forced upon the story.
And frankly, the same can be said for these opening scenes with the Guardians. The appearance of these beloved characters feels half-hearted and slightly tacked-on to help tie the film in with Endgame, and they don’t have much of a role in the story. In fact, the story only really starts when Thor leaves them behind to investigate reports of the 'God-butcher' Gorr, played by a squirrelly Christian Bale.
Bale is terrific and creepy in a role that feels like it’s been whittled down in subsequent edits – one scene he talks to some children in a particular highlight, and you can’t help but wish you’d see more of it – even if Gorr never feels like that much of a threat. His goal – kill all the Gods – also seems a little vague and hard to quantify, or fully comdemn. Based on what we see in this movie, most of the Gods are indolent at best, often actively harmful. Would the world significantly change in any way if he got his wish?
Anyway, he’s the bad guy, so Thor has to stop him – and as ever he’s not alone. For this movie he re-teams with rock-alien Korg (Waititi) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as well as the movie’s big casting coup, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (AKA The Mighty Thor).
Portman’s role in the first two Thor movies feels like it comes from a different Marvel era – one where an Oscar-winning actress would play the slightly dull love interest to a muscly, traditional hero – so it’s nice to see her back in this more open, wilder era of the franchise. The film adapts the 'Mighty Thor' run of comics where Thor’s ex-girlfriend gets cancer but also gains the ability to wield his hammer Mjolnir, which bestows upon her all of Thor’s abilities.
There’s an interesting beat to this film where Thor feels a little betrayed and unsettled by Jane claiming his name and identity, but disappointingly this is smoothed over fairly quickly in favour of a Thor/Jane love story revival. The most convincing thing about this onscreen relationship thus far was that Jane broke up with Thor between movies, so resurrecting their dubious chemistry feels like a misstep that never entirely works.
Somehow, despite her new look and power set, Jane also remains quite a boring character to follow and we never quite reach the excitement of 'Natalie Portman is back as a new Thor!' that we might have expected when she was first announced at San Diego Comic-Con all those years ago.
Anyway, thus teamed up, both Thors and their entourage travel to strange realms, meet some other Gods (including a pretty funny Russell Crowe as Zeus) and try to rescue some kidnapped Asgardian children. It all builds to a couple of finale battles with four, count ‘em, four magic weapons that fly around and can be summoned to their wilder’s hand (Mjolnir, Stormbreaker, Zeus’s Thunderbolt and Gorr’s Necrosword), plenty of CGI booms and a cutesy conclusion that sets up a surprising new dynamic for the God of Thunder.
I may be making this film sound like a disaster, but it’s really not. Waititi does create another romp of a movie full of brilliant gags (a running joke about Thor’s new axe being jealous of Mjolnir is a highlight), and interesting creative flourishes, including a sequence that appears mostly black-and-white with a different sound quality to the rest of the film.
Hemsworth is game throughout, Bale does the best with what he’s given and the post-credits scenes set up future movies in a way that feels more connected to the story than fans might have grown to expect from recent Marvel movies. One after-credits cameo in particular had me very hyped up, though it may prove controversial to some fans.
Still, overall this is not to Ragnarok what Ragnarok was to The Dark World. Thor: Love and Thunder is a patchy movie with plenty of fun bits, but not much idea of what it’s actually trying to do or say. It’s decent, not great – despite its Thorsome potential.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in UK cinemas from Thursday 7th July – watch the previous Thor films and more Marvel favourites on Disney Plus – sign up now for £79.90 for a year or £7.99 a month.
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