Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to fight Gorr the God Butcher, who intends to make the gods extinct.
Marvel’s latest movie is the fourth standalone outing for Chris Hemsworth’s ‘Thor’, making him the first Marvel superhero to reach that milestone. For ‘Love & Thunder’, Taika Waititi is back in the director’s chair after the wildly entertaining ‘Ragnarok’ and his approach is to attempt to catch lightning in a bottle twice, but does it work? Not really is the answer, and ‘Thor: Love & Thunder’ appears to be stricken with the same franchise fatigue that has permeated throughout much of the MCU’s output since the big conclusion to Phase 3 in ‘Avengers: Endgame’.
After a brief introduction to the film’s villain and an action sequence featuring the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, we learn that Thor has reverted back to the insular, sensitive soul touched on in a couple of recent appearances. He’s still in love with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the ‘earth’ woman that captured his heart, who we learn has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Foster travels to New Asgard in hope that Thor’s hammer Mjolnir may heal her, whilst at the same time Thor is drawn back there when he learns that Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is planning to attack his new home. This leads to Thor, Foster (superpowered with the help of Mjolnir) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) teaming up to try and defeat him. Hemsworth’s charismatic performance does a lot of the heavy lifting, which is just as well as the plotting is quite messy and forgettable, with Waititi not getting the balance between comedy and drama right as he did in ‘Ragnarok’. Some of it is just downright lazy (digging up 10 year old owl and goat memes really?), and some of it is a struggle to balance the emotional arc of Thor and Foster’s relationship with the silly comedic tone, which frequently undercuts any attempts at genuine pathos.
On the positive side, Christian Bale’s villain is one of the stronger of recent Marvel movies with a believable motivation (possibly the best since Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger in ‘Black Panther’), albeit layered under heavy makeup and with most of his scenes staged in CGI laden darkness. ‘Ragnarok’ was a departure from the general Marvel style, and whilst you can’t accuse Waititi of following the established superhero movie formula, there is a distinct feeling that the MCU is treading on water at the minute and ‘Love & Thunder’ is no different. I think they seem unsure of how they can build up a new wider arc as they did so well when they first introduced characters such as Thor 10 years ago, so a lot of these recent movies are forgettable and feel non-essential. A wider point is that I’m not sure that Marvel know what they want to do with ‘Thor’ and as Waititi takes his portrayal further away from the general Marvel ethos, it makes it harder to see how he fits in with the wider MCU going forward.
‘Thor: Love & Thunder’ attempts to capture the same look and feel that ‘Ragnarok’ did with diminishing returns, symptomatic of the wider malaise affecting most of the Marvel movies that have been released post-Endgame. Time will tell if they can arrest the slide and find a new sense of purpose to reinvigorate their characters and their storytelling.
Directed By: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi and Russell Crowe