The fact that Thor Ragnarok was a superhero movie with funny moments has spoiled Thor’s fourth solo outing. Returning director Taika Waititi can effectively tap into the light-hearted elements of a situation but deliver the heart as well, which was evident in both Ragnarok and JoJo Rabbit. With Love and Thunder, Waititi has written a broad comedy, which uses superhero elements, leaning incorrectly into what people identified as the strength of Ragnarok and the result means that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor feels very different to what we have seen before.
Thor was stoic, traditional and commanding and over the many films that have featured his character, both his own and the Avengers film, he has softened and found a nice balance between tortured soul and witty outsider. Love and Thunder presents Thor as “goofy,” cocky, brash and at his worst, silly. Every other line that Hemsworth character says is trying to be funny and the worst of this is that the jokes are so scatter-shot that they don’t always land as they should. Compared to the broken man seeking redemption that Thor became after the events of Avengers: Endgame, this is a character who is presented as clueless and stupid.
This is highlighted further when Thor is up against both the films antagonists. The first is Natalie Portman’s returning Jane Foster who through a well-told series of events, is now the new “Mighty Thor.” Its a credit to Portman who has bulked-up and sells the new-found superhero powers really well. She presents herself as more than a match for Hemsworth and gets some great action sequences which demonstrate another powerful woman in the MCU. Add to this an emotional story-arc, which taps into Portman’s acting ability alongside her action, and she is a huge positive in amongst the silly elements.
To counterbalance this further is Christian Bale’s Gorr. The movie opens with Gorr’s motivations for being the movie’s villains and they are refreshingly justified. Although it still feels like he could do with more screen-time, he at least gets proper character development, feels like a legitimate threat and is involved in a fantastic third act face-off which manages to save the movie.
Before we can get to that face-off though, we have to get through a lot of silly plot-points which feel like joke delivery material rather than story-points. The idea of Russell Crowe as Zeus was a fantastic one full of decent anticipation, but instead we get silly accents and sillier show-boating. The plot point of Asgard’s children being kidnapped could have been the peril the movie needed but instead is used to make Thor look even sillier and uninspiring. It is only when the heroes finally face the villains that we get the best of what Thor, Waititi and the MCU can offer.
The change in tone is stark, obvious but welcome. Bale holds the screen as Gorr and watching him battle both Portman and Hemsworth is well-staged and exciting. There are some great moments, emotional beats and a very satisfactory conclusion. In fact, the last act manages to save the movie and you feel that if this tone had been adopted for the rest of the film, it could well have been one of Marvel’s, but certainly Thor’s, best. It does end with a great coda, explaining the title of this film and the setting up intriguing possibilities for Thor’s future in the MCU.
Overall, Thor: Love and Thunder is a broad comedy rather than the superhero movie you hope it would be and it suffers because of this. Hemsworth’s Thor is goofy, clueless and silly, which is jarring compared to his presentation in previous movies. The plot follows the same tone until the final act, when it improves hugely, in no small part to both Portman and Bale who add gravitas and stakes to a mediocre Thor outing.
Rating – 3.5
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