Out of all the Avengers, I never expected Thor to have the greatest longevity of all the characters. This is now his 4th solo outing (more than any other character) to match with his 4 Avengers film appearances. After his first 4 performances as the character (4 is a really popular number I guess), Hemsworth became bored with this interpretation. Enter Oscar winner Taika Waititi, the beloved New Zealand comedic genius filmmaker. He came on to direct Thor: Ragnarok, infusing his style of goofy comedy to the characters, and bringing a levity to these absurd Norse figures. The result was a hit to general audiences, and it completely revitalized Hemsworth’s interest in continuing to play Thor. So has lightning struck twice? What I can say for certain, if you’re a big Guns N’ Roses fan, boy does Marvel have the movie of the summer for you here.
Welcome To The Jungle
This film takes on the hefty task of adapting 2 extremely famous and serious Thor stories by Jason Aaron; Thor God of Thunder & The Mighty Thor. As with all the other live action adaptations Marvel has done with their famous comic runs, the film is extremely loose with the source material. The A plot focuses on Gorr the God Butcher, played with menace by Christian Bale, who always gives 150% to his performances. At the very start of the movie, Gorr suffers a terrible loss along with a betrayal from the God he spent his life worshipping. During this time of great loss, Gorr comes into contact with the Necrosword, a living weapon whose soul purpose is to kill Gods. With that, Gorr vows to vanquish all Gods in the universe, and goes off on his bloodlust quest for vengeance.
The B Plot is based off of The Mighty Thor, which is the infamous run that gave Dr. Jane Foster the power of Thor. Pulled directly from the comic, this tale consists of Jane hanging on for dear life with stage 4 cancer. Deemed worthy, with a little extra Norse magic from her ex boy toy, Mjölnir the glorious hammer comes in to keep Jane alive and give her some ripped arms in the process. Natalie Portman reprises her role as Foster for the first time since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. She infamously left the franchise on bad terms after Marvel fired Patty Jenkins as director of that film (Jenkins went on to eventually direct Wonder Woman). After the success of Ragnarok, she was more than willing to jump back on the ship to venture off with Waititi.
Chris Hemsworth of course returns for his 8th outing as Thor, continuing his preferred method of playing the character as an incredibly powerful buffoon. As the title suggests, this entry is a love story at its core. Thor never got over the loss of his relationship with Jane, and he longs for a greater purpose in his life. The film begins with him traveling to various planets with the Guardians of the Galaxy, in search of that purpose, with little result. The stars are aligned though with a God butcher on the loose and his former flame becoming a God herself.
I appreciated Ragnarok and found it quite entertaining, but I didn’t love it as much as general audiences did. The main driver for that is Taika took these characters we’ve grown to love in dramatic and Shakespearean-esque tales, and completely diluted the impact of major events in that film with the undercutting absurdist comedy. Outside of the MCU, his films always tackle deeply sad themes with uproarious humor to great effect, but I feel like he dials it up too much in this franchise. Coming into this film knowing they’d be adapting 2 very serious stories, I tempered my expectations for what the blend would look like. Even with the preparation, I still found myself leaving the theatre completely underwhelmed.
This film is a mess in several capacities, but the biggest issue for me is not the tonal shifts as I had expecting. There’s actually a great deal of dramatic heft in this film and many of it sticks the landing. Surprisingly, it’s the humor that falls flat for me in Love and Thunder. The jokes simply did not land for me be it the screaming goats, call backs to bits from Ragnarok, Thor being a self centered man child once again, and many many more. I found myself giggling maybe a couple of times but shaking my head more often than not.
Consistent issues with the Marvel Cinematic Universe are ever present in this picture, and it may have some of the worst offenses of those. My biggest complaint with Ragnarok, and most Marvel movies/shows since, is the excessive use of green screens. I say this without hyperbole, I’m fairly certain 93% of this film was shot in front of a screen. The movie simply looks cheap in nearly every frame. It’s hard to take these things seriously when you can’t buy that these characters exist in real worlds. This is not a knock on the incredible VFX teams that pour their heart and souls into trying to make these features exciting, it’s more so about Disney/Marvel continuously pumping out more and more content every few months instead of spending the time and money to perfect 2-3 projects per year. It’s the same issue that happened with Pixar sadly. The other issue that’s been a mainstay in Phase 4 of the MCU is that for a franchise that’s all about interconnectivity, none of these films seem to be contributing to any larger story in a meaningful way. This feels like filler.
It brings me great pain to say this, but I had a serious problem with Natalie Portman’s performance in this film. In her scenes where she’s just playing Dr. Jane Foster battling cancer, she’s great and in line with her previous performances as the character. Where it completely falls apart for me is literally every scene where she is playing The Mighty Thor. I know that the dialogue is clunky and she’s acting entirely in front of non existent environments, but she has a great deal of experience with that from the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Every bit of dialogue she delivers as this version of the character came off forced and disingenuous to me. No exaggeration, I was groaning at every single line Mighty Thor utters. Despite being an Oscar winner, whom I greatly adore, she came off to me as someone acting for the very first time in these scenes and it breaks my heart.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
I’ve harped on a lot of choices and directions here, but that’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of anything. They take a lot of liberties with the story of Gorr in this film, but Bale’s performance is completely magnetic. Sadly, he’s just in it a whole lot and at times seems to be acting in a completely different film than everyone else (a film I’d much rather watch). Hemsworth is charming as ever, possibly being the most ripped we’ve ever seen him physically speaking.
This film excels in a place where most Marvel films fail, and that is the 3rd act climax. I won’t get into any spoilers, but you legitimately get to see several things we’ve never witnessed before in this cinemtic universe. Along with getting something new, the third act is not undercut with that infamous Taika humor. They actually take the A & B plots and give them the dramatic heft and focus they deserve. The end results are mixed but the stuff that does work, works very well.
I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the music in this film before ending this review. The movie starts out with a killer metal cover of the Marvel Studios Fanfare. From there they continue that theme by utilizing Guns N’ Roses songs throughout the entirety of the picture. From what I counted while watching, there are 7 GnR needle drops throughout, using 5 very famous songs from the infamous rockers. This was an interesting choice that harkens back to Iron Man and his cinematic relationship to AC/DC. Outside of that there are some good non GnR needle drops, my favorite being ABBA’s “Our Last Summer” is used to great effect to explain the breakup of Jane and Thor which we haven’t seen in the last 9 years of movies.
Overall, I simply found this film to be a bland filler entry in both Thor’s saga, and the overall MCU. You could do worse at the cinema in a fairly barren summer release calendar, but the heights of Phase 3 are long behind us. I give Thor: Love and Thunder 6/10 appetites for destruction.