Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder - Review


After the first two solo outings from Marvel’s God of Thunder, no one would’ve believed that not only would Thor get a financially and critically successful third installment, but he would be the first Avenger to reach a fourth outing as well. And giving the keys to the  world of gods and cosmic entities to Taika Waititi makes more and more sense with each passing day since the release of Thor: Ragnarok back in 2017. WIth Thor: Love and Thunder, Waititi and company double down on the humor, heart and zaniness that made the last film so invigorating to the MCU’s most stagnant hero. 

Throughout a plethora of punches thrown at Thor, played once again by Chris Hemsworth, he’s survived it all, and on the other side of the fight against Thanos, he searches for inner peace. However, his journey is interrupted when the mysterious Gorr the God Butcher, played by Christian Bale, starts slaying the various pantheons throughout the galaxy. With the aid of his various friends and allies, Thor will seek to discover the plan of Gorr and the origins of his vengeance.

The night and day difference between Taika Waititi’s version of Thor and the version other directors put to the screen is immeasurable. Hemsworth is in his eighth appearance as this character and he seems to enjoy it more now than he ever did in the Shakespearean presence he occupied for the first four performances. By now Hemsworth could probably do this in his sleep, but it never feels like it’s just another job for him, and his love for playing this character comes through in the performance. 

Beyond that, the re-introduction of Jane Foster, played again by Natalie Portman, is a brilliant move. Before, the creatives, and Marvel in general, didn’t really give Portman much to do, but bringing her back as the Mighty Thor just makes sense. And Portman clearly appreciates this change of pace, bringing some heart to the story and making a pretty spectacular hero herself. Opposing Hemsworth and Portman is Bale’s Gorr, a tragic villain whose backstory leads him to kill all the gods. While the character could certainly have used a bit more time to really shine, Bale makes the best of the moments he’s given to chew the scenery and generally come off as unappealing to look at he can. 

The story takes two fairly well-known recent comic runs and jams them together, for a result that’s a pretty good abridged adaptation of the printed version. A few scenes here or there could’ve elevated the film to a stratosphere that few comic book movies have reached, but the actual film is still filled to the brim with the same humor, heart and emotion that one comes to expect from a Taika Waititi film. 

From an action standpoint, Thor: Love and Thunder takes advantage of his variety of heroes and their abilities fairly well. Thor still gets to swing Stormbreaker around with reckless abandon, when he’s not pining after Mjolnir that is, and the Jane Foster is clearly enjoying her newfound powers just as much as any human in this fictional universe would if they suddenly found themselves imbued with the powers of Thor. We still get some good moments with Korg and Valkyrie sprinkled throughout, but it’s evident that this is a story about Jane and Thor, and their journeys to find something worth fighting for again. 

Marvel Studios is in an interesting position. With the conclusion of their decades long saga back in 2019 with Avengers: Endgame, the board has essentially been cleared, the story restarted. And just like with Phase 1 way back in the day, Phase 4 has been finding its footing before it inevitably all comes together. Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t need to find itself, it knows what it is, and the conviction and creativity of Taika Waititi behind the camera makes it all work for one of the best entries in the long-spanning Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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