Once upon a time, the character of Thor was one of the least interesting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor and Thor: The Dark World were underwhelming, with the former at best a decent origin story, while the latter represents the weakest installment of the the MCU. Then, along came Taika Waititi to give him a real course correction. Thor: Ragnarok re-imagined the superhero god as a goodnatured fool at times, but always a source of huge laughs. Now, Thor: Love and Thunder is here to continue that. By having a filmmaker of this caliber at the helm, we have a Marvel adventure that’s largely self-contained, focused largely on laughter and genuine emotion.
Thor: Love and Thunder continues to show how Waititi’s interpretation of Thor makes all of the difference. He sees the heart and the humor in the God of Thunder, making him, perhaps surprisingly, given where he began, Marvel’s most consistently funny character. The dour nature of the character in Thor and Thor: The Dark World is gone. If some of the magic from Thor: Ragnarok isn’t here, it’s only due to that having the element of surprise on its side.
After a prologue that introduces us to Gorr (Christian Bale) and how he’ll come to be known as the God Butcher, we meet back up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), now riding with the Guardians of the Galaxy. As told to us by Korg (voice of Waititi), he’s a man mostly retired, unsure of his place in the world. The emergence of Gorr leads Thor and Korg back to Earth and New Asgard, where they team up with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). To Thor’s surprise, however, also showing up is his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), suffering from Stage Four cancer and able to wield his former weapon, the hammer Mjolnir. Transformed into Mighty Thor, she’s staving off illness and ready for a fight. When Gorr kidnaps the children of New Asgard, she gets her chance.
Together, the quartet seek out other gods like Zeus (Russell Crowe), as Gorr hunts them down. The latter is on a quest to eliminate all of the gods, seeking vengeance for a wrong in his past. While the group deals with him, Thor and Jane also re-connect. Of course, there’s plenty of action, emotion, and humor mixed in, including a pair of goats (you’ll understand when you see them) that are a consistent riot.
Chris Hemsworth clearly loves this version of Thor, and he, like all of the returning players, relish the chance to get to play in this manner. Hemsworth is in his comfort zone, while Natalie Portman finally has more to do than usual. Tessa Thompson is somewhat second fiddle, but she gets some excellent comic relief in, as does Waititi’s voice work for Korg. As for Christian Bale, he upgrades this almost stock Marvel villain by sheer force of talent alone. He leans into not just his creepiness, but his pathos as well. Then, there’s Russell Crowe, who is a riot in his small role. If there’s a disappointment here, it’s the Guardians of the Galaxy, since Waititi doesn’t seem all that interested in them. Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (his voice, at least), Vin Diesel (ditto), Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, and Chris Pratt are fine, just afterthoughts. Other returning players include Jaimie Alexander, while newcomers consist of Simon Russell Beale and Kieron L. Dyer, plus more. Of course, I’m not including the cameos, as you’ll have to discover those for yourself.
Taika Waititi co-writes the screenplay here with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, in addition to directing. In a way, this is even more purely his baby than the last one was, and it shows. The visuals are often interesting, including a trip to a world devoid of color, alongside an 80’s rock and roll soundtrack that’s absolutely perfect. Kaytin Robinson and Waititi only lose points for their disinterest in the Guardians of the Galaxy, moving on from them far too quickly, and an over-reliance on the villain to conjure shadow monsters that grow boring in short order. Aside from that, almost every choice they make manages to land.
In terms of the MCU, the film is mostly self-contained, focusing more on this character than the superhero world at large. So, while it’s one of the better flicks they’ve put out of late, don’t expect any major questions about the future to be answered. However, there are two post-credits scenes that are among the most satisfying in some time.
Thor: Love and Thunder stands tall as an upper tier Marvel movie. It has everything you want out of this character and a new adventure, so expect fans to be utterly delighted. Hell, I was, so that’s a real good sign. More than anything else, it proves that I want Thor and Waititi to be a pair for a long time to come!