Director Taika Waititi is back in the Marvel business with Thor: Love and Thunder. There is a mix of horror, romance, and drama, but at its core is pure comedy that doesn’t always work but is good enough to entertain. Thor: Ragnarok saw a 180-degree image and personality change for the character and stands among the best of the franchise so far. The beauty of Ragnarok is its focused storytelling and poignant message, while Thunder is a little all over the place. But Waititi’s comedic timing, and talent for creating dynamic action scenes is too good to ignore, it’s missing crucial elements that would push the superhero movie from being good, to great.
The film begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Guardians of the Galaxy saving the universe when the Asgardian hero receives a distress message from Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander), who is on a distant planet fighting against an ominous enemy. He leaves the group to find Sif and discovers her injured and several Gods dead. This leads him to return to Asgard (the one on Earth because the other one was destroyed), where he meets Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who fills him in on what’s happening. A man called Gorr (Christian Bale) has been wreaking havoc throughout the universe, killing Gods with his sword, God butcher. His mission is revenge against all Gods. The blade also brings about giant shadow monsters, which Gorr unleashes on the town.
While in the heat of battle, another hero arrives that takes Thor by surprise: his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now carries the Mjolnir. Yes, she is worthy. Every time she wields the hammer, she transforms into a 6-foot tall, blonde, eyeshadow-wearing superhero, The Mighty Thor. Forster went to Asgard in search of Thor’s old weapon (which was in pieces) but somehow put itself together for her. At the end of the fight, Gorr takes all the children, and now Thor, Mighty Thor, Valkyrie, and Korg hop on the ship powered by two annoying loud goats to travel to a secret location of the Gods. The plan is to raise an army to defeat Gorr and save the kids.
Mighty Thor, aka Jane Foster, is based on the Jason Aaron run of Marvel comics that chronicle the character’s heroics. The story features a cancer-stricken Foster wielding Mjnior to keep cancer temporarily at bay. This film is about her, she has clear goals, and a full arc that is meticulously developed. This must be why everyone else’s character development took a back seat. Bale’s character allows the film to explore those horror elements. However, Gorr sadly suffers from the stagnation most villains experience in the MCU. The audience should believe he is an omniscient, all-powerful being that no one can defeat. Still, it isn’t convincing because Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s script limits his ability to be as good as Loki, Thanos, or Hela.
Instead of being the misguided superhero who learned from his mistakes, he is reduced to a goofy, himbo, Hulk Hogan lookalike. In Ragnarok, Valkyrie served a purpose. She was a reminder of the old, oppressive ways of Asgard. In Thor and Thor: The Dark World, Lady Sif is a powerful fighter and defender of Asgard. But in this film, while good to see both characters in action, they serve no purpose. If neither were in this movie, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story. In other words, they are wasted.
I know I keep bringing up Ragnarok, but it was a welcomed separation from the other films, so I convinced myself that Waititi would keep that same energy. It’s a terrific film with a clear theme of dismantling oppressive societies and learning to harness inner strength. Love and Thunder is kind of lazily thrown together and fits more into the standard, confirmed MCU. The substance is lost.
One thing I will say is this cast is having so much fun, and it’s infectious. Chris Hemsworth is at his best in comedy, and the franchise has adjusted. He knows his way around Waititi’s dialogue. Portman is having a blast. She’s gone on record expressing her unhappiness with how she was portrayed as an underdeveloped damsel in distress in the first two Thor films. She is fully committed to the part and looks good while doing it. She has some very cool fight scenes and will hopefully do more of that the future.
For every negative mentioned about Thor: Love and Thunder, the comedy, action scenes, and performances keep it from caving. Waititi seems to be still finding his footing with this franchise, and it may take him directing another film to find the right balance for these Asgardian heroes. Let’s hope he finds that balance soon.