REVIEW: Thor: Love and Thunder [2022]

Rating: 5 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 118 minutes
    Release Date: July 8th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
    Director(s): Taika Waititi
    Writer(s): Taika Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson / Taika Waititi (story) / Stan Lee & Jason Aaron (comics)

Team kids-in-a-cage.

Korg (Taika Waititi as narrator/sidekick/co-writer/director) isn’t wrong when describing Thor: Love and Thunder as a love story for the ages. What else would a heartfelt tale of blood and justice centering a romance between a man and his hammer be called? Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Mjolnir were inseparable until the former’s older sister maliciously broke the latter into pieces (don’t worry, he got payback). He’s had to live without his baby for years now, desperately trying to fill its void with an axe (Stormbreaker) despite still lamenting what was lost. To suddenly see it on a battlefield, whipping around like him no longer being by its side didn’t matter, is therefore a tough pill to swallow. Why didn’t it return to him? Is it happier now with her?

I jest and the film jests, but the joke is just as sturdy of a plot synopsis for Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s script than anything dealing with Mjolnir’s new owner (Natalie Portman‘s Mighty Thor, aka Dr. Jane Foster) or the big bad (Christian Bale‘s Gorr the God Butcher). All three threads are about ten minutes worth of story mashed together and over-extended into a two-hour epic of redundancies, parallels, and character introductions: a common theme amongst most Phase Four titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Besides Eternals, and maybe Black Widow and Spider-Man No Way Home, these films have become more bridge-like superfluity than the slew of television shows that were supposed to serve that purpose. Time to hurry and get everyone in place for Secret Wars.

In so doing, however, I can’t say I expected the latest entry’s lesson to be “nobody can save you but yourself.” Considering this franchise is literally about superheroes protecting those who can’t protect themselves, that’s a bleak message. It does make sense, though. These are New Gods. They do care about humanity. They do care about helping the helpless. Unlike the Old Gods (Russell Crowe‘s Zeus and Jonathan Brugh‘s Rapu) who merely lord over their acolytes and bask in the offerings they suffer to provide, Avengers act on emotions like guilt and remorse. They’re trying to repent for the heinous acts they’ve committed (Boy Scout Steve Rogers being the exception that proves the rule) by feigning altruism. And they naively believe everyone with power will do the same.

Hence a lengthy scene of bottom barrel comedy (complete with Crowe speaking in cartoonishly broken English via a bad Greek accent) where Thor, Mighty Thor, and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) try appealing to the big-name deities. What’s the result? They leave with an extra weapon, so I guess it’s not a total loss beyond our time and interest. It doesn’t, however, provide us anything a much shorter and much more effective opening prologue does via Gorr having to endure the death of his young daughter only to finally meet his God (Rapu) and learn he couldn’t care less. The Necrosword should imbue him with the power to destroy these tyrants. Except the good ones. Duh. Thor’s frat boy has a heart of gold. And Hemsworth has a contract.

The narrative is born. Thor must part with the Guardians of the Galaxy after the colossal waste of time that is a recycled Monkey’s Paw gag where “saving” people comes at the cost of everything they hold dear because collateral damage is for nerds, not jocks. He must try and stop Gorr from finding Eternity (a God who grants the first person to find them a wish), ultimately walking into a trap that sees all the Asgardian children kidnapped as bait. And he’ll need Mighty Thor and Valkyrie to join him—something both are only too eager to do since the former has a lot of anger to redirect and the latter misses the fight being king rarely affords. They move forward, get knocked back, and rise again.

Did I mention Jane Foster has cancer? No? Probably because the film doesn’t really care. It’s a reason to give her powers (dying causes Mjolnir to “call” her and reform to infuse her with its strength) and a reason to remind Thor of his identity after a lengthy bout of defeats in love (Jane), life (dead family), war (Mjolnir, Asgard, the Blip), and health (you know Waititi loved writing “He went from ‘dad bod’ to ‘God bod'”). They bring back a beloved character to fridge her and allow the lead to refocus for what’s next. Share a few jokes, some cool effects, and a couple fights along the way (watching kids go berserk on monsters is always fun) and pretend it was worth a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar budget.

Was it? No. This might be the hollowest MCU entry yet. Coming from someone who thought Ragnarok and Guardians 2 were the hollowest before it, however, many of you probably won’t agree. Is it because you drank too much Kool-Aid or because I forgot to replenish mine? A bit of both is the likeliest answer. An over-saturation of these characters doesn’t help. Thor becoming the hollowest character in the MCU by positioning him to be neither as literal as Drax nor as genuine as Rogers doesn’t either. I guess Love and Thunder never really stood a chance. They should have simply let James Gunn play with Thor in Guardians 3 and given Jane Foster her own Mighty Thor film so as not to relegate her into footnote status.

Thank goodness then for Bale. His portrayal is worth the ticket price alone because he delivers a villain with actual meat for the first time in a long time. Is Gorr still a plot device? Sure. Beyond his presence being the reason for one theme (Gods suck) and a parallel to the other (love trumps destruction), however, he’s also a badass character wielding a weapon that allows him to control the shadows and create nightmares. And he’s just left of crazy to push his motivation earnestly and comically towards necessity rather than desire. He isn’t pure evil like Hela or ego like Mysterio. He seeks vengeance with a legitimate reason. Gorr is a broken father betrayed by his God. That grief’s authenticity proves how superficial the rest is.

[1] (L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. Copyright ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Christian Bale as Gorr in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. Copyright ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
[3] Tessa Thompson as King Valkyrie in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. Copyright ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.