Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and director Taika Waititi return for another comedy-heavy adventure, but the film misses the mark by an inch.
If you loved Thor: Ragnarok, the wildly colourful and weird addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2017, chances are you’ll also love Love and Thunder. The two films are like siblings; directed by Taika Waititi, both run solely on his weird sense of humour that feels at home in the MCU, but is also a bit too on the nose to come across as organic when delivered by the actors.
Chris Hemsworth once again plays the titular God of Thunder and this time, is ready to hang up his cape. That is, until a bunch of Asgardian kids are kidnapped by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) and he encounters his old flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now has transformed into the Mighty Thor. Naturally, Thor and Jane as well as Korg (Waititi himself) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) go off to save the poor kids from certain doom at the hands of Gorr.
Let’s start with the good. Love and Thunder, unlike the previous Marvel offering Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is delightfully unconcerned with the bigger MCU picture. Love and Thunder works perfectly well independently; there’s no requirements to watch any other recent films or TV to be fully clued into the plot. Everything is explained at the beginning anyway, but Waititi also isn’t trying to set up any future plot points for Marvel with his film.
The film is also rib-ticklingly funny if Waititi’s sense of humour appeals to you. If it doesn’t, Love and Thunder becomes a chore to get through. Although Waititi keeps things moving along at a rapid pace, the film has very little substance or even plot to keep it going. Love and Thunder still showcases Waititi’s personal style of filmmaking and the film manages to stand apart from all the other superhero content we’re being fed each week.
Hemsworth proves once again that he completely owns the character. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing Thor, but Portman sure gives him a run for his money as the Mighty Thor. However, the exact (and a tad spoiler-y) reason why Portman gets the magical powers, feels like a shortcut to get us to care and ensures Waititi and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson don’t have to do any actual character development on Jane.
Christian Bale and Tessa Thompson are less well served with both of them in fine form, but criminally underused. Thompson is mostly there just for others to bounce off her; she’s on the receiving end of many expository lines of dialogue explaining characters’ motivations or feelings, but Valkyrie herself doesn’t play a meaningful part in the film.
Bale’s Gorr gets an impressively visualised backstory in a prologue which seems to set the film up to criticise religion and our devotion to various gods, but Waititi never follows through on this. Instead, Gorr becomes yet another generic Marvel villain with very little to do except look menacing. He creates shadow monsters, which are pretty cool, to do villainous things for him so we rarely see Bale himself in action.
At its best, Love and Thunder is a heartfelt and amusing romantic adventure which explores love and the pain that often accompanies it. But at its worst – which is the majority of its relatively short, 2-hour runtime – it’s the worst kind of superhero film; it feels empty and void of any actual emotion. The film is bound to be a crowdpleaser, thanks to its almost constant stream of gags (many of which are repeated from Ragnarok, making them less effective), but the film’s uniqueness is purely surface-level.
Love and Thunder is ultimately an uneven and messy film. There’s much to love and enjoy here, but Waititi’s chaotic style will not appeal to everyone and his humour is hit and miss. Visually, the film never reaches the highs of Ragnarok nor is it ever as funny as its predecessor.
However, the two screaming goats that are awarded to Thor early in the film are a delight and the film would have been better off with a lot more screaming goat goodness. And honestly, what film wouldn’t be better off with more screaming goats? Thor: Love and Thunder is a bit of a disappointment, but it also shows Marvel’s ability to allow creative freedom for filmmakers amongst the more traditional superhero fodder.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in cinemas on July 7.