Opening weekend is behind us and the numbers look good for Disney and Marvel’s fourth solo outing for Thor, “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
No other character has quite the shift of style and character as Thor. In 2011’s “Thor” Kenneth Branagh delivered a grounded Shakespearian inspired tale. The character of Thor was altered slightly from his comic series inspiration. Gone is the alter ego of Donald Blake and much of the colorful craziness of some of the earlier comics.
Chris Hemsworth was an unknown when cast as the title character and, with each outing as Thor, more of Hemsworth’s comedic chops began to be utilized. 2012’s “Avengers” was a massive hit and the following year would be Thor’s next solo film — 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” Although financially successful, the film’s unbalanced tone and, at times over the top use of the secondary characters, left many people scratching their heads. Then, in 2015, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released. This would end an era for Thor because, when he would return, it would be for the soft reboot in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarock.”
Director Taika Waititi was chosen to helm that project and brought his flare to the film. This movie used color and fun with Hemsworth’s comedic dexterity on full blast. All of this while Thor faced the darkest chapter yet. Over the course of the picture Thor loses his mother, his father, his best friends, his home world, half of the Asgardian survivors then ultimately is unable to stop Thanos in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” showed us the psychology of a broken Thor as he became over weight and dealt with his grief. The film ends with Thor not leading New Asgard and going off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Waititi is back with an even more colorful adventure. Gone are the days of elaborate sets and on location shooting, now replaced with the same state of the art technology that the “Mandolorian” utilizes. The film has raised mixed reviews for its zaniness and humor. I’ll explore the different factions of this as Waititi has not found his balance of tone the way he did in “Ragnarok.”
“Love and Thunder” opens with a powerful prologue exploring the origin of our new villain, Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher. We learn his daughter dies while he prays for deliverance from their god Rapu. His daughter dies and Gorr waits for death. Nearby the Necrosword calls to Gorr and he comes face to face with Rapu in a paradise. The god laughs at Gorr’s hardship. Gorr takes the sword killing the god and vowing to kill all gods. This is strong and compelling as Bale delivers an amazing performance. Bale’s emotion and powerful execution is on the positive side of the film. Gorr at times is scary. My kids both jumped and were freaked out at the scene of Gorr in a cage with the Asgardian children he abducted.
For Hemsworth, gone is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki whom to Thor is known to be dead. The two actors have such great chemistry and played off each other in each outing to outstanding character growth. We are first introduced in a montage of shorts that is narrated by Waititi’s Korg. The scene is odd because it shows these glimpses of Thor’s life as we are dropped into an adventure where he is with The Guardians of the Galaxy. What could have been a powerful moment with the team is a series of scenes that are too short that could have benefited from getting time to breathe. Thor and the Guardians are fighting on a planet to help as they have lost their gods and their temple needs protection. After a speech about feeling shitty by Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, an attempt to say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, Thor decides to go off on his own. Thor doesn’t know who he is anymore, so he embarks the journey to find himself. This theme is paid off slightly as the film progresses. At the end the film finds Thor with a new purpose and a new role.
Hemsworth is amazing as Thor is grounded into balance in his emotional scenes and humor. When he’s needed, he brings the A-game and we know he can deliver. Hemsworth owns the part and has been able to put his stamp on the character for forever.
Now, Hemsworth is reunited with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster who has inherited a repaired Mojnioir to be The Mighty Thor. Last we saw Jane Foster was in “Thor: The Dark World,” and a line dropped in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” dismisses her as being “involved with her science stuff,” then a brief cameo in “Avengers: Endgame” from a scene in “Thor: The Dark World.”
Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster returns as The Mighty Thor, a comic story line that is relatively new; having been published in 2014. The film kept Jane’s cancer storyline. A strong call for Marvel to allow Jane to actually die. I say “actually” because too often has there been fake out deaths, like Loki. In an emotionally powerful moment, Jane uses the last of her life force to save Thor while battling Gorr. While in Thor’s arms. In doing so, Jane saves the soul of Gorr, who doesn’t want to kill the god’s but bring back his love, his daughter. Gorr worries as she will be alone as he is dying. But, she won’t be alone, as Thor values to love and care for her. Jane dies smiling at Thor and we see her turn to gold dust. The second post credits scene has Jane being welcomed to Valhalla by Idris Elba’s Heimdall. A point of note is Portman worked out to build her physical body to embody the role of The Mighty Thor.
Tessa Thompson returns as Valkarye and Waititi himself returns as the mobcap character of Korg. Our protagonist, Thor, is now an 80’s metal rockstar going around with the Guardians of The Galaxy. It seems like that would be an awesome film.
One new character that has people divided is Russell Crowe’s Zeus. With the character choices that were made, we are left to ponder: do the film makers think this is funny? Or Should we feel this character is a threat? The scene where Thor, Jane, Korg and Valkarye travel to Omnipotence City, a place where all the gods congregate, we are introduced to Zeus and more. Zeus is selfish and does not want to help Thor in his mission to stop Gorr. Thor asks for an army and asks for the lightning bolt. Jesus offers nothing and tries to keep Thor and company there as they do not want Gorr to learn of their location. One of the cheer moments of the film is when Zeus hurls his lighting bolt at Thor, Thor catches it and throws it back through Zeus’ chest.
I do want to point out an issue I had. Marvel films have become a brand that families and parents can take their children to. So when Zeus says orgy three times and my five year old daughter asks me “what’s an orgy?” I was left disappointed.
A battle between Thor and Gorr in the shadow realm is beautiful to watch the minimal use of color on the characters eyes in the black and white world is tremendous and something to behold. A grand crowd cheering moment is when Thor shares his magical powers with the group of Asgurdian children so they can fight back was a blast of uplighting energy.
The movie concludes with Korg narrating that Thor has a new path as he is now “Uncle Thor,” taking care of Gorr’s daughter, Love. Together her and Thor fight for the innocent as Love and Thunder. Love is the second biggest theme of the movie. Jane’s death closes the arc which was started in “Thor,” she taught him how to love. As he states “love is all any of us want.”
So what is “Thor: Love and Thunder?” With this forth outing are we, as movie goers, getting tired of superhero films or are we demanding more from the genre? Is the film just a shut off your brain and enjoy it film? Is that what Marvel has become?
I have never been one to put a lot of stock in Rotten Tomatoes but a note is that “Thor: Love and Thunder” sits in the bottom four of all MCU films. What is the scale of enjoyment, having just watched all four films one day with my children, “Love and Thunder” is at the top of their Thor rankings. So I ask, are you ready for Thor 5?
In the end it is something you have to decide for yourself. I would give this film a B.