Thor: Love and Thunder finds Thor on a journey, unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace.
But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods.
Cast your minds back to when Kenneth Branagh introduced us to the imperious, mighty Thor. Vulnerable only to his own arrogance and duty to his family, all with Shakespearean tones and theatrical swashbuckling energy. Thor was for a different part of the Avengers movie fandom, especially in comparison to the glossy and ultra-cool Iron Man or the patriotic Captain America. So I was truly baffled when after the sequel to Thor, Thor: The Dark World, the mythos took a 90-degree turn straight into Flash Gordon’s yard without knocking the door.
Make no mistake people, Thor Ragnarök was Guardians of the Galaxy 2.5, where the God of Thunder was electrocuted for gags and traded his mythological hammer for laser guns. Tessa Thompson’s spicy turn as Valkyrie and Cate Blanchett’s fierce Hela, notwithstanding, Ragnarök was a hollow yet action-packed and visually spectacular chapter for the Odinson. It transformed him into a Guardians of the Galaxy character and gave him a blank slate with which to re-invent the character for the MCU fandom, which is either a massive compliment or a massive criticism depending on what you want from a Thor film.
So we now get to 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder, and as a fan, I was excited to see where it was going, as two-thirds of the Avengers trinity have long gone. Especially considering how critical Robert Downey Jr with his Stark/Iron Man & Chris Evans’ Rodgers/Captain America were, on both a commercial level and as drivers for the MCU brand. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor now stands alone … we get two, as Natalie Portman’s Dr Jane Foster gets her own hammer and a well-deserved go at this marvel superhero malarky. However, the two Thors end up being less than the sum of the parts of the original commanding performance, a far cry from that which called Anthony Hopkins’ Odin an “old man and a fool”.
I mean, is Thor: Love and Thunder entertaining? Yes. Is it a good film? No. Does it matter? No.
It’s a Thor film, with one of the hottest bods in the game, Hemsworth, working with one of the hottest directors in the game, Taika Waititi, in an MCU film for the last remaining ‘original’ Avenger. Marvel Studios had you, your Patty and your Coco Bread committed to this film before you heard the opening riff to Guns N Roses “Sweet Child Of Mine” in the 1st trailer. Unfortunately, this particular feature plays off of that assurance that the fandom will turn up and turn out for this, there is no bravery, no substance and honestly, it feels pedestrian.
The actors got in shape, they delivered fantastic choreography and were clearly committed to the project, but it feels episodic. No one is performing like they really want to nail their character or even give them a great send-off, it feels very much like a mid-chapter in a book, to the point that even the film pokes fun at the fact that even if the characters die, they’ll be back for the sequel. The film felt like it was lampooning itself, like Deadpool, but the sugar-free version.
An example of this is Christian Bale’s performance as the villain of the film, Gorr, The God Butcher. Marvel has it’s hands on the actor who arguably played the best incarnation of their biggest counterpart in Batman, they have him playing a character so driven by grief that he single-handedly hunts Gods … he should be unforgettable in this. However, he is just … there, he appears, he fights, and he leaves. A lazy marrying of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Pitch Black, the Nightmare King, from Rise of the Guardians. Just without the charisma, the voice work and the physical metamorphosis. Bale is wasted as an alien in need of cocoa butter, he deserves more, and the character deserves more.
Bale’s end result was in direct contrast to Russell Crowe’s show-stealing Zeus. Ostentatious, obnoxious and funny as hell, he is that gross uncle and clearly loved every minute he had in character. If you need a reason to watch this film other than to see Tessa Thompson’s King Valkyrie in a tailored power suit for 4 seconds, then Zeus is it.
Chris Hemsworth is a victim of his ability to shine as a comedic actor, the previous themes of loss, grief and depression were muddled in the played-out core of the awkward “what if you had to work with your ex that you are still in love with” scenario. A shout-out is required for young Kieron L. Dyer’s Axl, his performance and centring in the film allowed us to live our best young black comic book fandom through him, if only for one notable scene. I look forward to seeing him again (a little pun there).
Despite being typically laden with easter eggs, cameos, a rock playlist that anyone over 30 worth their salt will know and a luxury feel in terms of production quality, there was more to drive the MCU phases forward in the mid-credit scene than the actual film. Themes and narratives that have been played out through previous MCU films would have been better served by being completely ignored, rather than sprinkled over with dry jokes like the director was salt bae. Yes, this is a relatively decent action-comedy, but, It didn’t do the tapestry of the MCU any favours.
Thor: Love And Thunder is out in cinemas now