Movie Review: Thor: Love and Thunder
Thor: Love and Thunder is the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the fourth solo feature for the character Thor. In this adventure, Thor finds himself aimless and adrift until he stumbles upon a plot to kill off all the universe's gods by a being known as Gorr the God the God Butcher. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Jaimie Alexander, Russell Crowe, and Christian Bale. The film is written by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin-Robinson and directed by Waititi.
Marvel Studios has never known what to do with Thor. It shows even more clearly in Love and Thunder. The first half of the movie is barely coherent and includes more than one recap type of scene that made me think, "GET ON WITH IT!" loudly at the screen. That first half, except for the pre-Marvel Studios logo scenes, also just feels silly. This isn't a good silly or a charming silly, it's a forced silly. It's a, "Ugh, can you believe this himbo's a hero?" kind of silly. It's a they're kind of embarrassed to be making a superhero movie kind of silly. It's a silly that they felt they had to add in themes, objects, and characters from the wider comics universe of Marvel and so they decided to make them stupid and trite because, "this is all silly, am I right?"
Silliness and Marvel tend to go hand in hand. That's likely why the Guardians of the Galaxy feature in the first part of the film so much to remind us we love their kind of silly, but the Guardians films strike a much better balance when the drama needs to ramp up. Writers Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin-Robinson attempt to have this balance, but in that first half they fail spectacularly. It's jarring to go from the emotional impact of the opening scene with Gorr, to himbo silliness, to the beginning of the Jane Foster storyline. I swear I thought I blinked and missed something along the way. They get some mojo eventually, but it's confusing why Thor is such a big joke and we should care about him at all.
There are points of promise within this film. There is an interesting meditation on mortality buried within the antics on screen. Because some of you readers would call any discussion of themes or scenes in the film a "spoiler," I will try and be vague about specific plot points. It all comes back to what happens when an immortal falls for a mortal. This is the central conflict in Jane and Thor's relationship. They live in two different worlds both physically and personally. Thor has lost several immortal friends and family members, his home, and now several mortal friends. He will continue, but he doesn't understand how to combat this loss or in the parlance of the original Guardians film, he doesn't know how to be a graceful loser or in the parlance of this film he doesn't know how to want to feel shitty.
I think that's why the needle drop of "Sweet Child O' Mine" is so significant. That song can take on several different connotations within the context it's presented. Like Thor: Ragnarok and the use of "The Immigrant Song," "Sweet Child O' Mine," marks new chapters in Thor's understanding of who he is even if we never really know and by his next appearance he could be completely different. And like "The Immigrant Song," the multiple drops don't get tedious because the inclusion of the song isn't superfluous, but lends a deeper meaning to the scene.
I've always been a Natalie Portman fan. I likely always will be. Her gung ho attitude about being the ultra dork Jane Foster is the best part of every Thor film she's been a part of. Portman imbues Jane with far more than that of a love interest. Unlike Rachel McAdams' Christine or Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper, Portman's Jane is far more than window dressing or hand wringing. She's a power house and so compelling.
If only this was a film that deserved such an interesting character. In fact all the Thor films didn't deserve the interesting character that is Jane Foster. This film didn't deserve Christian Bale's gruesome and terrifying Gorr. We could have done with out a fourth Thor film and for all our sakes, I hope there's not a fifth because they obviously have no real ideas and this was a way to close out a few contracts and bring in the new talent during the after credits scenes. You may have a different opinion than I do and you may love this film. Yet, after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and this one, I may get more picky about which Marvel films are actually worthy in every sense of the word.