With the MCU I find myself in a weird position. I seem to like all the movies while having some real criticisms for the MCU, both individually and on the whole. It doesn’t help that it has gotten into ‘Marvel fatigue’ as they don’t seem to have plans for where to take it outside of sustaining the machine and prolonging its existence. Still, I was going into the Marvel movies fairly open minded, including Thor: Love and Thunder. I rewatched Thor: Ragnarok leading up to its release, I still like it but I wasn’t loving it like other people, and Taika Waititi has certainly made much better movies outside of the MCU. The trailers didn’t look the best to me, but I was mildly interested. I expected Waititi to deliver another Ragnarok, and I was okay with that idea. Having seen it I have a lot of questions, starting with one: what happened?
The weirdest part of the movie is that Taika Waititi doesn’t have a writing credit for Ragnarok, but he has sole writing credit for Love and Thunder. So unless there is evidence of studio interference, what happened with this new film is all on him. The film really takes no risks at all; in spite of Taika’s style, this has to be one of the safest and autopilot MCU movies I’ve seen. There’s just something about this movie that feels so manufactured and generic. Early in the movie it shows the Guardians of the Galaxy with Thor, and their inclusion felt like an obligation and just a way of dealing with the fact that they joined at the end of Endgame. Even treating the movie by itself, the storytelling and exposition really is lazy. Thor and co. find out about the new villain Gorr the God Butcher not by seeing him butcher gods, but by going online and learning from there. Then there’s the narration from Taika Waititi’s Korg in which he tells a story. It’s done with a comedic tone for sure but that can’t disguise how utterly lazy it is, and just there to fill in the gaps. The first time he did it I could tolerate it, but after that point it got annoying. The pacing is also messy, sometimes it jumps from one location to another really quickly, and at other point it lingers in some places for too long. The segment involving Zeus is an example of making it feel like its wasting your time. Taika was apparently going for a romantic comedy, and while there are some rom-com aspects in Love and Thunder, I think it did a terrible job. If they had lowered the stakes, remove the main villain, gave Jane more screentime and focussed more on her and Thor, it would’ve worked. But that’s not the case. There’s enough at play to make for a 2.5-hour long movie had things been expanded on more. However, at around 2 hours it feels rushed.
Some argue that people shouldn’t take Thor: Love and Thunder, or even suggest that we should “turn our brains off” going into it. The funny thing is that a lot of Love and Thunder’s own flaws can be shown by comparing it to Ragnarok. The humour is often one of my biggest issues in the MCU, its very hit or miss and often deflates a lot of the dramatic moments. Obviously, having a lot of comedy isn’t inherently bad. Taika Waititi included a lot of humor int Thor: Ragnarok, and I found it very hit or miss. At the very least, it kept the plot the focus and was serious when it needed to be. Even when it came to all the shenanigans, I was able to buy into the events that were happening. Love and Thunder was like this too, only there were many more misses than hits. The jokes are just so predictable and unfunny, even the staging and presentation of the jokes alongside what’s happening felt like out of a sketch comedy instead of a movie. So much of the movie feels like a parody of Thor; an example of this is when it shows New Asgard, and there is a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet on the front of an ice cream shop. Keep in mind that at the beginning of Infinity War, Thanos killed half of the Asgardians as they were fleeing the destruction of Asgard. It’s a brief scene, but its moments like these that make it really hard to care about what’s going on with the story and characters, or take it seriously in any way. The first half is ridiculously goofy and silly and not in a good way. The second half makes attempts at emotion and it does pick up at this point, but its too late. Even in the third act I just wasn’t invested. That’s not to say that being a parody is inherently bad, but maybe it would’ve worked if it wasn’t paired alongside actual serious drama. Jane Foster becomes Thor while having cancer and while there was certainly potential there, I found the execution to be a mixed bag. Some of the emotional moments are okay but the subplot wasn’t handled with the seriousness it needed. Also the way the resolution of it wasn’t satisfying at all. Ultimately, Jane’s inclusion felt like it was just there to serve Thor’s story. Then there’s Gorr the God Butcher, who was just too dark of a character to have in this movie this silly; he just doesn’t fit tonally alongside whatever Taika was going for.
Chris Hemsworth plays Thor once again, he’s been going on a transformation from movie to movie. His arc has been messy, but generally I like him in these movies. However, Love and Thunder is by far my least favourite version of Thor, it felt like he devolved so much from his past appearances. Its not that he’s more comedic, Ragnarok did give Thor silly moments, but he was serious when he needed to be. Love and Thunder made Thor outright dumb, and from his first scene, I knew that there was going to be a problem. Even Thor at the beginning of his first film was smarter than this. It is just incredibly frustrating to watch him here. I know a lot of people didn’t like Thor in his first couple of appearances and found him boring; some people as a result prefer comedy Thor following Ragnarok. At this point though, I’m longing for “boring Thor” to make a return. Hemsworth is good at comedy and the film definitely leans into that more, but I didn’t really like this version of the character. One of the most prominent parts of the movie is Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster, who has cancer and becomes Thor. There is so much potential with this storyline, so it is sad to see her underutilised. When it comes to the serious scenes with regards to cancer, Portman handles them well. The aspects mainly with humour like when Jane is trying to come up with a catchphrase however… she wasn’t given the best material. For what its worth though, she did the best with what she had. I know that Love and Thunder is meant to be a romantic comedy, but the chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman wasn’t the strongest. It’s not bad, but just fine. Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie and while she has a new role as King of Asgard and accompanies Thor and Jane throughout much of the movie, she felt very sidelined and not much is actually done with her. There is dialogue about her looking for a girlfriend but as typical with this being the MCU, its very brief so it makes it easier to remove when being shown in certain other countries. Not that I was expecting some form of substantial LGBT+ representation in a Disney movie, I just wished that it didn’t feel so baity.
Taika Waititi also returns as Korg, Thor’s rock friend. He made for a good side character in Ragnarok, but there is just too much of him in Love and Thunder and I liked him less here. Part of that is that he felt even more like Waititi’s self-insert which is hard to overlook. The Guardians of the Galaxy show up in the early act and while this is the worst appearance that they’ve had in the MCU, they also manage to be one of the best parts of the movie. When they part ways from Thor and the overall plot I did feel sad, because I would’ve preferred to have followed them than be stuck with himbo Thor for the next 1.5 hours. Russell Crowe plays Zeus with a highly cartoonish and questionable Greek accent. The highlight of the movie was Christian Bale as main villain Gorr the God Butcher (a grand title given that he doesn’t butcher many gods). There were some jokes leading up the release that Bale probably did this as a paycheck role, but he goes all in here, he seems to be one of the only actors not treating it like a joke. Bale plays the role up wonderfully, he’s menacing and creepy and I loved the bizarre and weird nature he brought to it. Unfortunately, like Portman, he was underutilised. While Gorr is given a tragic backstory, his transformation and change is too stark and sudden. It is also yet another case of an MCU villain being in their position because of corruption from an object, like in Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange 2. Bale’s Gorr felt out of place in this movie for sure, but I would’ve liked the movie less without him.
Taika Waititi returns to direct this, and his work is a considerable downgrade from Ragnarok in just about every single way. Ragnarok had some inconsistent visuals; sometimes there are moments that look absolutely stunning, other times it looked really fake and ugly. Love and Thunder was like that except this time there are only a handful of decent looking shots. Somehow the visuals got considerably worse 5 years later. Love and Thunder is visually bland, its either got terrible CGI or very grey backgrounds, and the colour grading is awful. Even the action is very generic and basic for the most part. That being said, any scene with Gorr looks visually nice. There’s some scenes set in the shadow realm and things are in black and white and those were some of my favourite parts of the movie. I liked the style, visuals and use of colour, and the action in this segment was pretty good. Michael Giacchino’s score was very generic and forgettable, I don’t remember any of the composed music. I can remember a lot of Guns N’ Roses and while I liked it the first time they were played, I’m pretty sure they were played four times in Love and Thunder and I really wished that Taika would’ve tried playing something else too.
Thor: Love and Thunder is the lowest point of the MCU. Whereas Ragnarok was a movie of hits and misses, Love and Thunder is a movie of mostly misses. Despite the uncooked writing that he’s working with, Christian Bale is a delight as the villain and the film picks up whenever he’s on screen. There are maybe a couple of jokes that work, and the film was mildly entertaining and held my interest. However, I found it so hard to care about so much that was going on. The movie was unfunny, the moments of drama are mishandled, and the visuals are mostly ugly. It’s also a movie that in spite of all its overt quirks, feels incredibly empty. It’s particularly disappointing because I liked Taika Waitti’s past movies and I know he is better than this. One of the end credits hints at a follow up Thor movie and honestly, I am fully content with there never being another Thor movie unless there’s a drastic change in direction. At the very least, I hope someone takes over making the next movies. Otherwise, I’m not expecting anything more than another generic product like Love and Thunder.