The journey of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder, has taken a long road and some can even say it has only just begun. The last time we saw the frat boy god turned Avenger was at the end of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame where after the defeat of Thanos, Thor decided to go off with the Guardians of the Galaxy and leave the newly built town of Asgard in the hands of his companion Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). It has also been since 2017 since Thor has had his own outing and the revamping of the character done by Taika Waititi. This time around Waititi, Hemsworth and crew are back and are bringing the same energy that made Ragnarok a success commercially. However if you’re someone that felt that Ragnarok and Waititi brought too much comedy to the character and very little substance it is unfortunate to say that Thor: Love and Thunder is only just a slight step up from its predecessor. This is yet again another product of the algorithmic MCU wheel that somehow has created both superhero fatigue and excitement for what’s to come next. Thor: Love and Thunder might be a perfect display of where the MCU lies right now. The film itself is two halves, one that plays by the required contract rules of Kevin Feige and Disney, while the second half explores themes (slightly above the surface) that are bigger than Thor’s muscles and actually bring some complexity to a tedious franchise.
Darren Aronofsky is not someone’s name you would hear come up when talking about a Marvel film, and yet from its opening silent moments Love and Thunder manages to evoke one of his more underrated films; The Fountain a film that heavily focused on if finding eternity and the land of the God’s would bring us peace. This is done by introducing us to Gorr played by Christian Bale who proves that nobody is above a MCU check and we are all the more thankful for him. From the moment you see a brutally sunburnt Gorr carrying his daughter (India Rose Hemsworth) you feel his pain. This is a credit to Bale who is one of our greatest actors and can display pain with just a facial expression. When Gorr eventually finds the forest of the Gods (think Garden of Eden) he quickly realizes the Gods, who he has dedicated his life to worshipping, do not care about mere mortals and see them only as beings meant to be sacrificed for their entertainment. Once Gorr seeks his revenge using a God killer weapon called the Necrosword he is off to the races and decides no more Gods. All this before the Marvel logo comes on screen. It’s a pretty ballsy move from a studio that is less progressive than it claims to be and is still deep seated in Christian ideology when it comes to their theme parks. If Love and Thunder’s main goal for the rest of the film is to show the dangers of blindly following Gods and religion than we are in store for one of their best and most complex films yet. Unfortunately Waititi has more juvenile ideas in store.
Thor unlike Gorr has still not found his purpose (you think he would after six films). Fighting with the Guardians is a way to avoid the pain he still feels from losing his one true love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Foster on the other hand is too busy fighting terminal cancer to think about Thor and yet her illness leads her back to Asgard where Mjolnir is waiting for her. Enter Mighty Thor! This films is a romantic comedy at heart and bringing Jane back to turn her into the mighty Thor is a welcomed treat. Portman and Hemsworth fall right back into their old ways and find more chemistry that lacked in their previous films. Unfortunately once Jane, Thor, Korg (Taika Waititi) and Valkyrie go on yet another road trip the film falls into familiar territory that has been beaten to death. Most of their journey relies simple of too many jokes that never land and while the awkwardness of exes being reunited can be fun Foster is still here as yet another female character in service to her male counterpart’s story. A quick flashback of Foster’s mother gives us the only thing we are allowed to know about who she was, not to mention her transformation into Thor is not even put on screen. Love and Thunder may want credit for bringing back female characters but Waititi ends up giving himself more of the spotlight through Korg’s obnoxious one liners. Not to mention Valkyrie (who has become a fan favorite) continues to get sidelined in ways that are hard to see as anything other than not wanting a queer female warrior in the spotlight.
While Love and Thunder finds itself in an excellent second half (one of Marvel’s best) it is frustrating when you can pinpoint the time in a movie where the tone of the films drastically changes. Nonetheless the film soars whenever Bale finds his way onto the screen as well as those ideas of false Gods. Bale’s Gorr is terrifying and when his evil plan involves the capturing of small Asgardian children there are plenty of moments that Bale is able to bring back memories of watching him in earlier films such as American Psycho and The Machinist. Gorr is angry, but he is also disturbed. The madness to his method can’t be ignored. The film truly finds itself when it shows the anger of Gorr and the pain we endure when losing a loved one or even just the threat of it. This also helps elevate the love story of Jane and Thor. In a film with hardly any stakes (seriously this franchise needs to start killing off people) the only thing at stake is the idea of losing love and it finds a way to be enough at the end. The film stumbles to find its way back to its hard hitting opener, but it does remind you that if the gods are liars and do not care about us then it is easier and healthier to find commitment and loyalty down on earth. To find someone or who we truly love and dedicate ourselves to saving them and in return ourselves. Once we do that then I believe our purpose can finally be found.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER IS IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE