'Thor: Love and Thunder' review: Mystic Marvel quest is not worthy
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
When director/co-writer Taika Waititi brought his signature brand of sarcastic and off-beat humor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Thor: Ragnarok,” it was something of a miracle. Not only did it reinvent the wheel for one of the MCU’s OG Avengers (after “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” brought lackluster results) but thanks to Waititi’s human-scale sensibilities, it helped lead actor Chris Hemsworth find his groove amid a character previous directors failed to understand. So, it brings me no pleasure to report “Thor: Love and Thunder” fails to build upon the foundation previously laid and steers itself into average Marvel territory. Not even Russell Crowe’s campy version of Zeus raving about space orgies, a running gag involving screaming goats, and a pride-inclusive subplot can elevate a half-baked character piece where the sitcom style humor runs afoul quickly.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” thankfully doesn’t regress back to its Shakespearean roots, but it features Christian Bale doing his best Voldemort impersonation as the bald Gorr the God-Butcher! Unlike “Ragnarok” which had the benefit of introducing new characters like Korg (Waititi) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who both return here, “Love and Thunder” doesn’t have the action sequences or enough wacky, goofy comic angels to subside the dead weight. Waititi is too talented a filmmaker to completely drop the hammer, finding subtle moments for slick needle drops (an arsenal that includes “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle”) and crafts what could be described as the MCU’s first romantic comedy as returning fan-favorite Jane Foster (Natalie Portman – back after sitting “Ragnarok” out) rekindles with Hemsworth’s Thor. But then there are moments where the script, co-written by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, are forced to deal with breadcrumbs left by the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” Case-in-point, finding something for the “Guardians of the Galaxy” to do for, checks notes, 10-minutes, because we last saw them with Thor and therefore, they need to be here. The entire inclusion felt like an extended teaser for their solo movie next Summer.
As for the story, we’re quickly brought up to speed in one of those “previously on” voiceovers because Marvel knows nobody’s watched the “Thor” movies in a minute, which immediately sets “Love and Thunder” up for failure. Regardless, Thor is having a bit of an identity crisis, though he’s shed all the weight he put on during “Endgame” and has bulked up considerably, spending the last few years fighting alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy is doing little to stimulate the god of thunder and his hang-up on past loves: Jane and his hammer, Mjölnir. Don’t worry, that’ll all be rectified soon, because the villainous Gorr (who, I might add, gets a semi-decent origin story in the films prologue) is on a murderous rampage, utilizing a blood-soaked Necro sword to behead mighty gods; leading Thor into the arms of Jane, which thanks to the sheer will-power of science can wield Mjölnir and dons a full cape, muscle, and brawn to take on Gorr and track down a group of kidnapped Asgardian kiddos.
Portman injects much-needed feminist flavor into the bulky, bro-ness of the previous “Thor” movies, sparring with Hemsworth who hilariously contends with the duality of trying to win Jane and Mjölnir back and not making his current weapon of choice, Stormbreaker, jealous. When the two actors are given a chance to break away from the Marvel chaos and talk like adults, “Love and Thunder” showcases how deeply introspective the film could have been, perhaps soaring to new horizons. Sadly, Waititi is content with retreading the same territory his “Ragnarok” already went. You want more Korg silliness? How about the same Asgardian stage actors in expanded roles? Once it became evident “Love and Thunder” was doubling down on several of these moments, the harder my heart began to sink.
Aside from a crafty black-and-white brawl set in the “Shadow Realm,” the visual palette falls into the usual murky blend of CGI garb Marvel has become synonymous with and it’s a real bummer. Audiences have come to expect a certain level of quality in this expanded, shape-shifting universe, and now a few movies and series removed from the current phase (I think it’s six?), I’m losing confidence of where the MCU is headed. I’m sure it won’t be long before Kevin Feige’s master plan comes into focus, but the current slump might be hard to shake.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER opens in theaters Friday, July 8th.