It’s just occurred to me dear reader, that I’ve never actually reviewed a MCU Thor movie on this humble blog before. That’s not been out of any avoidance or a sense of spite. But before this becomes a Taika Waititi esque rambling on intention, have you seen Thor: Love and Thunder? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below. And if you happen to enjoy my musings on the horror genre, then you can find out more at my second home, Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/author/sartaj-singh/
Despite being the longest-running solo character franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Thor has felt like he’s being rebooted the most. He starts out as an arrogant fool in the intimate and Shakespearian-inspired 2011 entry and ends up as a space Viking that’s depicted in tall tales. With this in mind, Love and Thunder is a heartfelt and barmy deconstruction of its title character.
Taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself unfulfilled in the pursuit of spirited adventures after his break-up with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Unbeknownst to the God of Thunder, Foster has recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. When Jane hears murmurs of Thor’s old hammer (Mjölnir), she travels to New Asgard to commune with the mystical object. Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a being called Gorr (Christian Bale) rises after killing a God with a deity-slaying sword. All these three elements converge when Gorr makes his way to New Asgard, and Thor returns to the haven; shocked to find Jane as the newly-minted Mighty Thor.
Despite thinking that Thor Ragnarök closed the book on Taika Waititi’s beguiling cosmic comedy interpretation of Thor, Love and Thunder prove Waititi still has plenty left in the tank for the character. Crucially, he depicts the central hero as a forlorn entity who can no longer find excitement in the adventures he partakes in.
These early scenes with the Guardians of the Galaxy play like a meta-commentary on the nature of monthly comics and how they can become stale, with the hero becoming detached from the adventures they lead. At the same time, these early scenes introduce the theme of the film, namely the power of myth and how it can provide hope and comfort for people. Thor’s arc is of going from someone who perpetuates his own myth as a form of armour for loss to someone who uses myth to inspire the next generation (in reference to the children of Asgard who get kidnapped by Gorr during the early part of the movie).
Waititi has a lot of fun with riffing on myth. One extended scene depicts the son of Heimdall, Axl (Kieron L. Dyer), telling the story of how Thor got Stormbreaker and cut off Thanos’s head with it. This is contrasted with Gorr putting on a freak show where he takes the head of a shadow creature. I also think Waititi is making a larger point about how Gods use myths as a form of control. This is illustrated by the opening prologue in which Gorr (in human form) seeks salvation from his God after the death of his daughter. But Gorr is strangled when he pricks and pops the mythical balloon by renouncing his God.
This aspect is also shown in the first post-credit sequence where Zeus (Russell Crowe) asks his son Hercules (Brett Goldstein) to redeem him when he finds the presence of superheroes troubling because they make people cease to believe in him.
Waititi has always been an underrated director in the MCU. He adapts and depicts comic accurate imagery with ease. But he’s also able to create impressive visuals in engaging ways. One example is an extended scene when Thor, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Mighty Thor reach the Shadow Realm. It’s done entirely in black and white, with slight flickers of colour, resulting in a foreboding atmosphere.
I also adore how Waititi moves the camera in Love and Thunder whether it’s these dizzying 180-degree paparazzi shots that reveal Portman’s Thor or surreal point of view shots from quite bewildering but nevertheless amusing objects, such as a cuddly toy in the third act. But he’s also quite subtle with the camera, whether it’s Stormbreaker slowly coming into the frame or these pristine Wes Anderson-esque shots that punctate some of Thor’s actions.
Chris Hemsworth has always been good at playing the pure arrogant bravado of Thor. However, in this film, he’s best when he’s trying to reassure and calm people around him, as the bravado becomes a touching exercise in heroism. Christian Bale’s performance plays like a Red Bull-infused pinball game of horror impressions, that vary from The Nun to Pennywise the Clown. But my favourite moments of his were his loose moments of pure comedic expressions that are on full display in the third act. They were akin to seeing Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu by way of the silent facial expressions of the ancient vampire in ‘What We Do in the Shadows.’
Natalie Portman surprised me in an amusing turn as a hero in the making, who attempts to carve out a no-nonsense superhero identity on an eternal search for the perfect catchphrase. And Tessa Thompson is a cheeky delight in a performance that’s equal parts teasing and tough.
Love and Thunder resonated with me in ways that were unexpected and delightful. Above all, Waititi captures the sheer sense of loss one can feel after a breakup, and the lies we tell ourselves to keep going, in the vain hope of developing some armour for our broken state. It just so happens that this universal feeling is delivered on a colourful, bombastic and often humorous stage.