Taika Waititi returns to direct the fourth Thor film with the same old bag of tricks. While Thor: Ragnarok was certainly a refreshing change of pace for the Norse-inspired superhero, Thor: Love and Thunder feels like more of the same. While it still has some solid moments of fantasy and fun, it certainly feels like a lesser sequel.
Same Old Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder
Where the film feels least compelling is how it wants to bring back Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as the same old brash goof. If you were hoping for the events of Avengers: Endgame to reshape him in more ways than one, you may be disappointed in how quickly he reverts back. With a mere montage, he’s back to his same weight and carrying that same adventurous spirit.
Don’t get your hopes up too high if you were expecting more Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy hi-jinks. There’s some of that team-up aspect but it’s clear that Waititi wants to make this more of a Thor story than a crossover event. Despite a suitable rousing adventure on an alien planet, you can really feel Waititi quickly tying up loose ends of the MCU continuity to get his own contained Thor picture.
It’s back to basics for the long-haired god of thunder. Even though he finds himself longing for more, a decent amount of contentment comes over him to jump into, as he puts it, “another classic Thor adventure.” He has something more he desires, of course, but for the most part, it’s the same old hammer-wielding lug.
The Slayer of Gods
Thor does have a great villain for this picture. Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is a religious man who finds himself betrayed by the gods and sets out to kill them all. He even gets a cooler title of The God Butcher, wielding a sword with dark magic that can slice up deities.
Christian Bale’s performance in Thor: Love and Thunder is certainly a highlight of how much he throws himself into this role. His moments of loss are genuinely heartbreaking and his sinister cackling is quite chilling. Supposedly there was a cackle so terrifying it was cut from the film and it’s easy enough to imagine that scene.
Gorr resides in a cosmos of darkness, leading to some of the most chilling scenes in all the Thor movies. His ability to wield weird creatures from the shadows is pretty neat and makes him quite the threat. His plans are also rather compelling for being more personal than some utilitarian reasoning, giving him a more compelling journey for love.
Thor doesn’t make his journey alone, despite ditching the Guardians of the Galaxy rather early. His old flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is back and she has some powers of her own. It makes their reunion an awkward one, considering she’s more or less wielding the same power as Thor, including adopting his title.
Jane, however, is hiding a tragic secret from Thor. Rather than dwell on it, she prefers to live in the moment and find what matters most in life. It gives her character far more depth rather than just being a mere reprisal cameo.
Also along for the ride is the warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), eager to shed her duties as the mayor of New Asgard for another adventure. Another companion for the journey is Korg (voiced by Waititi), the rock monster who is tough in combat but gentle with words. These two don’t have too much of an arc but they do provide some okay comedic backup.
Thor: Love and Thunder Hits Different
You can really sense how much of Ragnarok has been repeated in this sequel. Remember that bit from the last film where guest stars comically portrayed the events of the previous film? That’s back again with another mild surprise of a comedic actor thrown into the mix.
There’s also some major clunkiness going on with the tone for nearly half of Thor: Love and Thunder. Much of the absurdity just doesn’t hit as well as it could. When the longest-running joke of the film is a pair of giant screaming goats where the whole gag is their weird scream, the comedy really does struggle.
So much of the film blazes by at a comparatively brisk 120 minutes that some of the editing feels off. For as cool as Jane’s superhero reveal was, it’s presented in a scene of chaos in a town fighting off monsters in a manner where it’s tough to tell everything that’s going on. Of course, it’s a bit easy to get lost in these many special effects sequences of monsters, pegasus, magic weapons, and CGI armor.
Rage Against the Gods
So many scenes seem to have great ideas but don’t come to life on screen as much as they should. A perfect example of this is when Thor travels to the council of gods to ask for help in stopping Gorr the God Butcher. Zeus (Russell Crowe), a pompous ruler, offers little help in his own bureaucratic ways.
This scene has all the makings of something grand and satirical. Yet the absurdity is mostly sold at face value where there’s a bit of catharsis in watching Thor slaughter some gods who refuse to help his people when children are in danger. And yet it never really comes off as absurd as it could’ve been, where the continuous joke of Zeus talking about orgy schedules doesn’t quite carry the same laughs when repeated.
More Love Than Thunder
By the third act, the film finally finds its groove of what matters most. The rekindled romance between Thor and Jane works surprisingly well. Of course, it helps that their tender moment is had while traveling the cosmos with an ax-powered boat with dolphins swimming among the stars.
The overlapping stories of Thor and Gorr (hey, how’s that for a rhyme?) all center around love. Even if their ultimate desires come rather abruptly towards the third act, they resolve in a rather beautiful way. The transcendent conclusion nearly makes up for the lacking comedy, including a rather ho-hum bit that can only be described as the Thor Junior League.
Conclusion – Thor: Love and Thunder
Despite some lavish visuals and a solid thematic core, Thor: Love and Thunder comes up a bit short as a Thor sequel. It’s not nearly as messy as the lesser Thor entry, Thor: The Dark World, considering it manages to find its legs after some stumbling. But it’s nowhere near as rejuvenating as Ragnarok.
As the second Thor film directed by Taika Waititi, Thor: Love and Thunder just feels like more of the same with little innovation. That may be fine if all you want is some classic Thor with a side of Jane Foster now wielding magic. For those seeking more, you may be hoping for something better in this hero’s next adventure, hopefully feeling more like a classic instead of a retread.
Did you see Thor: Love and Thunder in the theater? How does it compare to the other Thor movies? Is it better or worse than Thor: Ragnarok? Let us know in the comments below.
Thor: Love and Thunder is currently playing in theaters everywhere.