Thor: Love and Thunder
Thor's latest adventure from writer/director Taika Waititi takes the comedy, action and heart in stride with this MCU Phase 4 standout.
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After "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" kicked off the summer movie season and was an unsurprising success at the box office, it’s time for the God of Thunder to steal the spotlight with the much-anticipated "Thor: Love and Thunder," the 29th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Who would’ve thought this character would be the first to get four standalone movies now?
We often consider the first two movies ("Thor" and "Thor: The Dark World") as lesser favorites compared to everything else. I re-watched them recently and while I surprisingly enjoyed the original, the 2013 sequel still qualifies as the weakest MCU movie, without question. But for many fans, it wasn’t until writer/director Taika Waititi came on to direct 2017’s "Thor: Ragnarok" and injected some fun that finally gave us the movie fans had waited for all along. Consider me a fan.
After making the character cool again, it was a dream come true for the director to take on a new story brimming with tons of action, laughs, and surprises in under two hours. My hope was the get more out of this than "Multiverse of Madness." I enjoyed it, but such a shame it wasn’t on the level of loving it as I expected. Between the two, there’s no competition when "Thor: Love and Thunder" knocked it out of the park far better in one of the most exciting superhero movies to arrive on the big screen this year.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is on a journey unlike anything he's ever faced -- a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who -- to Thor's surprise -- inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor.
Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher's vengeance and stop him before it's too late.
Sure, the hype was accurate because it’s Thor battling for good. However, I had complete faith in Waititi, so it is appropriate that he had a lot of fun telling his most recent story while also taking themes of self-discovery or our ultimate purpose in life into the future.
You always forget this is also the same man who made the masterpiece "Jojo Rabbit" and has the imaginative mind to helm these comic book movies on a vast scale. So writing the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson ("Someone Great") made sense for a Thor movie to have a nice balance of what we have associated with the last three films, but better.
His approach for the previous installment was to have a Thor adventure crossed with an ‘80s retro vibe nailed perfectly. “Love and Thunder” lets you know he kicks the energy up about ten notches to deliver a Thor adventure crossed a heavy metal concept album come to life, and I don’t just mean the significant usage of the best Guns N’ Roses tracks.
It’s impressive how much Chris Hemsworth keeps improving with each passing performance as Thor, whether in his movies or “The Avengers" series. Again, he understood how this hero is supposed to be the strong badass. But after losing everything from his family and everything, there’s this sense of loneliness inside. Yet, we still see him as a relatable God underneath this layered person we’ve come to love for over a decade, carried over his last three appearances that we’re still engaged with.
Then there’s Natalie Portman, whose appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 confirmed her return not only as Dr. Jane Foster but as Mighty Thor. "Love and Thunder" finally uses her presence perfectly when we see Jane wielding a reformed version of Mjolnir, making us all fall in love with Portman again and seeing her in a different light.
I don't want to say how she gained these powers unless you read the “Mighty Thor” comics, but she's not just a typical love interest unimportant to the plot. Jane is fully developed in what she wants to accomplish. And strangely enough, Thor and Jane's romantic chemistry is more believable in one of the sequel’s biggest strengths, which was quite the opposite from when watching the first two movies.
The rom-com element in space was developed in a way where this made me care about Thor, Jane, and what happened before they saw each other again. This fills in the blanks of what occurred during their relationship after “The Dark World” ended. They need to give me a Disney+ prequel series on that, please. But, in all seriousness, Portman is at her best with her empowering performance.
It’s also great to have Tessa Thompson back as fan-favorite King Valkyrie, who's overwhelmed with running New Asgard since she misses the days of battle and is now the leader of her fellow people. A bit sidelined, but she crushes this role. And Waititi provides the motion capture for the Kronan Korg, who I love how he is Thor’s best friend now.
Russell Crowe also appears as Marvel’s portrayal of the almighty Zeus when our heroes travel to Olympus to recruit the Gods in their army.
Before this, Loki was the best villain in the Thor movies since Malekith and Hela left more to be desired. So leave it up to an Academy Award-winning actor like Christian Bale to make Gorr the God Butcher a sympathetic and menacing character to understand and be frightening of when he’s believed in Gods who answered his prayers and did nothing to help his family. The Slayer of Gods eliminates those with the Necrosword.
Chewing up the scenery, Gorr is basically the Boogyman with these shadow monsters, and thanks to Bale, he nails every scene. The makeup work on him is excellent. You know it’s funny how Bale and fellow actor Michael Keaton both played my favorite interpretations of Batman and played the better MCU villains in the past five years. Keaton, of course, played Adrian Toomes/The Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” And after hearing a deleted scene where he’s dancing to Kate Bush, where can I find it?
We also get the appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy. And know they are only in the first act when Thor teams up with them post-“Endgame,” which I appreciated since they didn't overstay their welcome. I actually thought they’d be in it more since I love them, but I went in expecting a Thor movie. My worries about the humor didn't hurt my experience when I indeed laughed at a good amount of jokes that hit. It’s much sillier than “Ragnarok” in its similar tones.
Of course, some humorous moments around the rushed first act won’t work for those who usually think the comedy in the MCU is hit-or-miss. However, nobody is prepared for the giant screaming goats as a gift for Thor. Overused? Nope. Every time I heard them, they had me dyin' because goats screaming like humans are always a win.
And I can't tell you how memorable the action set pieces were since they were vibrant and fun, despite a few noticeably unfinished visual effects shots. That said, the visuals were popping with its strikes of color, making it one of the best-looking MCU movies yet. There’s one sequence, and you saw a glimpse in the second trailer, where there’s limited usage of color that stood as one of the most striking and creative action scenes in a while, proving not everything in black-and-white has to be made for artistic reasons.
Will everyone love it? I guess it depends on your feeling about this current phase. Because while I liked a few of the Phase 4 movies, I haven’t loved all of them. I’d say this is right up there with "Spider-Man: No Way Home" as one of my favorites in this phase.
I wasn’t expecting this to give the quick recharge I needed when Waititi takes total control. Life would be complete if Waititi made more Marvel movies, and I’m not just talking about a possible fifth installment, but anything of his choosing. The ending alone makes me more excited about what’s coming next. And I’m not just talking about the post-credits.
"Thor: Love and Thunder" proves why the MCU and Taika Waititi are a match made in heaven! Get ready for the superhero sequel equivalent of a heavy metal rock album. It's hilarious, has impressive action, and has a story brimming with heart. Hemsworth is great, but Natalie Portman and Christian Bale excel in their respective roles. Fans of this character, or "Ragnarok," will have a great time.
This is the best Thor film yet, and worth seeing again.