The franchise juggernaut that is the MCU shows no sign of stopping, with its latest entry Thor: Love and Thunder proving already to be a smash hit at the box office taking $143 million over it’s opening weekend.
The success of the MCU is mostly down to it giving fans what they want. With this, the majority of its films stick to a formula, hence why no matter the director a lot of the MCU’s movies feel similar. Now this isn’t a complaint, as these films still have a level of quality to them and while some entries are admittedly more worthy than others, I always look forward to what is coming next.
Still, with these films sticking to a formula, there is always a risk of superhero fatigue setting in. However, it would appear that Marvel recognizes this, as on numerous occasions they have hired filmmakers who are able to bring something different to the table.
This can have varying results, as while James Gunn was able to inject his own brand of craziness to make Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) such a success, Chloe Zhao couldn’t do the same with The Eternals (2021), where her more art house sensibilities seemed an ill fit for a Marvel movie.
Personally, the most notable director they have brought on board is Taika Waititi, with him not only injecting new life into the character of Thor but the MCU in general. His Thor: Ragnarok (2019) may have been divisive amongst some fans, but it can’t be denied that he was able to rejuvenate a character that by that point was becoming stale.
Ragnarok also gave Chris Hemsworth a chance to stretch himself further, showing off his fine comedy skills and giving us a Thor quite different from what he had seen before. This more comedic approach to the character was carried forward, with the Russo brothers fully embracing it when they made Avengers: Infinity War (2018), although like Waititi they knew how far to take it, with them still giving the character his more dramatic moments when required.
Whilst Waititi was already an accomplished director before Ragnarok, having helmed the likes of What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), since its release his career has gone through the roof, with him going on to win an Oscar for the terrific Jojo Rabbit (2019).
With this success, he would have been forgiven for not returning to the character of Thor, but thankfully he brings everything fans have come to expect from him, with Love and Thunder being every bit a Waititi film. Although this may disappoint some MCU fans who don’t like the more comedic Thor, fans of Ragnarok are well served.
After the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling the galaxy with the Guardians of the Galaxy. During this time, Gorr (Christian Bale) and his daughter are seen struggling on a barren desert planet, slowly dying of thirst. After his daughter dies, Gorr comes into contact with the God Rapu who laughs in Gorr’s face at his plight.
Enraged, Gorr is able to kill Rapu by summoning the nearby Necrosword, a weapon that holds the power to destroy any God. After killing Rapu Gorr exclaims that he will destroy all Gods.
As Gorr begins his quest to destroy the Gods, Thor becomes aware of his plans and departs the Guardians. Along with his companion Korg (Taika Waititi), Thor travels to new Asgard as he is informed that this is Gorr’s next target. As well as having to face off against Gorr, Thor gets surprised by the appearance of his ex-girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman), who strangely now wields the hammer Mjolnir and has similar powers as Thor.
After Gorr kidnaps the children of Asgard, Thor and Jane must work together to rescue them. Along with Korg and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), they travel to the Omnipotence City, in order to meet with the leader of the Gods, Zeus (Russell Crowe), in the hopes that he can help them rescue the Asgardian children and defeat Gorr.
The defeat of Gorr isn’t the only obstacle they have to face, with Jane suffering from stage 4 cancer. The only thing giving her the strength to keep going is the power she gains from Mjolnir, but it is unclear how long she can keep this going.
Whilst perhaps not on par with Hemsworth and Waititi’s last adventure, this is still a top tier blockbuster that doesn’t forgo its heart for spectacle. Like the majority of Waititi’s work, he does lean heavily into the comedy with Love and Thunder being one of the most comedic films of the whole MCU.
Even so, like the best of his films, he knows when to dial it back and focus more on the drama. There are some heavy themes visited in Love and Thunder, with the largest being how we deal with loss. Waititi must be commended that he is able to inject such themes into what is essentially an action comedy, and better still that they don’t bog down the film.
I noticed one reviewer online complaining about Waititi’s visuals, but they must have been watching a different film, as Waititi along with D.O.P Barry Idoine have created a visually stunning film. The most striking scenes are Thor’s visit to Omnipotence City, with the golden city being a gaudy wonder and then onto the Shadow Realm which is the polar opposite, with Waititi choosing to shoot this whole sequence in moody black and white.
When it comes to action, Love and Thunder certainly doesn’t disappoint. Sure, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before but it’s still excitingly staged. Also, I’m not sure if it was Waititi’s intention, but there is even a noticeable homage to Jean Claude Van Damme in the opening action scene, with Hemsworth doing the splits, something we have seen Van Damme do in numerous movies.
The majority of the action is of the fantastical nature, meaning a lot of flying and lighting bolts, but there is still the odd bit of one on one fighting to be seen, notably the fight between Hemsworth and Bale in the Shadow Realm, where Bale’s Gorr uses the Necrosword against Thor’s axe Stormbreaker.
Speaking of Hemsworth and Bale, they are expectedly terrific in their roles. Bale especially brings a lot more than expected to his villainous Gorr, making him equally sympathetic as he is deplorable, sometimes even in the same scene.
In one especially impressive scene, Bale appears amongst a group of imprisoned children where he proceeds to terrify them with stories of what he is going to do to them. In only a short scene Bale goes from creepy, moving on to funny then emotional. It’s an impressive showcase for his acting and something I wasn’t exactly expecting in a Marvel movie.
The only real drawback from Bale’s performance is that there isn’t more of it. Considering he has declared a war on Gods, it would have been nice seeing him confront more of them. However, going by interviews with Bale and other cast members, a fair amount of scenes were removed from the final film, so perhaps originally his screen time was longer.
By now, the part of Thor fits Hemsworth like a glove, with it giving him ample opportunity to show off both his comedy and dramatic skills. As in Ragnarok, this take on Thor isn’t the sharpest tack in the box, but Hemsworth doesn’t play him as a complete idiot, and whilst a lot is played for laughs, his scenes alongside Portman’s Jane gives him a chance to show off his more emotional side.
The romance between Thor and Jane is the driving force behind the film, and the two of them work together beautifully. Portman is much better utilized here than she was in her previous two Thor adventures, where she felt surplus to requirements. This time round she gets a chance to play the hero, throwing herself into the more action orientated parts of the role.
Clearly she took the role seriously as she looks in great shape whenever wielding Mjolnir. Equally, she also looks at her worst when her true form is shown and you see the real damage the cancer is doing to her body. Similarly to what happens to Jane in the comics, every time she wields Mjolnir it makes her cancer worse, giving her character a moral quandary she has to deal with. In order to save others, she may have to sacrifice herself.
The main focus of the film is on Hemsworth, Bale and Portman, but this isn’t to say that the supporting cast don’t get their chance to shine. Even if she is somewhat underused, Tessa Thompson once again shows she is a badass as Valkyrie, who is now the new King of Asgard. Clearly bored with her new role, which is mostly spent selling Asgard’s delights to tourists, she is more than happy to get back into the fight.
Waititi once again portrays Kronan Gladiator Korg, who not only acts as the film’s narrator but as expected gets a lot of the film’s funniest dialogue. Still, in terms of funny, another new cast member takes the crown, with Russell Crowe’s hilariously over the top portrayal of Greek God Zeus being a real scene stealer.
With an accent that would be unacceptable if it was anyone other than Crowe, Zeus is a wonderful new addition to the franchise and the only drawback was that there wasn’t more of him. His disagreements with Thor, with him exclaiming that he was uninvited to the orgy had the audience I seen this with in fits of laughter. His inclusion could also have some serious repercussions to both Thor and the MCU in general.
Essentially, Crowe’s role is more of an extended cameo, just like Chris Pratt and his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy who only really appear in the film’s opening before jetting off to adventures anew. Even so, their inclusion still lifts the film, with the slightly antagonistic relationship between Pratt’s Peter Quill and Thor raising a fair amount of laughs. Their appearance here works more as Teaser of what to expect from James Gunn’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 (2023).
Similar to Ragnarok, Love and Thunder boasts a magnificent soundtrack. As good as Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad’s original score is, it’s the choice of songs that is the most memorable. Whereas Ragnarok famously utilized Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, here it’s Guns N’ Roses that Waititi favors, with both Welcome to the Jungle and Sweet Child of Mine featuring heavily, the two of them being a perfect accompaniment to the on screen action.
Fans of Thor: Ragnarok, or Taika Waititi in general, are in for a great time with Love and Thunder, with it containing everything I expected Waititi to bring to the movie. I know his films can prove divisive, as there will be some unwilling to put aside their preconceived notions of what a Thor film should be.
Strangely, many complain about the MCU films all being the same, only to then complain further when someone makes something different. I suppose that’s just the way it goes, and whilst Love and Thunder may not please everybody, it certainly ticked all the boxes for me.
Plot: 4/5 Acting: 4/5 Action: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.8/5