Basically: Thor returns to find his ex-girlfriend is now also Thor and together they deal with a new threat: Gorr, The God Butcher.
I really wish I could enjoy Taika Waititi’s take on Thor Odinson but I’m far from it. Unlike many, I didn’t like Thor: Ragnarok. I was fine with how the earlier films handled Thor; while there was some humor, they still felt closer to the Thor I had enjoyed reading in the comics. His appearances in the Avengers films also felt consistent. Thor’s scene with Hulk in Ragnarok—“He’s a friend from work”—was funny and worked in the trailers; it was the only thing I enjoyed in that whole movie. I still liked the character, though. Thor has the best overall arc of the first mega storyline of the MCU. You really feel his loss and journey with him to finding himself again and coming out of his depression in Endgame. Yet I have to say that most of that was thrown out with this new film.
Thor: Love and Thunder, aka Thor 4, is a mash-up adaptation of two stories by Jason Aaron (along with Russell Dauterman, Esad Ribic, and many others): Goddess of Thunder and The God Butcher. We open with where we left Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in Endgame, working to lose his dad-bod and hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy. After getting a distress call from a former Asgardian ally that there is a being hunting the gods, Thor discovers New Asgard is next on this God Butcher’s (Christian Bale) list. Once there, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) tells Thor they have a new hero protecting New Asgard: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is now The Mighty Thor, which is a shock to him. Thor, Mighty Thor, King Valkyrie, and Korg (Waititi) must go on an adventure to stop The God Butcher.
There’s a lot more going on here, but you should have some decent surprises. Love and Thunder feels like an 80s comedy, which actually undercuts the gravity of the situation and makes it so that the characters never have a real stake. I never truly felt these characters were in danger from Gorr the God Butcher. Christian Bale plays Gorr entirely seriously at times, giving this dangerous character pathos, which often feels out of place acting-wise with the rest of the movie.
Chris Hemsworth is his usual likable self and, at this point, he’s beyond comfortable as Thor—hell, I call this man Thor no matter what film he’s in. It’s also good to see Natalie Portman back (but more on that later). Tessa Thompson seems to be having fun with Valkyrie again but she doesn’t get much to do. Russell Crowe appears as Zeus, leader of all the gods, and he chooses to ham it up entirely with a weird Greek/Italian accent that doesn’t work much. But I guess he had fun and you can feel that on screen. He wasn’t phoning it in, at least.
Now, back to Jane. Before I ultimately went on a Marvel boycott in 2015, I read most of the titles they put out. One of the best changes they made after a terrible event called Original Sin was turning Jane Foster into Thor when regular-degular Thor became unworthy of Mjolnir. For a while, lady Thor was a mystery but, as most guessed correctly, it was Jane, Thor’s long-time love interest. She was worthy, she was Thor; she appeared in the Secret Wars and became an Avenger. She also had a nice little romance with Falcon Cap—it was good stuff and a really well-thought-out change for the Thor comics, which had become a bit stagnant.
I was hoping some of that would’ve ended up in the movie—a passing of the torch for the franchise’s focus. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got. Love and Thunder is tied to the lost relationship between Thor and Jane, which was thrown away in Ragnarok for real-life reasons. It takes up a bunch of screentime as they rekindle things while also dealing with something significant happening to one of them. Overall, the choices of the hows and whys Jane gets empowered, and where it leads, end up serving more as growth for Hemsworth’s Thor than Jane.
Love and Thunder also makes Thor regress to the character he was in the first Thor—he’s back to being arrogant and brash. It was like all the losses of his family, friends, and home was wiped away. The old Thor could make a better comedic action hero for this movie than the current one in Marvel’s experiment of blending film and television into a one-story universe. I think Jane and the stories this film took from deserve better. It let me down.
I wish the movie also looked better. It feels like an experiment in how it’s shot. While I know they use digital sets for the Star Wars shows on Disney+, Love and Thunder is the first MCU movie where it really feels like there was no world the characters were interacting with. It hurts the movie when it looks faker than most video games. There are times when you can see the effects used on the actors’ bodies for their costumes, which is wildly distracting.
Thor: Love and Thunder might do well and entertain audiences but I think it will leave many fans wanting more for the characters and more for the women warriors of the franchise. Don’t expect much from the Guardians here either—they are a glorified cameo. You’ll have to wait for their Christmas special and next movie for more of them.
Most people should wait forty-five days and watch Love and Thunder on the Disney+ app but the movie is suitable for families with kids so it might be worth a family outing.
In the End: Thor: Love and Thunder is a very uneven movie that never feels well thought out and doesn’t do well by its many characters besides Thor himself.