When director Taika Waititi took over Thor and gave us the enjoyable ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ the character had already been established in two solo movies and two Avengers movies. He had a lot to work with: a troubled relationship with his brother Loki, experience working with a team like the Avengers, and so on. In ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ he had carte blanche to change the tone of the movie and infuse Waititi’s own brand of humor, which breathed new life into the character and the franchise. It was carried over into the succeeding Avengers movies such as ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame.’
But in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ most of Thor’s storylines were given closure. He had relinquished his throne to Valkyrie and left the remaining Asgardians to start anew on Earth. He had lost his brother and the loss he experienced in ‘Infinity War’ found a sort of resolution by the end of ‘Endgame.’ He had redeemed himself.
Where can the character go now?
And this is where ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ ends up being a mixed bag for me. The first half of the movie depicts Thor once again as the blonde himbo, whose massive god-like ego is the crux of a lot of the humor. It’s good for a few laughs but it seems that the character is stuck in some cartoonish version of himself. This film is Thor’s eighth appearance in the MCU and while this iteration only really came to the fore in ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ it feels tired. It is as if the events of the previous movie didn’t have any effect on him and sometimes, he even seems dumber than before. Sure, it’s great for a few laughs but there’s just so much of it.
The first half of the film feels more like a sequence of plot points and funny gags that are interspersed with the actual story of this film. The more important parts of the story – that of the villain, Gorr, the God Butcher, and that of Jane Foster – don’t get as much screen time and that’s what I’m looking for as I come in watching a superhero movie. The jokes and the gags are great but not at the expense of the struggle and tension and the stakes.
Taika Waititi can definitely balance out tragedy and comedy in equal measure. ‘Jojo Rabbit’ does this exceptionally well. Even with all the jokes and gags of ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ we were able to see the bonds between Loki and Thor heal and Thor making the ultimate sacrifice by allowing Asgard to fall to save the Asgardians.
In ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ the romantic comedy aspects of the film undermine the pulsing heart at the core of Jane Foster’s story, which could have been a nice space for Thor’s character growth. Instead, Waititi leans deeper into the whimsy, which is unexpected and surprising, but it doesn’t help build up the love story of its two lead characters that when it hits the final act of the film, the resolutions of their character arcs don’t have as much weight as it could.
Because the latter half of the film is definitely far better than how the film starts, it’s only then that Waititi emphasizes the stakes. It doesn’t have the urgency or the drama that the scenes ask for. It’s such a shame because Christian Bale looks like he is having fun playing Gorr, and Natalie Portman nails each dramatic beat. In fact, Jane Foster has such an interesting character arc and shows great agency but the depth of Jane’s situation – taking the mantle of Thor and why – has no time to really build.
‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ has all the components of a proper comic book movie. It has the action and the special effects but they don’t really seem to be at par with ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ It’s only really impressive and refreshing when Thor, Jane Foster, and Valkyrie take on Gorr. The choreography in those scenes are spectacular.
What ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ has proven is that Thor doesn’t seem to do too well on his own. As a character, he’s a team player who needs Loki or the other members of the Avengers for him to realize his own narrative potential. It isn’t until he meets Jane that Thor becomes remotely interesting, outside his whimsical, buffoonery. A character this powerful needs something to ground him otherwise there aren’t many places to go narratively.
Interestingly enough, the ending addresses this narrative demand but it didn’t need half of its 119-minute running time to get to that point. It’s fun. I had fun. But it’s not up there amongst the other MCU films.
‘Thor: Love and Thunder‘ is now showing in cinemas nationwide.