Thor – Love & Thunder REVIEW
Reviewed by Jan
Spoilers are marked later in the text!
„Thor – Love & Thunder“ is the fourth Thor solo movie. But it’s already the eight entry in Thor’s overall cinematic storyline. He’s got tons of history by now, starting from his not so humble beginnings as a warrior prince and maturing into a whole different character. One a lot more funny by the time Ragnarok came around. But also one having to cope with much more pain & loss after that movie. Infinity War was a great showcase for that development since it gave Hemsworth a variety of hilarious bits, as well as heartbreaking moments of contemplation, like during his chat with Rocket about what more there was to lose for Thor at this point in his life. Mom, dad, baby brother – dead. Home planet – destroyed. Girlfriend – long gone.
Not even a superhero / god can withstand such trauma onslaught. When he finally broke in Endgame, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. To me it felt too much like ridiculing the character rather than taking his pain seriously, like in Infinity War. Last we saw Thor though, he was going for a joyride with the Guardians and damn, I would’ve enjoyed that. It was spelled out right during that scene: „Asgardians Of The Galaxy“. This would’ve broken the Box Office.
But MCU producer Kevin Feige went down another path and got Taika Waititi back to take over Thor duty once more. Small wonder. Ragnarok was the most successful Thor both in terms of Box Office as well as critical/audience response. And Waititi is hot now anyway. He is directing the Star Wars movie following The Rise Of Skywalker, after all. And he certainly is a good director who gets much out of his actors and also has the reputation of someone able to create a fun, collaborative work environment for his crews. And he demonstrated lots of genuine care for his original characters, from the vampires in What We Do In The Shadows to a Nazi boy in Jojo Rabbit. He finds the humanity in characters who might as well just be portrayed as monsters.
That’s all nice and dandy. I just didn’t find any of that in the exhausting and oftentimes cringe-inducing „Love & Thunder“. The movie’s villain – Christian Bale’s Gorr the Godbutcher – should be a prime candidate for such character exploration. But as far as I can see, Waititi has two problems here: 1) He’s doing too much „and then“ storytelling rather than „because of“ storytelling. And 2) Waititi doesn’t care as much for the lore & characters of the MCU, compared to his auteur indie movie characters (with Hunt For The Wilderpeople about a displaced and angry but genuinely sweet NZ native youngun probably being the most personal for him).
As for the storytelling of „Love & Thunder“: When interviewed by Stephen Colbert, Waititi said that the movie was like they had unleashed a horde of 6-year olds into a toy store and let them rip & tear. That’s a perfect description of this film since a 6-year old would not know any better than to dive head first into a never-ending cascade of „and then“ story teps. This is perfectly illustrated with the introductions of Gorr, as well as the returning Jane / Portman.
We meet the still human Gorr when he’s at his wits end. His planet has withered and he wanders the wasteland with his sick & starving daughter who, just a heartbeat later, dies in his arms. And despite his despair, he still he prays to his gods and remains steady in his worship. AND THEN he stumbles into an oasis where one of his gods struts around like a peacock (Waititi could’ve also gone for another route: Gorr actively seeking out the gods BECAUSE he is faithful and wants to know how his suffering fits into their masterplan… but naw, not here). Here we meet our first caricature rather than character in the film, since this god is just capital E evil to a ridiculous degree. There’s not a shred of nuance when Gorr is basically told: „Look at little Goblin junior… gonna cry? You’re trash. I’m gonna put some dirt in your eye!“ Gorr now has a clear motivation to lose faith and start hating the gods. But no! You see, AND THEN an evil magic sword lies just next to him, turns him accordingly evil and gives him the ability to kill gods. Which he does. There is no further character development until the very end of the film, which won’t be spoiled here.
Gorr is undercooked. But Jane is a way more problematic character. It’s nice to have Portman back and see a story of ex-lovers in the MCU. I think this is only the second one of those, after T’Challa and Nakia’s relationship in Black Panther. That was a great relationship: They seemed like they had almost turned into platonic friends, with a bit of longing left more on his rather than her side. She had her mission, he had his tradition. But they still kept respecting each other. It’s an inspiring story because it’s not just a reload of a „falling in love“ story.
Which is exactly what „Love & Thunder“ is. The movie even goes through a break-up montage to give us more context for this. And still, once that’s out of the way, it’s basically just a re-do of their original love story. Careful looks at first, oogling later on, and then the inevitable romantic kiss. But no sex. You only get sex in a Disney movie once in a decade. (The one for this decade was The Eternals with that hot Sersi on Icarus scene. Oh boy, The Eternals…). The only thing in the way of pure reunion bliss: Jane has late-stage cancer (we’re not there when she learns of it, which could’ve been a soulcrushing moment). Heavy topic for such a silly movie. One has to be curious: How will Waititi handle this? Certainly with grace, no? Ew…
It plays out like this: Jane‘s BFF Darcy says Jane should contact Thor to help out with Space Viking magic. Who knows? Maybe cancer isn’t a thing on Asgard thanks to their god-tech? Good call. Soon after, Jane feels Mjölner calling out to her. Why? Because it seems Thor once said to Mjölner to keep good care of her. Just what a doofus would say to his weapon. But did you know the hammer took that quite seriously and went on to take care of Jane? This is the beginning of a weird character story for Mjölner & Stormbreaker. More on that in a spell. Now, Jane follows the call to Nu Asgard (presided over by KING Valkyrie. Because queens apparently aren’t a thing). She steps towards the hammer. Thunder roars! The sky darkens! Lightning shakes the broken pieces of Mjölner! Aaand… we cut away to a different place. No moment of awe and wonder for Jane. Why? Apparently because Waititi wanted us to emphasize with Thor seeing her in full Mighty Thor costume for the first time a bit later. I feel this is a bad approach. We should’ve been there during Jane’s big moments, involving us in her story rather than implying it along the way.
[MID-MOVIE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW – NO SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINALE]
AND THEN, out of nowhere, we learn that Mjölner isn’t healing Jane after all. Its powers are actually keeping her from – as the movie says – „fighting the cancer“. We never learn why. Mjölner was send to protect her and does the opposite, and Thor never even comments on that? Damn. That is such a glaring oversight I can’t believe they didn’t figure this out during later script drafts. Also, I hate this rhetoric. No cancer patient victim was „fighting“ the cancer. Unless a brutal therapy works and kills or drives back the cancer, it will eat you. You can’t „fight“ it. There’s no „fighting skill“ known to man that would stop a malignant growth. It’s like saying someone who died of bullet wound didn’t fight it hard enough. What the F are you talking about, Waititi? I think many people today are already more sensitized to why the „fight cancer“ rhetoric is harmful. It implies that when someone dies of cancer that they somehow „lost the battle“ and ultimately „didn’t fight hard enough“. That’s a horrible implication and I’m stunned that writer & director Waititi apparently never shed a serious thought on this. Or if he did, it doesn’t show in the movie at fricking all.
The second point I mentioned, with regards to the movie not working in my experience: It doesn’t care for MCU worldbuilding. I’m not saying this as a gatekeeping „fan“. I enjoy irreverent MCU stuff. Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 would be my pick for best MCU movie. That one had a razor-sharp sense of drama and how to develop and play it, despite the sometimes crass humor. G2 wanted you to gasp as often as laugh. Several characters get articulated arcs, all bringing home one single thematic point: You are traumatically hurt and now have two options – shut yourself off from others to avoid more pain. Or open up about your hurt and maybe even find a new family. The movie heartily recommends the latter. „Love & Thunder“ has no such thematic throughline. It is too concerned with laying waste on the MCU’s worldbuilding with "LOLcow" artillery.
For example by addressing one of the questions I’ve long wanted answered by the MCU: If the Asgardians are real gods, and these Egyptian god-buffoons from Moon Knight are real gods, and that soul-sucking dragon chad from Shang-Chi is a real god(like) creature, then… are ALL pantheons mankind ever came up with for real? „Love & Thunder“ says: Of course. Because on their quest to gather an army to defeat Gorr, Thor travels to the city of the gods with Jane & KING Valkyrie. It turns out all kinds of deities from all pantheons are chilling out there around a huge arena, presided over by Zeus. That’s dad bod Russell Crowe, attempting to do what appears to be a Greek accent and failing miserably. He’s a complete caricature, like Ragnarok’s Grandmaster on speed. And ketamine. And coke. And then things get weirdly sexual. In order to teach Thor a lesson, I guess, Zeus rips off Thor’s clothes and chains him in the arena, naked… and with dozens of womenfolk in the audience ogling at his junk like it was the effing monolith from 2001.
I figure this is Waititi’s attempt to go: „Women were sexualized for 100 years of cinematic history, now it’s men’s turn.“ Good boy! Take your woke points. But… if we don’t want needless, crass sexualization of human beings, might as well include all genders. No? In any case, Thor goes on to murder Zeus in front of the council of gods and nobody except for 7-9 easily defeated golem guards lifts a finger. WHAT? I could barely take this place seriously after Zeus showed up, but now the worldbuilding is entirely broken. Everyone can just do whatever they want with no consequences. No one’s chasing after them. They murdered the president of gods… and that’s that. Eff off, Waititi. And after nekkid Thor, the thinly veiled sexual stuff keeps going…
Turns out Mjölner & Stormbreaker have love-stricken personalities. You see, Thor still loves Jane but he also misses his old companion Mjölner who is – for whatever reason – stopping Jane from „fighting cancer“. Thor’s jealous of Jane now that Mjölner belongs to her. Which doesn’t go unnoticed for Stormbreaker who doesn’t like the competition and starts to misbehave. Literally. It fights back against Thor’s commands because it is jealous that Thor still cares about his ex Mjölner. Waititi is like: „LOL, he LOVES his hammer. Such toxic but also dumb‘n‘sweet masculinity.“ Sigh. Later, we get scenes like Thor cuddling Stormbreaker and assuring it that he REALLY doesn’t care about Mjölner anymore. So… were these two weapons petty bitches in previous movies already and we just didn’t know it? I mean… wow. If that hits your humor nerve center, more power to you. I find it incredibly pointless and kinda gross. But hey, that’s what you get when you pair Mr. „I’ll destroy your mythos in a minute, baby“ Waititi and the MCU. His idea is that Thor and Jane and Gorr are playthings for 6-year olds. Small wonder he doesn’t have the care to balance them and flesh them out, like his auteur movie protagonists. It’s such a pity.
As for the late parts of the movie: There’s children involved in weird ways… ooph.
Things I liked about the film:
- Chris Hemsworth is a comedy god.
- Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt play extremely well off each other, but that was already apparent in Infinity War. In this movie took like 10 mins for that. That’s all we got from the „Asgardians of the Galaxy“. That could’ve been a whole movie, dammit!
- The goats. The sounds they make a hysterial, and Waititi uses them at EVERY DAMN opportunity. You will see & hear a lot of these two things who sound like this: