Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | July 7th, 2022
Thor: Love and Thunder (Taika Waititi, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.
Director Taiki Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) may be entirely far too much in love with his own jokes, but he can still put together an enjoyable romp through superhero-land. Thor: Love and Thunder (Waititi’s second Thor film after the 2017 Thor: Ragnarok) proves alternatingly lively and tedious, with the former eventually winning out over the latter, thanks to excellent performances from the supporting cast and off-the-wall world-building. Add more than a touch of moving pathos at the end and the film delivers enough cinematic goods to justify its place in the Marvel pantheon. Still, somebody needs to edit Waititi, for his own sake and ours.
Waititi not only co-writes (with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great) and directs, but also stars, as before, in the role of Korg, a Kronan stone creature and sidekick to Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Extraction). Following a dramatic opening prologue, in which we meet a new character, Gorr (Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari), who thereafter becomes the film’s principal antagonist, it is Waititi’s voice we hear, narrating us through an ironic take on Thor’s journey up to the present. Potent god and warrior though he may be, Thor is lonely, for he has no one to love. When we meet him here, he is still with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team he left with at the end of Avengers: Endgame. But not for long, for something is afoot in the universe that requires his immediate attention.
That would be Gorr, transformed in that first sequence into “The God Butcher,” possessed of the ancient Necrosword that allows him to kill any and all gods, which he wants to do given the arrogance and casual cruelty they display towards mere mortals. It was such callous indifference that led to the death of his young daughter. He may now be at odds with our protagonists, but we understand his motivations and perhaps sympathize with them, making him the best kind of villain. Bale is up to the task, and then some, of rendering this tormented soul in fully three dimensions.
Meanwhile, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, Lucy in the Sky) is back, but she has Stage IV cancer and may soon die. Though a scientist, she is not above following mystical leads, and when Thor’s old hammer, Mjolnir, lying in pieces up in New Asgard, calls to her, off she goes. Its power transforms her into Mighty Thor, temporarily strengthening her against the disease within. Unfortunately, the symbiotic relationship ultimately weakens her defenses, so while she may be mighty now, she may perish more quickly because of it.
For now, however, she proves a needed ally as Thor tracks down Gorr, the two of them joined by Korg and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, Passing), now “King Valkyrie.” The reunion of the ex-lovers is anything but smooth, though they (mostly) put aside rancor in their quest to stop Gorr from killing the gods. Whether or not they can ignore their old feelings, now resurfacing, is another question (one of the reasons for the movie’s title).
Their journey takes them to Omnipotence City, an ostensibly impregnable fortress where the gods of the universe gather, with Zeus (Russell Crowe, Unhinged) as their leader. Sadly, these potential allies (who should be terrified of Gorr, yet are not) just want to party, and Thor’s efforts to enlist their aid only leads to conflict, the results of which are both hilarious (thanks to Crowe, whose accent is something indescribable, a mix of Greek, Slavic, and more, with behavior even more outlandish) and tragic. And yet if Gorr makes it to Eternity, he can wipe out the gods with a mere wish. There’s nothing to do but pursue him with the ragtag team of four.
The adventure is well-structured and the special effects beautiful. The central conflict is strong and the interactions between characters engaging. And yet Waititi almost ruins the fun with too many bits that drag on, primarily the gag about how Thor’s Stormbreaker axe is jealous of Mjolnir. It’s not funny, ever, and yet it goes on and on (don’t get me started about the giant screaming goats). Other attempts at humor work much better, such as a montage about Valkyrie’s administrative duties, but anything forced falls flat. Nevertheless, good and poignant times are had, and through the occasional ennui, we definitely appreciate the thunder and love.