After reinvigorating the MCU‘s God of Thunder in Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi reinvents the hero for a new era in Phase 4. Thor: Love and Thunder sends the Odinson on a bright, stupendous adventure movie that stretches to the very edge of eternity itself, scored by beefy riffs and searing guitar solos. It’s easily the most rock ‘n roll Marvel movie to date.
Since losing Jane, defeating Thanos, and handing Asgard over to Valkyrie, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has become aimless: space-avenging with the Guardians of the Galaxy when timing suits. He needs a purpose beyond wielding godly powers and looking cool, and sadistic Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is here to give it to him.
Powerful beings from across the universe are getting murdered, and when Thor’s old pal Sif (Jaimie Alexander) barely survives, he decides to introduce Gorr to Stormbreaker. Harder than you’d think when your target can manipulate shadows and darkness, but Jane Foster’s Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) is around to add a helping hand, even if her Mjolnir inspires some jealousy.
Waititi approaches Thor: Love and Thunder with contrasting ideals. On one side is our protagonist, whose swagger is matched by vivacious colour, and on the other is Gorr, with ghost-white skin and black teeth, surrounded by misery. They aren’t so different, each trying to find meaning, equipped with sacred weapons that represent companionship.
That’s literal in Thor’s case, with Stormbreaker his one and only until Mjolnir reappears at the behest of a returned Jane Foster. She and the Odinson’s break-up wasn’t altogether amicable, but she turns to the shattered remnants of his hammer in desperate hope it might help with her terminal cancer.
Mjolnir heeds the call, transforming her into an honorary Asgardian. Jane and Thor’s reconciliation is the backbone of Love and Thunder, making it an unexpectedly well-rounded romance movie. Heartache and frustration are poorly hidden behind male bravado, anxiety, and feelings still unrequited.
Such poetic inclinations counteract Waititi’s subversive over-correction in Thor: Ragnarok. He gave Thor’s world more life and personality by slathering it in his wry, offbeat comedy, so much so that moments that begged to be taken more seriously were drowned in laughter.
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The jokes and silly dialogue were a tonic to the bland, aimless Thor movies prior, but the Asgardian prince risked becoming a laughing stock. Love and Thunder embraces more sensitivity, and like Thor himself, is all the better for it.
Gorr is the flipside, demonstrating what happens when you become callous and resentful. Symbiotically linked to the Necrosword – a mythical blade that can murder cosmic entities – Gorr goes on a rampage when the god that he worshipped ridicules him.
Plucked straight out of a horror movie, Gorr manifests terrifying spiders from darkness and moves through shadows. His plan, to kidnap the children of Asgard to lure out our hero, is tried-and-tested Saturday Matinee fare, some age-appropriate terror nestled within all the Marvel and Waititi bombast.
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Bale performs as such, sneering and bestial. He’s an answer to Thor’s brawn and arrogance, working off cold rage and tactics over glorious battle. His mission requires Stormbreaker to open a legendary gate nobody else has ever gone through, a wise way of bottle-necking some dense comics lore into easily digestible narrative by writers Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.
Thor: Love and Thunder just has a pleasing nature about it. Omnipotent City is a glorious metropolis full of gods overseen by Zeus, but they’re more concerned with orgies than stopping Gorr. What seems like another punchline at Thor’s expense becomes a thrilling sequence with Valkyrie, Mighty Thor, and Korg.
Screaming goats guide their flying longship around, their sound used just enough to not get irritating. Valkyrie finally gets some proper screentime, wrecking shop as the king of Asgard, backed by Guns N’ Roses needle-drops for full rock glory. When they face Gorr, it’s on a planet in full grey-scale ala Sin City. Hemsworth manages to avoid making a meal of talking to Stormbreaker like they’re in a rom-com when he’s caught making eyes at the restored Mjolnir.
Jane Foster makes ample use of the prized accessory, which now has the ability to split apart and throw chunks at enemies. Portman has a certain twinkle in her eye, getting to stand beside Hemsworth rather than be a tourist in his realm. Her journey with accepting the mantle comes parallel to the Asgardian young’uns, all demonstrating Thor’s inspiration.
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Love and Thunder continues laying groundwork for the next decade of the MCU. Not just in possible heroes – or young Avengers – but in the ascension of Earth’s mightiest to legends within the films themselves. Korg narrates flashbacks, explicitly talking of Thor and Jane and more as people with grand legacies. They’re overused a tad, but serve to keep us locked into the notion of these as extravagant fairy-tales to inspire and move us.
From Tony Stark to Peter Parker, Captain Marvel to Ms Marvel, and now Thor to the Mighty Thor and then again to the people of Asgard. Like any great rock band, knowing when to retire for the quiet life is better than staying on stage past your due.
Taika Waititi just gave Thor one hell of an encore, and his greatest hit all at once. A tough act to follow for the Marvel gods of tomorrow.
Thor: Love and Thunder review
Taika Waititi gives Thor another MCU highlight with a colourful, romantic adventure that has a killer soundtrack.