Though the Asgardian deity has appeared in other Avengers movies in the interim,Thor: Love and Thunder is the first outing for Chris Hemsworth’s caped godhead since the last standalone Thor movie, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Time has moved on and we’re now in a different phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one determined to bolt a “meta” onto the usual stew of tall tales, quips, dressing up, special effects and heroics.
Some things have changed, but some remain the same. In textbook Thor fashion, we first meet the villain. Christian Bale plays Gorr, a grieving father driven into a frenzy when he discovers that Rapu, his liege lord/godhead, doesn’t give a stuff about his dead daughter, or Gorr, or any of the lower life forms. And so Gorr kills him with the Necrosword, a “dark sword of vengeance” which happens to be lying about, and sets off on a quest to rid the universe of all the gods.
In the trusty way of the Thor franchise, Gorr can now be forgotten until the all-action finale, while director/co-writer Taika Waititi spins the other familiar elements together, using humour and a soundtrack heavy with Guns N’ Roses as glue, all the while doing his best to undercut the “meta” angle ordained from above.
The result is a film that holds the attention but doesn’t doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression, a series of standalone sketches that don’t quite add up to a movie.
What’s the plot? Good question. The IMDb says it’s about stopping Gorr, who is killing all the known gods with his Necrosword. This is fair enough, since it is where the film ends up. But in between here and there is a big subplot concerning Jane, who has stage four cancer, and her appropriation of Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, the seizing of which turns her into the Mighty Thor – a bit of “meta” – a blonde in a cape with Thor-like powers. Another subplot features the kidnapping of the children of New Asgard, a kind of theme park where tourists are entertained in am-dram recreations of the adventures of Thor – more “meta”. Luke Hemsworth and Matt Damon turn up here, for scant seconds (you may also spot Sam Neill and Melissa McCarthy. I didn’t).
And another turns on the revelation that Asgard wasn’t the only realm of godhead, just the Nordically styled one. It turns out there is also an even more elevated domain of celestial beings called Omnipotence City, where none other than Zeus himself reigns.
Waititi leans into the comedy whenever he can, with the funniest sequence Russell Crowe’s turn as Zeus, a preening ninny of a supreme deity. His accent is meant to be Greek, in case you’re wondering.
There is also a running gag concerning the tetchy relationship between inanimate objects Mjolnir and Stormbreaker, Thor’s replacement weapon. Stormbreaker bridles every time Mjolnir is in the vicinity. He/she/it knows that Mjolnir is Thor’s true love when it comes to weaponry and behaves like the rebound girlfriend. Girls and hammers being easily confused in moments of dire need.
It is funny. Thor has always been funny, since Kenneth Branagh directed the first one and had the Asgardian god falling foul of everyday 21st-century life. Waititi does for Marvel what What We Do in the Shadows (which he co-wrote) did for vampires. Whether it is too funny for its own good probably depends on how seriously you take the whole MCU in the first place.
With two thirds of this messing about out of the way, and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Waititi himself) woven into the mix, there’s a sudden change of gears for the last third of the film, Barry Idoine’s cinematography suddenly shifting to the monochrome for the all-out, sword-and-sorcery finale between Thor, Mighty Thor and Gorr.
As with the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby original comics, Thor’s status as a god is regularly called into question – if a god, why so vulnerable? – and also as in the original comics, the writers have no qualms about introducing some new power that Thor has had hidden under his cape all along, to get the writers out of the tight spot they themselves have got Thor into. Cheating, it’s called.
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