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Review: Thor: Love and Thunder

July 5, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder, the latest puzzle piece in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the fourth solo film for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and it very much plays in the same vein as its direct predecessor, Thor: Ragnarok.

Waititi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, builds upon the comedic levity that he brought to the franchise with Ragnarok, while also adding a jolt of emotion to it. It’s a balance that, when it works, allows Thor: Love and Thunder to leave its mark.

Waititi provides the film’s voiceover narration through his character Korg, a rock creature who offers both sweetness and comic relief, telling the story of the “space viking” Thor, who is on a healing journey going “from dad bod to god bod” when he gets called back into action to assist the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor’s loneliness and yearning for a family is a key theme of Thor: Love and Thunder, with the film serving as a culmination of the love story between Thor and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), his former Earth partner who returns to the franchise after a long absence. Jane’s reintroduction in the film comes with the revelation that she is battling stage four cancer. She seeks healing through the pieces of Thor’s old hammer Mjolnir, and wielding it also allows her to take on the powers of Mighty Thor.

A reunited Thor and Jane team up with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who now rules over a tourist trap port town on Earth dubbed New Asgard where the displaced Asgardians have settled, to take on a new threat in the form of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). Their mission includes paying a visit to the floating palace of Mighty Zeus (an amusing Russell Crowe), a vain god who is more preoccupied with planning his next orgy, providing one of the film’s main comic set-pieces.

Armed with an ancient weapon called the Necrosword and an army of shadow beasts, Gorr is on a mission to kill all gods, after being rejected by his own deity that he was diligently following (shown in the film’s dark, intriguing prologue). While the actor feels a bit underused in the film, and like he needed a couple more scenes to really leave his mark, Bale fully commits himself to the role with a surprisingly unsettling performance that elevates him into the upper tier of MCU villains.

The film is a shade under two hours (119 minutes, to be precise, including credits and stingers), and while the shorter runtime is refreshing, it also feels like a bit more time was needed to fully flesh out the story. The tone is uneven in places, and Waititi does struggle at times to nail the right balance. Not all of the jokes land, and some of the one-liners do feel forced and border on cringey. But, at its best, when Waititi does find that sweet spot between comedy, drama, and goofy 1980s-inspired space adventure, Thor: Love and Thunder works as one of the more purely enjoyable films in the MCU, while also having an emotional pull to it.

The relationship between Thor and Jane is the backbone of the film and the heart of it as well (encapsulated in an amusing and bittersweet montage set to ABBA’s “Our Last Summer” showing how their whirlwind romance evolved and changed over the years), and Portman reminds us how strong a presence she is in the role. There are moments here that are designed to get us a little misty eyed, which isn’t something I really expected, and for the most part Waititi is able to land the film’s more dramatic scenes.

As the 29th film in the MCU, Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. The visual effects are a bit rough in places and some of the backgrounds look more like screen savers (which is surprising given the film’s reported $200 million price tag), and it does have the obligatory callbacks and moments setting up future instalments to keep the franchise chugging along. But with enough eye-popping colours and Guns N’ Roses needle drops to keep us entertained, it largely works on its own terms as a fun, surprisingly heartfelt blockbuster that provides some closure for these characters.

Thor: Love and Thunder opens exclusively in theatres on July 8th.

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