The strongest Avenger (well, after the Hulk) and my second favourite superhero, Thor, is back. After a tumultuous life full of loss and regret, the God of Thunder led a semi-reclusive life travelling the universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy, sometimes charging in to help them fight their battles. But when Gorr the “God Butcher” is wreaking havoc across the realms killing every god and deity with the fearsome Necrosword, he leaves them to do his duty and save other gods from the same fate.
Thor: Love and Thunder is another very different direction for the MCU, almost a polar opposite to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While that was one of the darkest and most horror influenced movies in the entire franchise, the fourth Thor film is one of the most humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and a step away from Thor: Ragnarok. In retrospect of the death, destruction and heartbreak Thor has experienced over the years, he is now more emotionally sensitive on the outside, only vowing to get involved if he really needs to, keeping himself happy and busy with the guardians but at arm’s length.
But unbeknownst to Thor (at least until about 20 minutes in), old flame Jane Foster is coming back to his side to help him fight. Now going by the name “Mighty Thor”, she is wielding the Mjolnir – which somehow managed to rebuild itself for her – and she believes gives her good health since she has Stage 4 cancer. Together with Valkyrie and Korg they team up to defeat Gorr, acquiring Zeus’ impressive and showy but powerful thunderbolt after he and the other gods refuse to help.
As well as Thor: Love and Thunder being a journey for the foursome to the Shadow Realm where Gorr has kidnapped some Asgardian children and held them hostage, it’s also a journey of discovering your true purpose in life, reigniting old love flames and to fight for the greater good. Thor not only battles Gorr, who wants the Stormbreaker to open the gate to “Eternity” and complete his mission of killing all gods in one fell swoop, but he battles his inner turmoil of seeing Jane again after so long – oh, and the Mjolnir. When he discovers she has cancer he further struggles to come to terms with the fact that she is still going to pass away despite the powers she has gained.
One thing Marvel continues to do with Thor: Love and Thunder is expand the emotional range of its characters beyond what we originally know of them. Since Thor: The Dark World, we never really knew what happened between him and Jane and he barely spoke about it in subsequent films, his link and duty to the Avengers and Asgard consuming his life. Here we are retold their fairytale turned sad romance, which in turn drives his actions when battling Gorr after they reconnect. Meanwhile Jane is torn between her affections for Thor which haven’t gone away after an unhappy ending and still behaving normally or letting the cancer weigh her down, which humanises this supernatural story.
We also get more insight into Valkyrie and Korg, both of whom bond over her non-existent bisexual love life and his race of Kronan’s very strange same-gender mating ritual. Sadly, what we don’t see is much of Asgardian warrior Sif or the Guardians of the Galaxy, the latter of whom are only in the first major scene of the film before Thor parts ways with them. And there’s the time between Jane first going to find the Mjolnir in New Asgard and when we next see her as “Mighty Thor” missing. She fills us in with the overview but on screen it felt like a snap of the fingers and she’s suddenly strong and skilled enough to fight off baddies.
While Thor: Love and Thunder does provide plenty of laughs – from the absurdity of giant screaming goats to the hilarity of the ham acting in the retelling of Ragnarok in the open air theatre in New Asgard to cheeky pop and rock culture references, it’s almost like a spoof of superhero comedies straight from the over-the-top action and cheesy but punchy one-liners of the comic books. Thor’s try-hard humour is like that of a wannabe comedian who says things in the hope of getting laughs out of an audience in spite of their corniness and the awkwardness of his timing. But his like-ability as a person (well, God), his dashing good looks, ridiculously ripped muscles and long, dirty blond hair still make those flat jokes receive some chuckles.
On the other hand, it still doesn’t deter too far from the thunderous action Thor always brings wherever he goes and whenever he has on-screen adventures. His power to destroy armies (and buildings) with one big spin of his Stormbreaker or hold up wreckage with no effort continues to prove his tenacity as a former Avenger and his formidable power as a god not to be trifled with. Well, unless you’re a deranged god butcher possessed by the Necrosword.
Aside from the comedy, lightning action, thrills and even the odd light horror element, there’s heaps of heart in Love and Thunder. In addition to the love between Thor and Jane there are themes of friendship, death, afterlife and the severance and rebuilding of family relationships. As I mentioned, Jane’s cancer storyline added a touch of brutal reality to a world where immortal gods (unless they’re slain by Gorr) exist and the power of the Mjolnir can rejuvenate anyone even of ill health who is deemed worthy to use it but at the end of the day, cancer is still incurable and for some death is sadly still inevitable.
Some may be put off by the wackiness of Thor: Love and Thunder that often overshadows the other elements and makes it more super-silly than superhero, but it highlights director Taika Waititi’s idiosyncratic filmmaking style he is known for (as evident in Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows and JoJo Rabbit) but wasn’t quite present in Thor: Ragnarok. It’s as if now that the MCU is in Phase Four, more liberties can be taken for each film and TV series to be almost completely different, unique and crazier each time.
Thor: Love and Thunder boasts a star-studded cast that fill out even minor or cameo roles (there’s Mark Wahlberg, star Chris Hemsworth’s brother Luke, Sam Neill from Jurassic Park and Jurassic World Dominion, and Melissa McCarthy in her second superhero film after Thunder Force who all play Loki, Thor, Odin and Hela in the theatre), alongside other big names in supporting roles such as Christian Bale (Gorr) and Russell Crowe (Zeus). If there’s something you can count on Marvel doing it’s pulling in big names to pull in big audiences for all their films and shows. And Luke Hemsworth isn’t the only real-life family member of Chris’ with parts; his wife and all three children also appear. Where was third brother Liam though?
On top of being a funny, action-packed and even romantic Marvel movie that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and make fun of itself and light of things, Thor: Love and Thunder has a rocking soundtrack to accompany it. Featuring several songs by Guns N’ Roses, as well as Mary J Blige, ABBA, Clara and Dio, it’s certainly an eclectic and electric track list to reflect the film’s aesthetics and many of the characters’ personalities and outfits.
Love and Thunder might divide opinions because of its quite vast new vision but it seems Thor’s adventures and dramas are only going to continue. So expect more thunderous laughter-inducing comedy and lightning-fast action from everyone’s favourite Norse superhero as he no doubt returns in not only more Thor films but others like Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 3, season 2 of Loki both of which he is currently not said to appear in but surely there is scope and possibility of him doing so.
Rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️/⚡️ (4/5)