‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is, at times, both mighty and ‘meh’

I’ve been pondering over Thor: Love and Thunder ever since I walked out of the theater on Saturday night, trying to decide what I wanted to say in my review. And honestly, I’ve been having a little trouble organizing my thoughts into a cohesive opinion. 

I feel like I’m in the minority, but I didn’t love 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. The humor didn’t always work for me, and too often, an unfortunately timed joke would suck all the emotion and nuance out of what should have been a more serious scene (at least in my opinion). Although I was happy for those that adored Ragnarok and I didn’t want to take that away from them, I hoped the follow-up, Love and Thunder, would find more of a middle ground. 

I will say that while Love and Thunder may not be a better movie than Ragnarok, technically speaking, I did enjoy watching it more. I wasn’t bored at the theater, and there were some parts that I really liked. That being said, this movie is still a mess, and I find myself feeling nostalgic, once again, for the original Thor movie.

First off, it was good to see Natalie Portman return as astrophysicist Jane Foster. I’ve always felt the MCU did Jane a little dirty, portraying her breakup with Thor offscreen and then pushing her out of the overall narrative. 

However, I’m happy to report that I loved pretty much everything about her in Love and Thunder. I’m glad the film was willing to tackle a more serious topic like Jane’s cancer diagnosis, and the movie has some genuinely moving emotional moments between Jane and Thor that aren’t ruined by jokes. This story gives Jane and Thor’s relationship the closure it deserves, respecting Jane as a character and finally allowing Thor to heal. Plus, Portman looks great in Jane’s new costume, and I loved seeing her fighting with Mjolnir in the action sequences. 

Christian Bale also was great as the villain, Gorr, and I love how the movie starts from his perspective on a rather dark note – which surprised me a little bit, given the goofy tone of the trailers for this film. Watching the heroes fight Gorr in the shadow dimension was another favorite moment of mine. The shadow creatures are absolutely terrifying, looking like they’ve just slipped out of the Upside Down on Stranger Things, and I loved, loved, loved that these scenes were shot in black and white, which emphasized that they were trapped in a realm without warmth or life (seeing the magical weapons add a little bit of color – i.e. hope – was also a nice touch). 

Even though it feels a bit harsh to say it, sometimes I felt like Portman and Bale were hostages that had been snatched out of a better movie; Bale’s dark and thought-provoking storyline doesn’t always mesh well with the silly, irreverent humor in the rest of the film. (But more on that later…)

These are some other miscellaneous things I enjoyed about the movie (and here’s where the spoilers come in):

  • It’s always good to see the Guardians of the Galaxy, even if it is just a cameo appearance. I did think the opening sequence of Thor single-handedly fighting off the owl-like aliens (and definitely doing some showboating in the process) while the Guardians stood around and rolled their eyes was pretty funny. I still kinda wish we’d gotten the full-length Thor and the Guardians team up that the end of Avengers: Endgame seemed to promise, but maybe someday.
  • I liked that Thor adopted Gorr’s daughter at the end of the movie, so neither of them would be alone. Thor has gone through so much loss and loneliness throughout his life, and I think he’ll be a good space Viking dad. 
  • I enjoyed seeing the kidnapped kids take on Thor’s powers and help him join the fight. I always like the theme that “anyone can be a hero.”
  • It was delightful to see Matt Damon again in a community theater performance as Loki. This is one of my favorite gags introduced in Taika Waititi’s Thor films, and I hope they keep using it in future movies. 
  • I’m excited to see characters from Greek mythology (and hopefully other mythological traditions) come into the MCU. 

As for the parts of the film that didn’t work for me, overall I felt this movie tried too hard to be funny, and some of the goofy moments undercut the drama, although not as badly as Ragnarok. A lighter touch with the humor would have made this movie a little less jarring tone-wise, especially when you’re tackling such heavy material as Jane’s cancer and Gorr’s character arc. 

  • I don’t like that Sif was once again underused, and her rather serious injury was played off as a joke. 
  • Maybe it was just me, but Valkyrie felt a little underused too? I wish she hadn’t been sidelined for the final battle, even though I know that they probably wanted to keep the focus on the Thor/Jane team-up against Gorr. 
  • The screaming goats were not funny when they first appeared…and they weren’t funny the bazillion times they screamed afterwards. That joke got really old, really fast.
  • And I’m sorry, but I still hate Korg. There is a moment in this movie where you think for a brief time that he has been killed by Zeus. I felt a moment of relief when this happened, followed by guilt that I was so bitter about a fictional character who’s just trying to make people laugh. Then you find out Korg has actually NOT died, he’s still alive but just a face made out of rocks, and somehow, he’s even worse in that format. I know Korg has lots of fans, but I personally feel he’s overstayed his welcome in the MCU. Maybe it’s time for Korg to retire and start a peaceful farm with those screaming goats, and I don’t have to see any of them again. 😉 
  • I wish Zeus had been portrayed as a little less ridiculous; the moment where he leans in close and speaks so only Thor can hear was pretty chilling. I wanted more of that. 

Phase 4 has certainly been an interesting experimental period for the MCU so far, and while not everything has worked, I love that they’re aiming for the stars and trying some crazy stuff. I feel like Shang-Chi, Spider-Man: No Way Home, WandaVision, Loki and Ms. Marvel have all been top-notch storytelling and rank among my MCU favorites. 

I do feel like phase 4 feels a little more unfocused than past phases, in terms of what this is all building towards (a multiverse war? Kang? The rise of Zeus and the Greek gods? Celestials? Or somehow all of the above?).

But in the end, I think it’s OK that not everything lands because to tell exciting stories, you have to take risks, and your plans don’t always work out. Maybe some of these growing pains are leading to something really wild and wonderful a few years down the road. 

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