THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER review by Mark Walters – the fourth film in the Marvel series is big dumb fun

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER review by Mark Walters – the fourth film in the Marvel series is big dumb fun

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THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is the fourth film the popular Marvel character’s series, following up after the events of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, where when we last saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) flying off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, still out of shape from letting himself go when Thanos initially won in his battle with the humans. Here, we learn that after those events, Thor got back in shape and is now getting on the nerves of the Guardians. Little does he know there’s a new threat looming in the form of Gorr (Christian Bale), an otherworldly being who loses his only daughter and blames the god he serves, who he eventually meets and realizes was just using him. Upon being “gifted” the necrosword, a weapon capable of killing a god, Gorr now swears to kill all gods in every realm, and you know it’s not long before he heads to earth. Meanwhile, on earth, we’re reintroduced to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is apparently dying from cancer and looking for a miracle. Her desperation takes her to “New Asgard”, a diverse new home for those driven from old Asgard after the events of THOR: RAGNAROK. The King of New Asgard is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who is doing her best to rule with compassion and understanding of those clearly weaker than her. When Thor eventually finds himself back in New Asgard, he ends up facing off with Gorr, and is reunited with a new and very powerful version of Jane. Our heroes must band together to find a way to defeat Gorr, before he succeeds in killing ALL of the gods.

There is plenty of action and lots of laughs in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, keeping the audiences smiling and entertained, all while the story moves at a brisk pace. In fact, this is one of the shorter Marvel Studios productions clocking in at under two hours, which these days is pretty refreshing for a big blockbuster film. But for all the fun you’ll be having, you might feel like there’s something missing here, particularly with the awkward tonal shifts and somewhat cluttered story elements. It’s not a bad script, but it doesn’t feel as cohesive or as satisfying as say THOR: RAGNAROK or even the first THOR movie. It comes across like the movie is more concerned with keeping us amused than it is telling us a memorable story. There’s also a LOT of atmosphere and characters to look at and keep track of, with some scenes (like the Zeus sequences) that are so packed with background characters and visuals, they feel similar to the cluttered special effects scenes in the STAR WARS prequels where George Lucas was just throwing everything he could onto the screen. And then there’s the rather glaring fact that anyone watching this movie who has NOT seen most of the Marvel films leading up to it will likely be lost. Even the clever “retelling” of events used early in this new film doesn’t quite seem to cover all of the necessary ground required to follow the many plot elements of this current story. In short, if you haven’t seen the other THOR movies and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME (at minimum), you might be pretty confused here.

Hemsworth is once again great and charming in the leading role, and Taika Waititi matches his magic from THOR: RAGNAROK of making this character really entertaining and a likable hero. It’s cool seeing Natalie Portman back as Jane Foster, and they did a good job of bringing many of the elements of her “Mighty Thor” persona over from the comics, and making it more of a necessary burden than a passing of the torch so many haters expected and were unnecessarily outraged by… if they actually read comics, they would understand Jane was never “replacing” Thor, more taking on his abilities in a temporary way due to a health scare. But sadly the endearing and somewhat goofy lovestruck Jane from the first two Thor movies is now gone, and here she’s playing it more as an ex-girlfriend who has moved on, and isn’t terribly interested in rekindling the relationship that was so strong in those first two movies. Tessa Thompson is back as Valkyrie, and I liked seeing how she was now having to adjust to her new life as the King of New Asgard. Thompson is a welcome face here, but it feels like there could be more for her to do. Taika also returns in a bigger role as Korg, and uses that character smartly to help recap everything that led us to this point. And we also get some brief moments with the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, and Sean Gunn, plus the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. I couldn’t help but feel like we’re missing some good story opportunities there seeing Thor travel the cosmos with this group, but it won’t be long before the next Guardians film, so we may have seen just enough of them here to hold us over. Joining the chaos in this outing is Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe as Zeus. Bale is incredibly good as the villain with understandable anger, but always feels too serious for this film, especially when we go from moments of hearty laughter into solemn rage with Gorr, and it definitely feels like a jumpy tonal shift. Crowe on the other hand is playing Zeus as a clownish buffoon, with a thick accent, and it’s kind of wonderful seeing how much fun he has with it. I was also very happy to see them bring back Jaimie Alexander as Sif, who in the comics becomes a bit of a romantic interest with Thor, something I hope we’ll eventually see down the line in the films. Jaimie plays the role so well, and it’s terrific they made sure to showcase her in some key scenes here. I almost wonder if the film would have benefit from having ALL of the characters play it light and silly, and just keep the tone of the film amusing and consistent.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is a big dumb movie loaded with laughs and fun moments, but in the end feels a little hollow and disposable… it reminded me a lot of how I felt about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2, which I found very funny and entertaining, but as a movie rather disjointed and forgettable. It’s always fun seeing Hemsworth return to this role, and this newest outing does give him a much-needed return to form after the depressed variation he played in AVENGERS: ENDGAME, but there’s a certain charm and confidence missing here that will likely keep it from aging well. Director Taika Waititi’s biggest strength is making characters pop and finding chemistry between them, and all of that is on display here, but the story they’re walking through just never seems to catch fire. I enjoyed the ride, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to others, even those who like Marvel movies. It’s serviceable as a character piece, but it’s far from being a standout example of the God of Thunder’s series of films. Stick around during the credits for not one but two stinger scenes, including the introduction of another popular Marvel character we’ll likely be seeing more of soon.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER opens in theaters on July 8, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.