Most MCU movies are usually critics-proof, which means people will flock to is regardless of its critical rating. Even more so when it’s by Hollywood’s filmmaker du jour Taika Waititi since the smash hit that was Thor Ragnarok. The third Thor movie revitalized the franchise with its zany and hugely entertaining cosmic adventure, largely thanks to the phenomenal performance of Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.
We’ve got another Oscar-winning thespian playing the villain this time around. In fact, the movie opens with. Gorr (Christian Bale) in a brief-but-effective origin story about how he ends up becoming the god butcher. The chameleonic actor once again looks unrecognizable under heavy prosthetics, delivering a committed performance in a touching, emotional scene that’s completely different from the rock-n-roll party vibe we’ve seen in the trailer.
The movie then switches to a bombastic battle scene with Thor and the team from Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m glad this scene is relatively short as somehow I’ve grown a bit tired of the Guardians’ schtick, and the farewell bit between Thor and Star-Lord just isn’t all that funny. Last time we saw the god of thunder in Avengers Endgame, he was an obese and depressive alcoholic, but here he’s managed to get back to his svelte and sinewy self during his retirement. Clearly his quest for inner peace involves way more iron-pumping than yoga nor pilates. Chris Hemsworth’s bicep is now bigger than Loki and Jane’s heads put together! In any case, he’s got his mojo back and ready to rock and roll, which is just as well as by this point Gorr has wreaked havoc across the cosmos and targets New Asgard next.
Since Thor left New Asgard to King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), the pastoral Norwegian town has become a bustling tourist destination with a bunch of cruise ships docking on its harbor. Of course its tranquility is short-lived as soon as Gorr arrives with a slew of gross-looking monsters. No matter though, as it’s been teased endlessly in those ubiquitous trailers, what we all want to see is Mighty Thor who’s become worthy enough to summon AND wield Mjölnir, Thor’s magical hammer. It’s definitely a highlight to see the petite Natalie Portman donning the Thor get-up and looking very mighty indeed with her muscular arms. I won’t spoil the reason why Jane Foster is granted Thor’s power, but let’s just say Taika does the character justice with this emotional arc.
In order to defeat Gorr, the gang–Thor, Mighty Thor, Valkyrie and everyone’s bestie Korg (also played by Taika) travel to the Omnipotent City, a floating citadel where the parliament of the gods resides, including Zeus. I have to admit the entire scene looks like a spoof of Tarsem’s Immortals, with Russell Crowe hamming it up with a ghastly Italian/Greek accent. It’s really too bad that Crowe’s induction to the MCU is so mind-numbingly goofy, though no fault of his own. While Jeff Goldblum’s cameo as Grandmaster in Ragnarok is hilarious, Crowe’s skit is mostly cringe-worthy.
I expected a wild and absurd ride from Taika, from shrieking chariot-pulling goats (which are apparently based on Norse mythology), poking fun at Jean-Claude Van Damme famous split, to Zeus snapping away Thor’s clothes leaving him in the buff, the filmmaker’s wacky brand of humor is on full display. It’s pretty disappointing though that plenty of the jokes don’t land well. Perhaps the novelty has worn off by now. I remember how hilarious the first time I saw the Odin and Thor parody play with famous cameos by Matt Damon and Sam Neill, now it’s just kind of meh. One zany, silly scene after another feels overly-indulgent, not inventive.
At one point the movie turns into a rom-com filled with a sentimental romantic montage, complete with Abba’s Our Last Summer. It’s a cute and wildly amusing bit that got me chuckling, but for the most part, the wacky scenarios make the movie wholly uneven considering there IS an affecting, even poignant storyline at the heart of it.
On the technical level, the action sequences pretty much look similar to other Marvel movies with $200+ budget. I feel like things just get more bloated with CGI… louder, noisier and generally excessive. The Russo Brothers seem to be able to restrain the CGI overload with Captain America The Winter Soldier (still my favorite MCU movie thus far), but that’s an anomaly in the genre. There is one marvelous black/white sequence with golden blood splatter that sets it apart from the rest, but doesn’t quite make up for the kitschy and garish look of the whole sequence with Zeus.
The soundtrack is one I’d readily give high marks for… the inner metalhead in me rejoices hearing hits from one of my fave band’s Guns N’ Roses. They used the best part of November Rain as a battle cry towards the end which is pretty epic.
As for the cast, well Hemsworth is still the main hero of his movie and he certainly looks the part, but despite some standout moments, he’s once again overshadowed by the supporting cast. The movie’s MVP is no doubt Christian Bale with his earnest performance that adds gravitas to the entire production. My favorite DCEU Batman is now one of my favorite MCU villains! Every time he’s on screen, the movie seems to have rise on a different level. There’s a saying how an actor ‘understands the assignment’… well Bale seems to think he’s got a different assignment than the rest, which he takes more seriously than the rest of the cast. He’s scary but mesmerizing and ultimately he gives the movie a sense of purpose and direction.
Portman is definitely the most memorable here than she’s ever been in a Thor movie. Her Mjölnir-wielding action are worth the hype, but her quieter moments are just as memorable. Though not quite the level of Captain America and Peggy Carter which is the most enduringly-romantic romance of the MCU, Taika and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson did their best to elevate the Thor and Jane love story here with the way they treat Jane’s character.
I suppose it is refreshing that Thor Love and Thunder seems to have been engineered to be able to stand alone in the MCU, without much connection to the previous installments. I think someone going in without having seen the previous Thor movies or even Endgame would likely still enjoy it. It’s a better, more entertaining movie than the last MCU outing Doctor Strange and the Multitude of Madness, but not by much. That is disappointing as I had hoped it would be vastly superior.
Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER’?