REVIEW: “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022)

When examining the individual character-centered movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Thor films have been the most uneven. Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 “Thor” was a nice mix of superhero action and ‘fish out of water’ humor. Alan Taylor’s 2013 “Thor: The Dark World” had its moments, but as a whole was a little dry and derivative. And then you have Taika Waititi’s 2017 “Thor: Ragnarok”, a decent standalone comedy but a mediocre MCU movie with an out-of-whack tone and characters who often clashed with their previous MCU portrayals.

But audiences loved “Ragnarok” to the tune of over $850 million. That, along with lead actor Chris Hemsworth’s love for playing the character, made a fourth film inevitable. Enter “Thor: Love and Thunder”, a movie that mostly follows in the tracks of its immediate predecessor. That’s largely because of the returning Waititi who this time not only directs but writes the script along with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

“Love and Thunder” tries a little of everything and it results in a pretty disappointing mess. Of course Waititi’s lean towards humor is impossible to miss and leads to some of the same issues I had with “Ragnarok”. The problem here is that Waititi doesn’t seem to have a valve, and he goes so heavy into making this a comedy that it almost feels like a spoof of a Marvel film rather than a significant entry into the MCU. And much like the movie before it, “Love and Thunder” once again makes its main character a walking punchline rather than a character you can take seriously.

Casual fans with no real affinity for the comics (or for a cohesive flow of the overall universe) will probably enjoy “Love and Thunder”. It once again gives us ‘buffoon Thor’ and goes out of its way to squeeze a joke out of nearly every scene. Not only does it lead to instances were the comedy seems annoyingly forced, but it also smothers some of the more dramatic scenes. Worst of all, Waititi puts so much time into making jokes that he shortchanges other characters and their stories. There are numerous holes that could have easily been filled if Waititi would have simply dialed it back and given more thought to his overall story rather than making his audience giggle at every other line of dialogue.

In between the movie’s screaming goat gags and lazy Guns N’ Roses needle-drops is the tragic (and woefully under-served) story of Gorr (a terrific but wasted Christian Bale). The movie opens with his young daughter dying in his arms. After his prayers to save his little girl go unanswered, a humble Gorr approaches his god pleading for answers but only receives ridicule and mockery. He’s then (somehow) chosen by a weapon called the Necrosword which imbues its wielder with the ability to slay gods (don’t expect much of an explanation for the Necrosword. It’s one of several things the movie throws in but doesn’t bother with any details).

From their Gorr takes one of several extended leaves. The story shifts to Thor (Hemsworth) who is still out cruising around space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. After a silly (and visually shaky) “action” sequence on an embattled planet, the Guardians are quickly sent packing (more for story convenience than for any meaningful reason) and halfwit Thor is off to answer a distress call from Sif (Jaimie Alexander). She warns him of Gorr and his plan to eradicate all gods. Gorr’s first target – New Asgard.

If you remember, New Asgard is a village in Norway under the rule of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). As leader, Valkyrie has turned New Asgard into a popular cruise ship tourist destination where visitors can enjoy rides and corny stage reenactments of Thor’s adventures. They can even see the fragments of Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjollnir prominently displayed in a glass case.

This is also where we get reintroduced to Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (a returning Natalie Portman). Speaking of a character who gets the short end of the stick, Jane hasn’t played a significant part in the MCU since 2013’s “The Dark World”. She’s brought back to play a major role, but because of her long absence Waititi has a lot to catch us up on. We learn Jane has stage 4 cancer and hasn’t much time to live. For reasons barely explained, Jane feels Mjollnir calling her to New Asgard (it has something to do with an accidental enchantment years earlier. Again, it’s an explanation given out of convenience more so than good storytelling). When Jane arrives, Mjollnir magically reforges and Jane is transformed into Mighty Thor. Just like that.

After Gorr attacks New Asgard and makes off with the village’s children, Thor and Jane are reunited. And with Valkyrie tagging along as the perpetual third wheel, the trio sets off to stop the God Butcher and bring the kidnapped Asgardian kiddos back home. But to do so will require a visit to Zeus (a campy Russell Crowe) to warn him and the other gods and recruit an army. More goofiness follows, we get more iffy special effects, more time is spent away from the truly compelling elements of the story, and we’re given more reasons to grow frustrated with Waititi’s antics.

So Jane’s story is rushed and there’s hardly any spark between her and Thor. Valkyrie (a character in desperate need of some kind of meaningful arc) is too often left on the story’s fringes. Korg (voiced by Waititi) tags along for comic relief (as if the movie needed comic “relief”). And Gorr is left sitting on the sidelines while Waititi yucks it up to the point of overkill. And that’s notable for a movie with a father grieving the death of a child and stage four cancer as key story points. But “Love and Thunder” isn’t too concerned with all of that weighty stuff. And who cares if it’s a tonal disaster as long as you wedge a gag into nearly every scene. That seems to be the blueprint of the MCU’s latest underwhelming installment. “Thor: Love and Thunder” is out now in theaters.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

18 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022)

  1. Keith, I share your view and said as much on my site. Ragnarok was a one-off, and it’s uniqueness relative to other Marvel films (i.e. off-the-rails humor throughout) was never going to be duplicated, let alone topped. It’s a mess. Marvel is at a crossroads right now in terms of solid storylines, as well as giving fans some sort of connections between all the new and existing characters that have come pouring out of Phase Four.

    • For me, this movie was all about being as goofy as it could be. To be honest, Gorr’s story felt like it was pulled from an entirely different film. And I’ve had enough of ‘Thor the moron’. Unfortunately he only seems to get stupider with every film.

  2. Good review and summary of the problems. I thought Waititi walked the line in Ragnorak, but didn’t quite cross over to be too clownish. Looks like he clearly did here. My impression from the reviews is the people who like this current Thor don’t have any attachment to the character or the series, so this movie is just a string of jokes by characters they don’t have any emotional investment in. I’m more in your camp, probably just catch it some year on DVD. I have also developed quite a bit of super hero fatigue, so would have be something great to get me into the theater.

    • I think your impression is spot on. If someone is just wanting an endless string of gags (MANY of which are too dumb to be funny) and have no vested interest in or admiration for the Thor character, then this is probably for them. To me, this movie represents a big reason why I’m losing interest in the MCU at an astonishing rate.

  3. I’m sorry you didn’t like this. I am aware that it is flawed and the script was messy but I had a lot of fun watching this. I loved that it did at least go into the subject of idol worshiping as Gorr had justifiable reasons to kill gods and Thor realizing that Gorr had a point. I was also laughing throughout the film with Russell Crowe completely destroying me with his performance. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. That accent he has is horrendous but it worked and the way he walked in that little skirt of his. I was in fucking tears over that. I know people are worried of where Marvel is going but having just watched the season finale of Ms. Marvel (BEST MCU SHOW EVER!!!!!). I am on board with whatever they’re doing as there has to be a game plan on what they’re going to explore.

    • For me, this movie was everything I feared it would be. I swear, if I didn’t know better I would think they were trying to wipe out the Thor character. He gets stupider with every movie. Gone is the Thor from Infinity War who appeared on the battlefield with a warrior’s yell, “BRING ME THANOS”. Now we get dopey moments like early in Love and Thunder to “Welcome to the Jungle”. It was a “big” Thor moment that felt disingenuous and fabricated – as if Waititi was doing it out of obligation. I get that works for some, but as a fan of the character, I’ve had my fill of dimwit Thor.

      Gorr is an even bigger travesty and shows how Waititi’s comedy focus can ruin a terrific villain. Both Gorr and his story were frustratingly undercooked. It was like Waititi was fine with just skimming over the top of his story and capturing the high points. It’s such a shame especially considering how good Bale is. For me, he was the best thing about the movie. Too bad he spent so much time off screen.

  4. This was a weird viewing experience for me. Some of the humor made me laugh, I couldn’t get enough of the screaming goats, but it diluted the more serious moments. Janes’s cancer storyline suffered here, and turning her into the Mighty Thor didn’t make narrative sense. But Christian Bale made for a creepy villain even though the movie was a tonal mess. The MCU seems lost after Avengers Endgame, and they hopefully will get back on track soon. I”m curious to see how Taika Waititi approaches the next Star Wars movie, as he’s slated to write and direct.

    • Oh I’m with you on Jane’s story. Her cancer storyline felt more like a plot device needed to advance the story. It had nothing meaningful to say about it nor did it use it to give her character depth. Same with the Mighty Thor thing. The explanation was so paper-thin. Again, it’s as of Waititi has no interest in any of that. Just find a way to squeeze in another joke. I do agree on Bale, but that too was a frustration. They had something REALLY good with him but left him off the screen way too much.

  5. I keep reading the same things you say about this movie. I’ll pick it up on video but it definitely doesn’t seem like a trip to the theater. The humor almost seems like Meet the Fockers. It was funny for about half an hour, then after that it was piled on so much you just felt bad for the guy, and felt bad in general, which made it not funny anymore.

    • It lost me pretty early on. That’s when I realized how over-the-top it was going to be. But even if I didn’t hate this dimwitted Thor they’ve created, the movie itself is such an unbalanced mess. I’m really thinking I was overly generous with two stars.

      • Didn’t they dumb him down in the last Avenger movie too, where he was fat and just sitting around watching tv? It happened somewhere, I’m not completely sure of which movie it was.

      • Waititi really started it in 2017’s “Ragnarok”. He was fine in “Infinity War” but the definitely goofed him up more in “Endgame”. Here they’ve just fished him completely over the edge.

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