Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder is far removed from Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearian take on the comic book series in Thor (2011). The fourth Thor film in the MCU is even more wacky and bizarre than Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which was also directed by Waititi. Perhaps the difference is that this time, Waititi was also responsible for the story and co-wrote the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. The good news is, Thor: Love and Thunder features the same cast and characters we’ve come to know and love over the last decade. Throughout the three directorial changes of the Thor films and the many stylistic shifts of the other MCU films featuring Thor, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) have remained consistent in their performances, developing characters that can stand the test of time. The question is, can those characters withstand yet another attack on the universe by a new, menacing villain? In Love and Thunder, Thor’s strength is tested once again as he faces Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a dark and devilish figure who’s hellbent on destroying all gods. King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (voiced by Waititi) are there to help, but Thor is at a disadvantage because he can’t bring his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, into battle. This time, the legendary weapon has decided to lend its powers to a new warrior: Mighty Thor, aka, Dr. Jane Foster.
Love and Thunder is just over two hours long, but it feels a lot shorter. It’s fast, flashy, and fun, and the story moves right along at an engaging pace. The showy fight sequences are set to the cadence of delightfully witty banter as Thor, Jane, and the others exchange chuckle-worthy quips. The film contains a heaping handful of laugh-out-loud dialogue and situational jokes that are sure to please the fans. Compared to the plots of other Marvel movies, the story of Love and Thunder is pretty easy to follow, and there aren’t any complex webs of secrets and spies to keep up with. Stylistically, Love and Thunder is bright, colorful, and wacky, taking viewers to all kinds of unique places on Earth and across the universe. There’s more than enough to look at and listen to, from the bright and cheery streets of New Asgard to the sparkling and magnificent Bifrost. Waititi’s unique take on the world of Thor makes for all-around cinematic fun, and Love and Thunder is the kind of movie that’s best enjoyed on the big screen with a giant bucket of popcorn and a group of good friends. But at the same time, you have to wonder if it’s all too much.
Love and Thunder is undeniably fun, but it’s also a lot. Although the plot is fairly straightforward (even if you haven’t kept up with the MCU), the vibrant sets, flashy costumes, unrelenting jokes, multiple genre shifts, intense drama, and high-intensity action sequences are a lot to take in. Love and Thunder is like a disorganized thrift store run by a scatterbrained old lady who wants to talk your ear off. There are plenty of treasures to be found, but you have to wade through piles of wacky, useless knick-knacks before you get to the good stuff. In terms of style, the MCU has reached a tipping point with Love and Thunder. The movie has everything you could want in a summer popcorn flick, but at the same time, it’s overwhelming. Waititi’s over-the-top style makes Love and Thunder entertaining and engaging, but it’s so in-your-face that you can see the effort behind it. In some ways, Love and Thunder is trying too hard to be different from its predecessors.
And yet, as the 29th movie in the MCU, Love and Thunder also isn’t trying hard enough. Thor already has a solid fanbase — and as long as the movie is entertaining and doesn’t do anything stupid with the character arcs, it doesn’t need to try very hard to please the masses. The creative team behind Love and Thunder knows this — and there are parts of the movie where it shows. Some of the plot points are a little too convenient, as if Waititi and Robinson knew that they could get away with sloppy writing because Thor comes with a built-in fanbase that’s over a decade in the making. There are also moments where the cast delivers their lines in an almost flippant way, putting in little effort to make the corny humor work. After all, why try if the masses are going to love a Thor movie no matter what? Parts of Love and Thunder come across as satirical, as if it’s a Thor parody rather than an actual Thor movie.
Still, Love and Thunder is loads of fun. Bale makes an excellent addition to the cast, giving a Voldemort-esque performance that sets Gorr apart as one of the creepier villains in the MCU. There are also plenty of other familiar MCU faces to look out for in the beginning of the film. Love and Thunder is all-around cinematic fun, and it’s one of the most genuinely entertaining MCU films to date.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."