Pushes the limits of the MCU with its gonzo vibe, visual spectacle, and strong performances all-around.

Thor: Love and Thunder is the sequel to 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the fourth standalone entry in the Thor series. Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) attempts to find his place in the universe after giving up the throne and losing his family and numerous close Asgardian friends in previous films.

When Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) starts killing off all gods big and small in the universe using the Necrosword, a legendary god-killing weapon, Thor teams up with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – aka the Mighty Thor – to stop Gorr and his murderous quest of revenge. Did I mention he had to leave the Guardians of the Galaxy to have another classic Thor adventure?

With Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) returning as director and writer (with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) the comedy, silliness and fun we got in Thor: Ragnarok has returned in spades as Waititi pushes the limits of absurdity in the MCU. While his style might not be for everybody, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After giving up the throne in Avengers:  Endgame, Thor Odinson has been on a quest of self discovery as he adventures with The Guardians of the Galaxy and helping those in need across the galaxy. After receiving a distress call from his old friend Sif (Jaimie Alexander) he leaves the Guardians to rescue her. Upon finding her, mostly intact, she informs him about the threat of Gorr the God Butcher and the very real power of the Necrosword.

When Thor returns to New Asgard (relocated to Earth) to defend it from Gorr he discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster, now wields his ex-weapon, Mjolnir, and becomes the Mighty Thor when she holds the fractured hammer. Despite their best efforts to defend New Asgard, Gorr manages to kidnap the children of the Asgardians and escapes.

Now it’s up to Thor, Valkyrie, Korg and Jane to track down Gorr, rescue the children and stop Gorr from killing more gods and achieving his ultimate wish – literally. It’s a simple mission that is complicated further by the fact that Thor still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend… and his ex-Mjolnir. Who said relationships were easy?

Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor has changed throughout the years from one of seriousness to one of comedy – and I think the change really works for the better. In Love and Thunder, his character is taken to sillier level than in Thor: Ragnarok and while it’s probably reached the limit of what Marvel can get away with and still be a relatively serious movie that fits in with the rest of the MCU, he still delivers a great performance that compliments the vibe of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re looking for something brooding and serious like The Batman, you’ll be very disappointed.

Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster but this time around, she’s also the Mighty Thor. While she’s never going to be able to bulk up like Hemsworth’s godlike physique, she has nonetheless hit the gym and gotten quite ripped for the role. In addition to kicking plenty of ass she’s also jumped on the comedy train and is a much more fun character than in previous films. Portman easily delivers the comedic and action goods required of her Mighty Thor persona but is also allowed some moments to remind us that she’s still a serious, dramatic actor when she reverts to her human form where her Jane persona is dying of cancer. Bring some tissues peeps.

Amongst all the comedy and silliness of Thor: Love and Thunder, Christian Bale stands out amongst his costars for the exact opposite reason – his serious and chilling portrayal as Gorr the God Butcher. The polarization of tone with his character and the rest of the cast somehow works and really makes his performance stand out as one of the best MCU villains to date. He’s not some two-dimensional character who wants to rule the world or expand his riches; he’s a character driven by revenge after the loss of his daughter and disappointed by the gods he’s devoted his life to. His drive for the destruction of those who betrayed him is understandable and Bale is absoutely amazing bringing this tortured and cursed character to life.

Director Taika Waititi has delivered an absurdly funny yet very entertaining film that shows comic book movies don’t have to take themselves too seriously. While he’s probably pushed the gonzo style to the limit of what’s acceptable for an MCU film, he’s nonetheless shown us that not all comic book movies need to be like the DCU. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the darker take on the comic book genres as I also love The Batman and The Man of Steel. However, Waitiki’s completely opposite take on tone still results in a great cinematic experience which I really enjoyed.

What Waititi does really well in many of his films is to take serious themes/topics and make them funny. If you don’t know his work then take a look at Jojo Rabbit or Hunt for the Wilderpeople and you’ll see what I mean. While it would be easy to dismiss Thor: Love and Thunder as a silly comic book blockbuster, it nonetheless explores the issues of love and loss. Both Thor and Gorr have lost loved ones to events outside their control and have chosen different paths to deal with that loss.

With Jane dying of cancer, Thor has the added emotional stress of losing someone he’s in love with while choosing to do the right thing could mean losing her in the process. These dark and depressing themes are handled with the comedic flair you’d expect from a director who made Hitler funny – trust me, watch Jojo Rabbit.

Thor: Love and Thunder pushes the limits of the MCU with its comedy and a gonzo vibe that might be too much for some, but I liked it. Yes, it’s super silly and doesn’t really fit in with the vibe of most of the Marvel films, with the exception of the Guardians of the Galaxy.. But with strong performances from all its cast, bright visual spectacles (including a “nude” Hemsworth), and a rocking metal soundtrack comprised mostly of Guns ‘n Roses Thor: Love and Thunder is an entertaining ride that reminds us that movies can still be fun.

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Release Date: July 8, 2022
  • Distributor: Disney

Originally published on July 16, 2022 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/thor-love-and-thunder-2022/