Thor: Love And Thunder (2022)

Saw Thor: Love and Thunder last night and, you know what – it was a pretty strange movie. Thoughts have I. Not sure how to talk about this without some spoilers, hopefully nothing major. This is going to read like I didn’t like the film, which isn’t true at all. I enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact. It’s just brought up a lot of stuff for me.

First of all, I have to be honest, Thor is probably my favourite superhero. That’s based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comics version Thor (alias Dr. Donald Blake, a disabled physician who walks with a cane that transforms him into Thor when he strikes it on the ground), not that of Walter Simonson or anybody else. As far as the movie version, I really like Chris Hemsworth and I like that Thor keeps on changing and evolving as a character.

That said, his behaviour in the first half hour here is so at odds with what we know Thor is capable of, it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. More dumb Thor jokes, in short. There’s a lot of that here. Hemsworth seems happy to play the Space Viking with no end in sight; Thor is the first MCU character to have four movies, and dare I say, it appears there will be more. I like his portrayal in the MCU very much overall, but I wish they’d cut back a bit on the funny. Bring on more Silver Age battles, bring on Crusher Creel!

Whether or not Taika Waititi returns as director for a third time in what would be a mind-boggling five movie series (!) will likely depend on how much money this film makes; his lighthearted style does gel well with the more wild material, but it would be nice to see someone new helming any future feature. Ideally, someone a bit more deft at navigating us betwixt nobleman and moron.

The MCU Thor is a fairly tragic character, all in all (as this film points out, everyone he loves dies), even though Hemsworth spends most of his time onscreen getting laughs. This is the crux of what makes Thor: Love and Thunder such an odd summer blockbuster: wildly varying tones, swinging for the rafters between comedy and drama, and not always successfully.

Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster, now suffering from stage four cancer and, with the help of Mjolnir, she assumes the powers of Thor. I never liked Portman in these movies and I didn’t particularly enjoy her performance here. She always comes off like she has somewhere else she’d rather be. Seeing her lying in a hospital bed looking very near death is an unusual look for a superhero though, and I have to give the film credit for not soft-pedalling her character’s situation.

Aside from cancer, Christian Bale is the movie’s Big Bad, a guy named Gorr The God Butcher who goes around killing gods with a magic sword, as you do, essentially for their perceived hypocrisy. Bale is fantastic in the role and elevates the proceedings considerably, scaring children in a cage at one point with gleeful aplomb. I’ve heard rumours of a much longer cut of the film; hopefully if this is true, there’s more footage of Gorr, maybe even of some God Butchering?

I should mention Russell Crowe as Zeus. He was pretty memorable, and funny. I thought I knew going in why his character was in the film but I was mistaken, and that doesn’t happen very often. It’s a neat feeling.

So, really mixed feelings on this movie, and on the MCU overall lately, to be frank. I always enjoy the films as I’m watching them (and this was no exception) but increasingly they don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny or repeat viewings. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of where the films are collectively headed, or what is driving events forward. There are internal logic flaws where once things were tight as a drum. I have high hopes for the future but the present feels kind of off to me.

Marvel’s Phase 4 has had a theme of inclusion: racial, gender based, and so forth; the furor and backlash against it has been gross and sad to see. There’s also a move to secure a future generation of superheroes. This has the effect of including younger viewers who imagine what It would be like if they had superpowers. Many seeds have been sown script-wise which should shortly bear creative fruit in the form of new characters like Ironheart, et al. I’ve got no problem with kids feeling included. It just makes sense when we’re talking about comic book movies after all. But…

At the finale of Love and Thunder, a group of children are blessed by Thor and literally fight back a large group of shadow monsters with blunt objects while he engages the villain. It feels like something important has been lost here. This must all be very satisfying if you are a ten year old, but it isn’t what I’m interested in.

Finally, this movie has four Guns’N’Roses songs in it and that’s about five too many. Why does that band continue to get a pass? Let’s hope we can get a decent Kraven The Hunter or Alpha Flight movie before Marvel loses any more steam.

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