Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to fight Gorr the God Butcher, who intends to make the gods extinct. (from IMDB)
While I've always thought the Kenneth Branagh-directed first Thor movie was pretty good, and took itself seriously for the most part, it seems as though fans only consider the 2017 Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Ragnarok to largely be the best of the "God of Thunder"'s solo outings. Taika's Thor is a more contemporized version of the character, with Chris Hemsworth giving a more humorous and more human portrayal of the character. This updated version of Thor was celebrated by many, so it was no surprise that Taika would return to direct the next Thor entry, Thor: Love and Thunder. It was quickly made known that Jane Foster, who is played by Natalie Portman and was absent from Ragnarok completely, would be turning into Lady Thor in this one, causing quite a stir (good AND bad) among fans. However, after seeing Thor: Love and Thunder, I can say with confidence that how they handled Jane becoming a Thor was well done, and that (SPOILER ALERT) she is actually not positioned to replace Hemsworth's Thor.
What seems to be surprising most viewers about Thor: Love and Thunder, however, is how much Waititi has doubled-down (maybe even triple-downed?) on the comedic tone of the movie. It opens dimly with a very serious origin story for Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher, before the movie explodes into a cartoony, humor driven comedy. The problem is that a lot of it is genuinely funny, but I can't say it's the right fit for the character of Thor or the movie itself. It's as if Waititi just didn't know when it was appropriate to back down from the humor (and no one advised him otherwise). Nearly every single character in the movie has a comedic / sometimes goofy air about them (even Gorr gets some creepy-funny moments), and it makes the movie feel inauthentic at times, especially in how it connects to Marvel's already-established MCU. Thor was made into a kind of joke in Avengers: Endgame (although it was used also to represent his spiral into depression, but it could have been handled less as a joke if that was the case), so to keep him as this oblivious oaf does a disservice to the character. Thor was funny in Ragnarok, but I wouldn't say he was necessarily oafish. Here, he unwittingly destroys the very temple a helpless race of aliens is trying to protect from attackers, and he's oblivious to what he's done and its impact. Yes, it makes for a funny sequence, but it's also a lot of cringe, too. Waititi seems to have lost the fact that humor can naturally come out of an awkward situation without having to dumb down a character in the process.
With that said, Thor: Love and Thunder is definitely a really fun romp. While Marvel seems to be struggling to regain its footing in the post-Infinity Saga life of the film series, Thor: Love and Thunder is still enjoyable despite its flaws. It may not fit well, tonally, into the MCU, but it's quite entertaining on its own. And while having Jane become Thor, on the outside, looks like a social attempt at continuing to elevate strong women over men (and maybe there is some of that here in the dumbing down of Thor's character), the reasons for why and how Jane becomes Thor is pretty good, and I actually appreciated what they were going for. But they do present enough evidence to support the idea that Jane's Thor -- AKA "Mighty Thor" -- along with Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie warrior, Valkyrie (also, now King Valkyrie, mind you), is an attempt to continue to push strong women while turning strong men into a joke. (But I'm not here to get into that; just know I have no problem with strong women characters. For example, I love Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff, Gamora, Peggy/Captain Carter and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, to name a few.) Natalie Portman delivers a great performance as both Jane Foster and Mighty Thor, and I'm thankful she returned to the franchise for this entry. It's also great to have Waititi's performance as Korg return after he debuted in Ragnarok. But I think I'd be remiss if I didn't give the greatest credit to Christian Bale's Gorr and his fantastic performance. He's a sympathetic character who has his faith derailed when he meets the god his people worshipped only to find that the god doesn't care at all about his people. Gorr lost his daughter and all his people but never lost his faith, and when he finds that his god had no love or appreciation for Gorr's sacrifice or the loss of his kind, he makes it his mission to rid the universe of all gods when he comes into possession of the Necrosword - which can kill any god. The sword consumes Gorr, turning him into something truly evil that allows him to move by way of shadows, with creepy monsters that also travel by shadow. It definitely gives our heroes a worthy adversary to worry about, and Bale does not disappoint with his performance. (It also is an interesting commentary on religion and "gods," that is sure to be a conversation starter.) I do also want to say that the presence of the Guardians of the Galaxy here is kind of wasted and underused. Maybe there was more planned for them that inevitably got cut (like how leaked photos of a transformation sequence for Jane turning into Thor also isn't in the movie), but their presence is really here as a cameo to connect Thor joining them after Endgame with his next solo story. I honestly wouldn't have minded an entire movie of Thor with the Guardians, but at the very least, it would have been great to get a little more time with Thor being with them. There's just so much potential there.
Not surprisingly, love is a major theme in Thor: Love and Thunder. Not only is it what drives Gorr (the loss of his beloved daughter), but it's really what Thor realizes he's missing, just before finding Jane again. But with Disney and Marvel's frustrating mission to be as (offensively) "inclusive" as possible these days, they make sure not to leave anyone out of the picture, making reference to the death of Valkyrie's "girlfriend," and revealing Korg's species to basically be all gay males. In an exchange about love between Korg in Valkyrie, Korg describes how, in his rock-beast culture, two men get together and make a little rock baby. Later in the film, Korg reveals that he meets another man of his kind and falls in love. One could argue that it's just his alien species, but anyone aware of Disney's agenda these days (which they've even clearly admitted to -- seriously, just Google it) would know it's not that simple. I understand that the worldly viewpoint on these matters keeps morphing and changing (even if the Christian viewpoint does not), but it's especially frustrating when story and morality both get compromised in an effort expressly to be inclusive just for the sake of inclusivity. (It's getting to the point where it's actually distracting in movies and shows when diversity and inclusivity exists just to check a box -- not because it makes sense to the story. It should just be a natural thing as a benefit or characteristic of a story, not an obligation.)
The content for Thor: Love and Thunder continues to push the envelope a bit for the MCU. For starters, we get the first bit of nudity in the MCU with Thor's bare butt. It's not the most offensive thing they could do, certainly, but it definitely wasn't necessary and could have been avoided. Aside from the aforementioned references to alternative lifestyles, Zeus's character (played amusingly, but much too goofily, by Russell Crowe) makes several references to scheduling an orgy with other gods during his speech to an arena of gods. Violence is frequent, but seldom graphic, although some very bloody instances are sanitized by making the blood of gods look literally like gold. Early on, a character is stabbed in the throat, but golden liquid pours out. Later, a large action sequence breaks out involving people in the Omnipotence City, where all kinds of slashing and cutting happens, spilling a great deal of the shiny gold blood. It's obvious that Waititi knew it's not a traditional blood color, so he makes sure to be liberal with the amount of golden blood that sprays. Other scenes involving the shadow monsters show purplish or black blood being spilled, and we also see a familiar character after their arm had been cut off. There's a short scene where Gorr shows a group of children a slug-like creature, and then rips its head off, spilling purple blood, before tossing it aside. And an unexplained brief scene shows what looks like the bloody red heart of an animal or creature placed on top of Jane while she's sleeping (presumably as a sign of affection from Thor?). There are also flashbacks to several previous MCU movies, often with violence included, like Thanos breaking Loki's neck, for example. Overall, it's probably par for the course for Marvel, and not really one suitable for littler viewers. But I will say, it isn't nearly as gruesome as this spring's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Thor: Love and Thunder seems to be polarizing fans already. It may be too lighthearted and silly for its own good - even if it is genuinely funny at times in the process - making it an "either you love it or you hate it" entry in the MCU and Thor film series. Either way, if you do decide to watch Thor: Love and Thunder, stick around for a mid-credits bonus scene, and a heartwarming post-credits bonus scene.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/9/22)
With that said, along with the feature film, the iTunes digital copy of the latest Thor features includes the following extras:
Hammer-Worthy: Thor and the Mighty Thor (5:37) - Surprisingly, Thor: Love and Thunder is a little light on the behind-the-scenes featurettes, but what is included is pretty good. This one kicks this off with a spotlight on Natalie Portman's return as Jane Foster. She talks about her training and how she did more action training than ever before for this movie. They also talk about Chris Hemsworth taking the initiative to bulk up bigger than ever for his return as Thor. (We see a clip of his bare butt scene from the movie here.)
Shaping a Villain (6:11) is all about Christian Bale's casting and performance as Gorr the God Butcher. They talk about interpreting the comic version for the big screen, and Bale talks about the role and how his family really wanted him to do it. We also learn that Christian spent 4 hours in the makeup chair for them to transform him into Gorr each time!
Another Classic Taika Adventure (7:54) - The final featurette is dedicated to Taika Waititi returning as director for Thor: Love and Thunder. This segment starts off by covering Taika's journey through the Thor franchise, starting with Thor: Ragnarok and his experience directing it, before returning for Love and Thunder. Cast and crew talk about Taika's process and how Ragnarok was unexpected when audiences first saw it, and they tried to make Thor: Love and Thunder another unexpected film. At least that explains their intent for this one.
Gag Reel (2:46) - The gag reel is a lot of laughing and line mess ups. We get some bleeped out language sprinkled in - and one audible use of "h*ll."
Deleted Scenes (7:46) - There are four deleted scenes with a Play All option. "Looking for Zeus" (1:06) is a brief scene where Thor and friends meet Zeusís youngest son, who turns out to be kind of a jerk. "Wasting Time" (2:05) takes place at the beginning of the film when Thor is meditating and Star-Lord tries to get him to join the fight. Mantis and Thor make sounds and goof off (which is pretty cute, not gonna lie), and then Mantis, Star-Lord and Thor get on his ax, but it wonít fly. (1 "h*ll"). "A Safe Vacation" (1:23) takes place in what looks like battle trenches, where Star-Lord yells at Thor for misleading him that they were going to have a "safe vaction" on that planet. (We briefly see a humanoid alien holding his own intestines and guts in his hands briefly as he's carried off on a stretcher). Lastly, "Fighting for You" (3:04) takes place in the hospital when Thor tries to reassure Jane he's there for her. They then hear crunching and Thor pulls back a curtain to find Zeus there eating an ice cream cone (!?). Zeus then offers to show Thor how to use his Thunderbolt. This must have been filmed before they decided to make Zeus more of an adversary of Thor.
Finally, there's an option to Play Movie with Commentary by Taika Waititi (1:58:44)
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/9/22)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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