Let’s talk about Thor: Love and Thunder.
Ragnarok was a revelation. The previous two Thor movies were alright, Dark World is seen as the black sheep of the Marvel movie but it’s still a servicable movie, but with Marvel’s quality being upped during Phase 2 with Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor became a character many thought was not capable of a great movie. But then Ragnarok came along. It reinvented Thor, turning the series from dark Lord of the Rings fantasy into pulpy Flash Gordon sci-fi. Thor become a beloved character, if he wasn’t already, and everyone was excited to see what’s next. So we finally get his next movie following his huge emotional journey in the Infinity War movies.
Thor is still looking for something while going on adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy. When he discovers that there’s a being killing all of the Gods, he returns to New Asgard to discover that his old love Jane Foster has now gained the powers of the Mighty Thor and wields Mjolnir.
Firstly, I actually spelt Mjolnir right on the first attempt. I had to check I got it right, but that deserves some praise please? Also, if you liked Ragnarok, which as already established you probably do, you will be happy to know this is Ragnarok but more. Taika Watiti is back in the director’s seat for this and he’s been given full permission to double down on everything that made Ragnarok stand out. So the weird sort of comedy that Watiti first showed off in What We Do In The Shadows combined with the pulpy sci-fi action which treads the line between awesome and cheesy is not just back, it’s multiplied. There are lots of weird little jokes that you used to only see in indie films and the action is incredibly cool. The only new thing added is an extra brand of Australianness as some of the action scenes at the start were definitely ripped right from Mad Max. If you liked Ragnarok, you’ll probably like this a lot.
But maybe not. This film definitely does a lot of what you loved about Ragnarok and turns it up to eleven. But perhaps eleven is too much and it should be dialled back to a healthy eight. This film is very funny, the script’s jokes land and it’s definitely an enjoyable experience no matter what because of it. But it probably does too many jokes. The film needs to have a lot of emotional weight. While it disguises it with the jokes and the action, there’s some quite dark stuff in here. Cancer is a key part to the plot and it deals with depression even if it never says the word. But the film struggles to get down to these emotional points because every time it has a slower scene dedicated to these darker themes, it has to undercut it with several jokes. This has been a bit of a Marvel problem for a while but most of the time, it’s not that bad. Here, it is a persistent problem that may get laughs at the start but hurts the amount of emotional weight the film can hurl around at the end.
But while the film struggles to have much emotional depth because of the obsession of using a comedy bucket to bail the deep water out of the sea, it does at least look very cool. At the start we have the Mad Max inspired set piece which leads to the brilliant looking shadow shot you saw at the end of the trailer. The highlight is the black and white battle in the shadow realm which the villain Gorr resides in. This is just awesome. To see something this different in a Marvel film when they can end up very formulaic is just a delight. It looks like it could have been in a heavy metal video and I mean that in a completely positive way. I know there’s been some complaints about the quality of the CGI, which personally I didn’t see but I have the eyes of a mole so I wouldn’t quote me on that, but I really loved the way this film looks.
And I really like the villain Gorr. He’s played by Christian Bale, returning to comic book movies after that other one about a man who dresses like a bat, and he gives this film his all. Gorr does fall in that group of villains who are pretty understandable. His daughter died and when he appealed to his God for mercy, the God laughed in his face. So he killed him and pledged to kill them all as the world would be a lot better off. You probably won’t disagree with him after a brief meeting with a scenery chewing Russell Crowe as Zeus either. But Bale is the best part of the film and probably saves it from being pretty mediocre. He is truly sinister when he meets our heroes and despite the fact he looks pretty malnourished, he’s still terrifying and you can easily believe that he could kill Thor, if only because of his determination. He does go missing for quite a long bit of time, something I attribute to the amount of this film that’s on the cutting room floor, which is a shame as I wish he was a constant presence. Despite that, I absolutely love this villain and he’s easily one of my favourites to come out of Phase 4.
There’s a lot to like about Thor: Love and Thunder. It’s got some great action scenes, it is very funny with some hilarious moments and the villain is fantastic. But it is also very flawed. While it’s funny, it relies too much on its comedy and uses it to avoid having darker scenes, darker scenes it needs so the emotional weight of the scenes later in the film can hit with the force they were intended with. Hopefully, we’ll see a course correction after this to where the comedy is there but the emotional scenes can be that, emotional. What we are left with is a film that is enjoyable to watch and won’t be skipped in those Marvel binges people enjoy. But it probably won’t get remembered for very long afterwards.
P.S. If you don’t like Guns and Roses you won’t like this. This film has a lot of Guns and Roses in it.