It's strange to say that Taika Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder is more ambitious than the already ambitious Thor: Ragnarok, but it's true. And that ambition both adds to and takes away from the bold, stylish, and silly experience audiences had with the previous Thor film. Of course, there are the beautiful visuals and fun surprises that one might expect from Waititi's second foray into the MCU, but Love and Thunder isn't a full-out comedy like Ragnarok. Instead, it's romance meets action meets comedy, which is a lot for any one movie to handle. Yet, even with its fits and starts, Love and Thunder succeeds at being one of the most effectively emotional MCU movies yet.
The basic premise of Love and Thunder is that Gorr (played by Christian Bale) has a vendetta against the gods. He starts off by killing them one by one, but of course that's a bit on the slow side for a supervillain, and we soon find that Gorr has a plan to wipe out all the gods at once. Therefore, Thor Odinson, Jane Foster (who is now also the mighty Thor), Korg, and Valkyrie must team up to stop him.
Because Thor: Love and Thunder is trying to accomplish so much all at once, it can seem unbalanced at times. For example, the movie fumbles its introductory scene, which lacks the development we need to get really invested in the villain upfront. But we finish the movie caring about him, which makes it all a bit more forgivable. And even when scenes changes feel jarring, the next scene pulls you right back in, not just through the visuals and humor but through the personal drama between the characters.
Much of this magnetism comes from the chemistry between Thor and his ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster. Natalie Portman's Jane now wields Mjolnir as the mighty Thor, and her character's heart and bravery is a perfect match to the comedic tone Chris Hemsworth has adopted as Thor. Though it's been years since they were last together, there's still a lot of magic between them, and their post-breakup awkwardness and search for a new connection is tender, moving, and funny— especially now that Thor's hammer has chosen Jane.
Speaking of Jane and Mjolnir, there is a moment in the film that 'explains' why Jane might have been able to pick up Mjolnir that felt unnecessary and even a bit cheap. This sort of unconfident storytelling comes up a couple times in the film, lessening the movie's impact through unnecessary storytelling, almost as if the movie didn't quite trust itself to achieve what it wanted to without taking those extra steps.
This comes through the most when the climax of the movie, which is meant to be emotional, is bogged down with a fight scene. Though most of the action in the movie is fun, Christian Bale's Gorr, though perfectly creepy at other times, is at his least frightening during his fight scenes. If any MCU movie could have gotten away without an action scene as its climax, it would have been this one, and yet, the movie wants to have its cake and eat it too. To break free of the MCU mold, but not too free.
There's a lot to enjoy in Thor: Love and Thunder. It's a creative movie full of fun and joy and heart. I was certainly wowed at certain moments and laughed at others (Russell Crowe, in particular, was very funny). Sure, moment to moment, the film can feel like it lacks coherence, but when you get to the ending, the journey is satisfying, and I found myself very moved.
Ragnarok recieved a lot of critique for being all style and no substance, and Love and Thunder definitely has both, getting to our hearts, not by relying on our previous love for the characters but by telling a new story that we learn to care about. In this way, it felt more mature than your average MCU film in its depiction of what it means to be vulnerable in love and how that relates to being a hero. There is definitely plenty of silliness and cool action in Thor: Love and Thunder, but what people will remember the most from this movie is the central romance, and that certainly sets this movie apart from the rest of the MCU.
Thor: Love and Thunders opens in most theaters Thursday, July 7.
Interested in reading Thor comics, but don't know where to start? Check out Popverse's guide to the 10best Thor comics of all time.