Thor: Love and Thunder - Review
Thor is the only original Avenger to get a 4th solo movie, and has appeared in every Avengers movie to date. So what reason would there be to warrant a 4th solo outing (and an 8th adventure)? The answer it turns out, is love (and some thunder).
Taika Waititi returned to the MCU after the colorful tonal shift he made to the character in Thor: Ragnarok. A lot of the same vibes return here to Love and Thunder which begins with Thor trying find his place in the universe post Endgame, while physically finding himself with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The film is a brisk (by MCU standards) 1 hour and 59 minutes, and wastes no time in setting up the villain, and plot of the entire movie. After a bit of catch up from the various players in the story and some larger MCU housekeeping, the movie takes off at a comfortably fast pace, and Waititi always keeps things moving without leaving anyone behind.
The most interesting parts of the film are the deep emotional cores of the main players: Thor, Jane, Valkyrie, Gorr, and even to some extent, Korg. Unfortunately this never reaches its full potential. Every time the film teases us with rich emotional ideas, it then gets quickly undercut by a joke. A great joke, sure, but it still leaves something to be desired. Don't get it twisted - the humor here is some of the MCU's best. Waititi has his own style and brand, as showcased in Ragnarok, but he seemed to have found a better balance in that film than he did here. Every single joke, be it a sight gag or a one liner, was funny, and they do work in the movie, but the emotional aspect left something to be desired because of them.
Thor's legacy of loss, Jane's battle with mortality, Valkyrie's headspace as king vs warrior, Gorr's emotions of becoming a monster because of love and heartbreak, all offer so much rich potential to "hit everyone right in the feels". But instead, you just get a whiff of those dishes as they get whisked off to another table.
That being said, the emotional moments that do land, land hard. There is one moment in particular at the end, that explains the "Love and Thunder" title that works incredibly well. It is an earned moment, and the film does just enough emotional work to make that moment land as well as it does.
There are also some deep themes about Gods and theology that are really interesting, and can maybe be challenging to some, which is what a good piece of art should do, but the film never quite commits to going all in on this either, which isn't very surprising given the MCU's history. The little bit it does do though, makes Gorr's journey and mission relatable, and puts him up there with Killmonger as one of the best villains the MCU has ever had. It also doesn't hurt that Christian Bale plays the role, who is one of Earth's best living actors.
There are a lot of signature Marvel surprises and cameos in here, ones that were not put into the marketing, and were kept secret relatively well. None of them really felt superfluous either, they felt like an organic part of the story. In fact, the only ones you could maybe call superfluous are the Guardians. But that is one of the drawbacks of a shared universe. This film had baggage it had to deal with from other stories. The Guardians weren't a nuisance at all, and it was nice to see them again, to hold us over before the Guardians Christmas special. But it did feel like they were the only "obligated" cameos in the movie, where the rest felt like they were wanted for the story.
While this is the best MCU movie this year (sorry Doctor Strange), it doesn't quite live up to its predecessor in the Thor franchise. However, it is still an entertaining romp through the cosmos, that offers laughs, a ton of heart, and of course, some love and thunder. All of which should continue to hold up, and still work on future rewatches. Lots of casual movie goers will be pleased with this outing, and as usual, the teases that the credits offer makes one's imagination go into overdrive about what could possibly come next.
Taika Waititi is a brilliant filmmaker, and he shined through as much as possible in a big corporate machine like this. Let's see how he fairs in a galaxy far, far away when he tackles Star Wars next...
Thor: Love and Thunder is now in theaters.