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“Thor: Love and Thunder” Review: A Disappointing Marvel Encore for Taika Waititi

“Thor: Love and Thunder” Review: A Disappointing Marvel Encore for Taika Waititi

Thor: Love and Thunder was guaranteed to be a slam dunk. Director Taika Waititi is back at the helm after 2017’s incredibly entertaining Thor: Ragnarokwith Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian Avenger who has found his lovable comic groove and Natalie Portman makes an epic return to feature films Marvel Cinematic Universe after nine years of absence.

Surprisingly, the 29th MCU film, which hits theaters on July 8, is missing. In an attempt to balance comedy with drama and combine several classic comic stories into a single story, Thor’s fourth solo adventure spreads too thinly and ends up feeling shallow.

It starts promising enough, with a strong introduction Christian Balehis villains Gorr the God Butcher. After his tough desert home world kills his daughter, his encounter with a careless, emotionless god causes him to launch a campaign to slaughter all the divine beings in the universe.

This sequence is atmospheric and patient, giving Bale’s performance time to breathe and leaving us feeling his growing despair, confusion and rage. Then the Marvel Studios logo rolls in and the roller coaster starts. Emotional resonance? No, that’s all you get in this movie.

Mantis, Peter Quill chatting with Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder

Do not expect to spend a lot of time hanging out with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Studios

Last time we saw Thor, in 2019 Avengers: Endgame, he had decided to join the Guardians of the Galaxy for some space adventure in the wake of Thanos’ defeat. But the God of Thunder totally outclasses his new allies, which makes him seem like an overwhelmed video game character when he crushes their enemies and makes the Guardians look a little useless.

We get a colorful, visually striking action sequence and a generous dose of superhero side damage out of this, but Thor and the rocky ally (he is literally made of rocks) Korg (Waititi) soon decides to go his own way, and rejects The Guardians story and mostly wasting Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan and friends before the joke has any chance to develop. It feels like this film could not wait to get away from the annoying continuity and back to the Asgardian story of Thor’s solo films.

On Earth, Thor meets his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Portman) in battle while Gorr attacks Thor’s other Asgardians. She uses his old hammer Mjolnir, having been considered worthy in his darkest moment and gained powers similar to his.

Thor and Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor relaxes, in one of the film’s rare moments of calm.

Marvel Studios

Given the very related human health issues Jane faces, this story should be Love and Thunder’s emotional heart. The film just does not take the time needed for the challenge she faces to sink in, as if it is afraid of being too real and too eager to take us on the next adventure (some dramatic moments are also undermined by the two post credits scenes).

This need for speed extends to the action – especially Jane uses her new abilities in fantastic ways, but neither the editing nor the cinematography gives us time to enjoy this. It’s unlikely that many images from this film will stick in your brain as the moments from other MCU adventures have done – nothing reaches the dizzying heights of Captain America’s elevator battle, three Spider-Men who turn into battle or Scarlet Witch’s encounter with the Illuminati.

The difficulty between Jane and Thor is basically quite funny – mainly because of Portman and Hemsworth’s charisma and chemistry – but it does not develop in a particularly convincing way. A one-note joke about Thor and his new weapon Stormbreaker turns out to be more memorable, and even that feels quickly played out.

King Valkyrie wears a Phantom of the Opera shirt while riding a white horse in Thor: Love and Thunder

Valkyrie is clearly an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan.

Marvel Studios

Rounding out the hero team is King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who is tired of the role of leader of the magical tourist trap that New Asgard has become. Although the film fails to explore her ennui enough, Thompson adds sufficient mischief to the character to make her a joy to watch. Even her wardrobe choice suggests a fascinating inner life – her Phantom of the Opera shirt is much more exciting than any superhero costume.

One of the strongest scenes is a calm conversation between Jane and Valkyrie, since it is a rare example of the film slowing down and giving the actors and writing room to connect emotionally. Aside from Hemsworth’s magnetic screen presence and imbecile comic timing, one can not help but wonder if this adventure would have been better without Thor.

After his memorable introduction, Gorr’s threat is greatly reduced. The God Butcher’s cartoon counterpart (introduced by Jason Aarons beloved 2012 Thor: God of Thunder run) feels like a great threat when Thor follows a trail of divine slaughter across the universe.

Love and Thunder only hints at this, and greatly reduces Gorr’s villainy to kidnap Asgardian children as part of a larger conspiracy. He does not feel like a direct threat to the heroes, which makes him feel more like Gorr the God Botherer.

Gorr stares ominously with a place in the background in Thor: Love and Thunder

Gorr is magnificently presented throughout this adventure.

Marvel Studios

Despite this, Bale’s appearance and aesthetic choices add character to many eerie spectral boogeyman vibes (apparently inspired by the Aphex Twins’ deeply disturbing Come to Daddy music video). A midpoint confrontation with the heroes is among MCU’s most visually impressive sequences, with ingenious use of shadow and color.

This movie is nowhere near the same cameo-ladet as its immediate MCU predecessor, Doctor Strange and the multiverse of madness, but it throws in a stage-stealer Russell Crowe as a narcissistic Zeus. Unfortunately, his role is mostly limited to a single shiny set piece that turns out to be largely forgotten when the main story goes through it.

Love and Thunder does not live up to the incredible stories that inspired it. It neither leans into the director’s style nor maximizes the cast’s dramatic potential, and feels more like a shallow, unsatisfactory mashup. It’s still a funny, silly post in the MCU cannon, but is not the classic Thor adventure that the handsome hero seems to think he’s part of.

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