It is legitimately awesome that in the fourth movie about Thor, plus four more Avengers movies, the character and world can still be entertaining. The tonal swings in Thor: Love and Thunder may be extreme, but it is absolutely a part of the film’s charm as it goes from manic comedy to outsized action to heart wrenching to tragic pathos and everything in between. The emotional core of the movie is strong, and the cast chemistry is fantastic. This is a big, wild crazy comic book movie that swings wide and connects for a unique experience.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is travelling about the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy saving folks and indirectly wrecking things along the way. But when a distress signal is sent out that Gor the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is destroying all the Gods, Thor and his buddy Korg (Co-writer and director Tika Waititi) go to save Thor’s people of the Asgardians. On New Asgard on Earth, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) defends an attack from Gor and along comes a new Mighty Thor wielding Thor’s formerly broken mystic hammer of Mjolnir. Even more surprising, the new Mighty Thor is Thor’s ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). When Gor kidnaps Asgardian children, Thor, Jane, Valkyrie, Korg and two perpetually screaming giant goats set out to rescue the kids. The crew go to the Omnipotent City and talk to the biggest God there is, Zeus (Russell Crowe) but time is running out for not only the universe but the Mighty Thor herself.
Jane was always an odd secondary character in the Thor series, she works well in the first film although in Dark World she had to literally be injected with an Infinity Stone to become plot relevant. This movie makes her a co-lead with Thor. The story of Jane Foster has a tragic twist; Jane is diagnosed with advanced cancer but when she becomes the Mighty Thor it washes away her sickness. However, the longer she is Mighty Thor the frailer her mortal form becomes. There’s a ticking clock anxiousness to Jane’s transformations and every time becomes mortal she looks worse. Portman projects sympathy for the cancer afflicted Jane Foster and her Mighty Thor is genuinely formidable. Amusingly, Mighty Thor hasn’t been at it for awhile so she’s still awkwardly searching for catchphrases which leads to an awesome payoff at the finale.
The romantic relationship between Thor and Jane is the heart. Seeing them reconnect after years and their shared history makes it effectively emotional. There’s an excellently done montage about their breakup which shows that even a space God and a mortal can grow apart. Hemsworth’s Thor is confident in his strength to overcome any odds. What makes Jane’s conundrum so heartbreaking is while Mjolnir makes her stronger it’s killing her and there’s nothing Thor can do. Hemsworth’s various quips are hilarious, and there’s a funny, incredibly strange running gag when Thor wants his old hammer back but his new axe, Stormbreaker, seems jealous and Thor talks to Stormbreaker like he’s trying to hide an affair.
The tonal jumps are the movie’s biggest swing. Things go from comedic to heavy to bombastic to terror. But it’s done so confidently the movie can have lightning wielding teddy bears and quipping Gods, but then go into romantic pathos and horror, and it all feels genuine. Bale’s Gor is the creepiest villain in the series. The movie opens with his origin story that is extremely dark, where Gor prayed to his God in vain to save his daughter, met them, and the God basically mocked his entire existence which led to him becoming the God butcher. Like Thanos, his murderous crusade kind of has a point.
Valkyrie is a good quipping sidekick and Thompson adds a world weariness to a King and Waititi is the funny dopey sidekick pile of talking rocks. When Thor and company go to a city of Gods for help, their leader Zeus is a complete jerk and Crowe makes him hilariously smarmy. The God of Thunder Thor and the God of Lightning Zeus are very similar concepts and the movie leans into it, making Thor a Zeus fanboy saying he’s based his whole image on him. The crew travels with two screaming goats and it’s an awesome running gag that the Goats never stop squealing.
The action in the movie is epic with lots of visual differences. The golden hallways of the God city feature awesome jokes about the various Gods including a shout out to a “God of Carpentry”. When Thor and company confront Gor on a desolate rock, things turn grey and freaky with splashes of colour. The Guardians of the Galaxy are only in the movie briefly but seeing put up Thor’s ego is a hoot. The finale has a gaggle of superpowered individuals blasting against oncoming hordes while Jane makes an emotionally powerful stand against Gor. Things end quietly but it works because of all the previous bombast.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a wild movie with comedy, action, and pathos. Its clashing of tones becomes its biggest asset. Thor is a space God, he has big emotions in a big world and this journey puts him to the test. The character keeps reinventing himself which makes this return feel genuinely great.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe and Natalie Portman