Kimberly Reyes wields her Necrosword.
Let’s be honest, the most memorable scenes in the first two Thor films belonged to (Tom Hiddleston’s) Loki. That’s because Thor, as written, was still finding his way around his Norse godship, and the love story between his character and Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster was always awkward at best, and tiresome at worst (and Thor: The Dark World is pretty much the worst).
In a recent Instagram interview with Vanity Fair, Chris Hemsworth admitted that Thor’s character advancement stagnated pretty early on: “I wasn’t stoked with what I’d done in Thor 2 [The Dark World] … I didn’t think I grew the character in any way, I didn’t think I showed [the] audience something unexpected and something different.”
Reminiscing about a conversation he’d had with Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok and Love and Thunder’s director who also plays the blockhead Korg) on the path to Ragnarok, Hemsworth admitted: “I [was] really bored of Thor, and [Waititi] said I’m really bored of Thor too, and then we decided to not be bored.… we just dismantled the character. We wanted to have him be a bit more unpredictable, and also have the humor come through.”
And Ragnarok delivered, giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe a necessary injection of wit and humanity so that we could truly mourn what Thanos was about to erase. Waititi’s first Marvel film also gifted two of the MCU’s biggest himbos—Thor and (Mark Ruffalo’s brilliant) Hulk—with depth, nuance, and incredible humor. Hemsworth went on to give us some of the best scenes in both Avengers: Infinity War and End Game (nearly perfect films in their own right). His subplot of loss leading to unhealthy PTSD was one of the most relatable and satisfying story arcs of any superhero. But Waititi had no interest in keeping Thor’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy thread lines beyond this film’s first act, leaving the plot to quickly unravel.
And here’s the plot: Thor, Korg, the marvelous Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson who we don’t get nearly enough of), and, somewhat randomly, Foster (Natalie Portman) must stop Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) from killing all deities in his revenge mission to reach the Altar of Eternity. There’s some romantic exposition, chronic-illness based tragedy, and surprising family building, but none of these storylines offer any cohesion outside of Waititi’s over-the-top brand of comedy.
MCU newcomers Bale and Russel Crowe (who offers a campy and unexpectedly hilarious Zeus) are the highlights of this film. In a time when most of the Western world seems exasperated with our political leadership, Gorr’s anger with the cruelty and futility of the Gods he once worshiped couldn’t be timelier. Bale is vulnerable and unflinching, and since I’ll never understand Hollywood’s obsession with Batman stories, this is easily my favorite Bale-as-comic-book-character performance.
The film’s soundtrack is also (almost) as satisfying to my Gen-X ears as Captain Marvel’s, specifically a battle scene involving the children of Asgard facing off against Gorr’s shadow monsters set to Guns N’ Roses’s “November Rain.” That moment rivals the awesome Danny Elfman-choreographed battle scene in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. There are other retro Easter eggs, like Valkyrie’s ship named “Cocktails and Dreams,” which couldn’t be a more perfect throwback in the year of our lord Tom Cruise.
Coming in at just under two hours (a rarity for any film nowadays, especially a Marvel blockbuster), Thor: Love and Thunder is in too much of a hurry to get from joke to joke at the expense of gradation and character development. And although Thor has proven himself again worthy of Stormbreaker (and a continued leading role in the MCU as the end credits verified), this script leaves us hungry for his more fleshed-out and worthy opponents. It’s probably too much to ask for the return of Thanos at this point, but a Loki homecoming certainly wouldn’t hurt our brave new multiverse.