Thor: Love and Thunder is a film as disjointed as its name. It’s not so much a film as a patchwork of ideas, tones, and narrative directions that ultimately don’t add up. It also gives us a Thor we don’t need and really don’t want. And its obligatory diversity requirements are actually both cynical and funny.
This version of Thor’s story is an “everything but the kitchen sink” project with far too many people and ideas shoehorned in. First of all, what exactly is the story? Is this ultimately about Thor’s existential crisis (not an ideal journey for this particular superhero)? Is it hunting Gorr the God Butcher? Is this about saving the kids? Is it a romance between Thor and Jane? Or is it a film about (spoiler alert) the intrusion of cancer into the Marvel universe?
I don’t do typical reviewy type of recommendations here, but I’ll make an exception. For the parents: This is not for young children. It’s not just about Chris Hemsworth’s bare behind, or the many, many times the words s*** or s***** are used. There are also some frightening moments that could be traumatic for younger ones, even those used to cartoon or superhero violence. It’s as if writer/director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit) wanted to stretch the Thor mythology into cruder, more violent, or sillier territory instead of just comically expanding it, as he did with Ragnarok. The relative light touch in that film has been replaced by a heavier hand that has pulled many of the scenes so far away from the basic (relatively) serious mythology so as to disconnect from what we know and appreciate about that world. The film is goofy instead of funny, silly instead of witty, and we lose our sense of what our hero and his world are supposed to be.
I have a great respect for Hemsworth’s comic talents, which shone so brightly in Ragnarok. He’s clearly a trooper, and he gives the silly moments his best. But it’s not a good fit for his character, and this role does him no favors. Plus, he seemed tired at times, not in the fight sequences, but in the sillier dialogue set-ups. He’s made to look foolish at times—and while we appreciate a modicum of self-deprecation with this hero, too much of it simply unmoors him from who he is and who we love.
There are actually several movies in this film. There is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which constitutes the first part, makes almost no sense when you’re watching it, and is disconnected from what follows. Then there is a love story, which never really gels, and never really did. Bringing it (spoiler alert again) to a conclusion might not have been the best choice. Then the God Butcher comes up now and then and his activities need to be addressed. Then there is the parade of crazies, led by a nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale, actually doing a good job with a character—Gorr—whose motivations and strengths shouldn’t be given too much critical thought. There is also a bonkers Russell Crowe as Zeus. I never thought I’d see Russell Crowe flounce, so I can now both add that and cross that off my bucket list. Again, whole different worlds packed into one film.
Tessa Thompson is just “there” in the film and seems criminally underused; again, just seemed crammed in. Natalie Portman never seemed an ideal fit for Jane, and it seems that she had to stand on a great number of boxes for her scenes with Hemsworth—quite distracting (she’s a full foot shorter than Chris). A lot has been made of her work to get her arms as buff as they are, but while commendable, strong arms don’t make a character, and her journey throughout the film doesn’t fully make sense. That’s not her fault. Portman can be a very good actress (Léon: The Professional, Jackie, Black Swan), but she also played Padmé, so there’s that. She does her best, but again, it doesn’t seem the best fit for either Jane or where the movie takes her.
Some films are worth it because you like spending time with the characters even if the plot doesn’t provide a great deal of interest (e.g., the Downton Abbey movies, and pretty much every French movie you might like). But this Thor, while being as likable as Hemsworth can make him, really isn’t the Thor we love watching. He’s lost focus, and is thrown around a plotline as convoluted as a pinball game. A little self-deprecation and irony work for his basic character, but it goes too far here. Opening up a genre or a franchise is risky business at all times, and yet Waititi hit it well with Ragnarok. But what worked there in slightly stretching the character and situations toward the comedic has stretched the myth all out of shape here. Thor the character has apparently lost his bearings at the beginning of the film, but he never really finds them, either personally or as part of a superhero franchise.
Lastly, the film follows the new Oscar Diversity rules to an extreme, but a safe one for business. There is one scene with two gay characters discussing reproduction, and then there is another scene with two “male” characters in a relationship. But the men aren’t human (so does that qualify?), and the scenes are easily excised for certain foreign markets. There isn’t a through-line in the film for these relationships, and the few scenes can be cut out in less than a minute with absolutely no loss to the film. All I could think of was how Lena Horne’s scenes were kept in old MGM musicals for exhibition in Northern theaters, but were easily cut out for showing in the South. For those concerned about Disney’s turn into wokeness, this is just token wokeness, which is even sillier.