Movie Review — “Thor: Love and Thunder”

Grim stakes and goofiness, gods-bashing and GNR — that’s the latest Taika Waititi take on “the Space Viking,” “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

Sure, every Marvel movie panders, cluttered with cross-over characters, self-aware jokes, Easter eggs and cameos. As someone who figures that all of these movies should be played as a lark, emphasizing the silliness of it all, the “Thor” movies have long been my favorites. But this is the first one that really feels as if it’s pandering to me. And that shifting back and forth in tone from the deathly serious to the profoundly silly isn’t going to be to every taste.

That’s not to say that packing four Oscar winners into the cast — one of them the leading lady and another of them that rarity, a deadly villain with legitimate grievances — doesn’t pay off and give the film gravitas in the beginning and pathos in the finale.

But it’s the jokes that make it, with the self-mocking man-mountain Chris Hemsworth setting the tone and making it fun, and Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and the rest taking their cue from him. The flippant funniness balances against this universe’s crisis of faith subtext, with Thor reassuring kidnapped and perhaps doomed children with the last thing they want to hear, dogma that’s no substitute for a long and happy life.

Not to worry, “If you die, you’ll end up in VALHALLA!” Yeah, that goes over like a beating the family puppy.

A somber opening has Gorr (Christian Bale), a pious alien who discovers his faith is wasted on a god who doesn’t answer prayers, such as ones to save his daughter. His eyes opened by meeting his (literal) idol, callous and cruel and dismissive in the flesh, a magical talisman, the Necro Sword, transforms Gorr into “The God Butcher.” The entire supernatural universe becomes his prey.

Eventually, he’ll have to get around to the God of Thunder, right?

One mercifully-short bit with the last and least of the Chrises — Chris Pratt — and his barely-in-the-first-act Guardians of the Galaxy later, lovelorn and losing-himself-in-his-work Thor finds himself assembling a fresh team to go deal with this new threat.

The ex-girlfriend “Jane Fonda, no, Jane Foster” (Portman) is back, with bad news on the health front and one busted and restored hammer on hand to pitch in with. There’s also “King” Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, working on her posh Brit RP accent), who gets to give up running the tourist attraction New Asgard to join Thor in his quest, along with his old stone-faced chum Korg (a CGI Waititi).

Saddled with those story/cast requirements, Waititi finds ways to play around with all the seriousness, beginning with Korg amusingly narrating our “Space Viking” tale to a cave/classroom full of kiddies, a tale that involves kidnapping and the possible “extinction” of gods if our villain gets his way.

Thor’s acknowledgement that “This ends here, now,” has become Thor’s catchphrase, Hemsworth’s meaty meathead thrown-for-a-loss by love and Thor’s tactlessness never fail to amuse. Parents are fretting about the outcome of his free-the-kidnapped-children quest?

Not to worry, he and his crew will find and free them, “and then we shall FEAST!” Pause. “NOT on children.” Pause. “We don’t DO that anymore.” Pause. “SHAMEful time!”

Waititi gets laughs out of cameos — check out the “actors” in a Thor/Odin/Loki/ stage show attraction at New Asgard. And guess who plays a grumpy, blustery, Greco-Roman accented Zeus, as if you haven’t read the credits?

The “cool parts,” as you’ve seen and heard in the movie’s trailers, are turn-the-tide brawls all set to Guns’n Roses Greatest Hits, and they’re nicely timed to turn up once in each of the film’s three acts.

And Waititi doesn’t so much curb Marvel’s elephantiasis in running times as draw a line and stick with it — two hours of this is enough. Always.

The “message,” a better to have loved and lost and earned “that sh—y feeling,” comes through loud and clear. But that whole Guardians bit seems shoehorned in and does those characters and actors playing them (save for the scowling Dave Bautista) no favors.

The finales in these films are preordained and formulaic. The best you can hope for is that the CGI fights will at least be visually coherent, which they are in this case.

But Waititi is to be treasured for simply seeing all this as lightweight fun, a bit of nonsense with a bunch of movie stars dressing up like gods and having a laugh. A heroine who rides into battle on a unicorn? The Viking longship tourist attraction converted into a spaceship by the addition of screaming alien goats? The whole idea of supernatural deities reduced to needy, petty bullies or “Zeussettes” who faint at the sight of an accidentally naked Thor?

Hard to take any of that all that seriously, and Waititi, no matter how big the budget or how high the fan-fantasized stakes, never does. Bless him.

So no, “Love and Thunder” isn’t as much fun as its trailers. But it’s close enough, Sweet child o’mine.

Rating:  PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, (profanity), some suggestive material and partial nudity.

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Taika Waititi, based on the comics by Stan Lee and others. A Marvel Studios release.

Running time: 1:58

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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3 Responses to Movie Review — “Thor: Love and Thunder”

  1. NewDevilman says:

    Well, sadly I have to agree. Jokes were funny. The movie wasn’t so much. The love triangle among Thor, Mjolnir and Axe, were funny at first, but boring and weird as it got carried away.
    Personally, Christian Bale felt like a waste. Brought in the best material to act the best villain of MCU, then given a plain mediocre villain instead. I wish Gorr’s scenes were more serious and dark. Not just black and white in color, But giving real chills in the spine. I would say his path of God Butcher should have been more visual to the audiences, so we could feel his rage and disappointment so we could relate to his pain and resentments towards gods. The narrative given by filthy Zeus(Russell Crowe) to portray shallow gods wasn’t just enough to convince.
    Also the Jane’s story wasn’t impactful enough. Felt rushed to a conclusion.

    What a disappointment. My score would be 4 out of ten.

  2. Russell Hine says:

    Not sure if we watched the same movie. The one I watched was a dreadful attempt at a mix of romcom, adventure and superhero genres which failed dismally. One of the worst movies of the 21st century to date.

    • Roger Moore says:

      A lark that took the genre as seriously as it deserves? Ahem. Your hyperbole suggests you’re not seeing many movies and thus utterly lack perspective, to say nothing of any appreciation for what Waititi tries to do in most of his films, even the fan-pandering comic book adaptations. “Love & Thunder” wasn’t particularly comic-book-movie-addict friendly, Nor is it remotely on the same level as the “worst movies” that came out, say, the same week that it came out, much less “the 21st century.” I see far FAR feebler films on pretty much a daily basis. Try sitting through “Death Count,” which came out the same day as “L & T.”

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