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Thor: Love and Thunder Movie Review

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) movie poster
Thor: Love and Thunder

Theatrical Release: July 8, 2022 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Taika Waititi / Writers: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Christian Bale (Gorr the God Butcher), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Taika Waititi (Korg), Russell Crowe (Zeus), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Sean Gunn (Kraglin Obfonteri), Matt Damon (Loki Actor), Sam Neill (Odin Actor), Luke Hemsworth (Thor Actor), Melissa McCarthhy (Hela Actress), Ben Falcone (Stage Manager), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Simon Russell Beale (Dionysus), Jonathan Brugh (Rapu)


By the look of it, 2017 should have been the year that superhero fatigue became a real issue and not just an obvious, inevitable hypothesis. That year gave us the launch of another copyright-obligated Sony Spider-Man franchise,
the DC's whimper of an answer to The Avengers (the universe-crumbling Justice League), and a sequel to Marvel's most unassailable work in the good, but not great Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Surprisingly, none of these efforts generated the fanfare and passion of another 2017 superhero movie, Thor: Ragnarok.

A dozen MCU efforts later, that 2017 soft reboot of Marvel's then least sacred solo series still stands as one of the brightest highlights in a line that has powered and reshaped the film industry like none other this century. It's also the best work to date of Taika Waititi, the wry New Zealander writer-director who has since won an Oscar for his offbeat Nazi youth camp dramedy Jojo Rabbit.

Thor, the franchise that had begun with Shakespearean drama (courtesy of director Kenneth Branagh) and continued with a dour sequel many still rank among the worst MCU movies, instantly became colorful, irreverent fun in the hands of Waititi, who knew that you could lighten the tone and hold onto the good parts of the lore without disappointing. It's hard to find anyone who doesn't place Ragnarok in at least the top third of the now 29-deep Marvel canon.

Even if the global pandemic hadn't changed moviegoing habits, Ragnarok would be a tough act to follow, but Marvel has done just that in agreeable fashion with Thor: Love and Thunder, which keeps Waititi in the director's chair and in the writer's room, brings back Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Thor's earthly scientist love interest from the first two movies, and introduces the rare Marvel villain with weight and screen presence.

Waititi does not mess with the winning tone he established, keeping Love and Thunder light and breezy even as it tackles such dark elements as battling Stage Four cancer and a father losing his daughter.

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, now the most senior member of the Avengers, in "Thor: Love and Thunder."

Korg, Waititi's easygoing rock man character, provides some backstory on Thor which seems unnecessary given the way the masses have gobbled up every Marvel movie for some time (often at the expense of other movies, as non-superhero swatches of the industry continue to struggle). It is staggering to think that there are plenty of potential viewers who either weren't alive or of moviegoing age when the first Thor opened back in 2011. But the hammer-wielding hero, a constant source of big screen comfort and joy over several superhero seasons, has become the most senior member of the Avengers core with Robert Downey Jr.'s 2008-unveiled Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America, also introduced in the summer of 2011, having been officially retired.

Viewers have bought in on Thor, accepting the Asgardian as a muscle-bound god and also an obese victim of depression who used Fortnite and beer to cope with Thanos' mayhem. There's really no direction the character could be moved in that would feel like a betrayal.

This time out, Thor becomes one of many endangered by Gorr (Christian Bale), who assumes the role of God Butcher after he loses his daughter in the desert and gets laughed at by the merciless god they worshipped. For all the success the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had over the past fifteen years, strong villains have eluded the line, so Gorr is a welcome addition especially from Bale, an actor whose filmography is both stronger and more selective than you realize (go take a close look!).

A devoted father embracing deadly vengeance to deal with his daughter's loss sounds like a bummer, but the threat that Gorr poses does little to diminish the good vibes that flow through Love and Thunder. Thor is surprised to find his ex Jane has inherited his old hammer Mjölnir as well as his signature look and blonde locks. It seemed necessary to lose the character along with everything else that wasn't shining in the first two Thor movies, but Portman's return is welcome and diverting here, even as the movie gives her a cancer plot that seems out of left field. Also back for this ride is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), the king of New Asgard who was introduced in Ragnarok.

Having played one of cinema's great superheroes three times, Christian Bale goes even darker as the villain Gorr the God Butcher.

Employing sharp comic instincts and no fewer than four prominently licensed Guns N' Roses songs, Waititi and his co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (creator of MTV's short-lived series "Sweet/Vicious") do the nearly unthinkable and make Love and Thunder almost as irresistible as the high-flying Ragnarok.
It misses Jeff Goldblum's unique energy as the zany Grandmaster (the actor's one scene was deleted), but almost makes up for that with Russell Crowe as a portly and unsympathetic Zeus, who Thor tracks down to help deal with Gorr. It is tough to foresee this summer delivering a movie as much fun as this.

And yet, Marvel's vocal and fickle following immediately made their voices heard upon this film's debut, saddling the film with kneejerk reactions and an already concerning sub-7.0 average rating on IMDb. (To put that into perspective, the first Thor carries a 7.0 today and Thor: The Dark World sits close by with a 6.8.) I appreciate that the masses are not just blindly embracing and celebrating the latest spendy enterprise that makes them hand over their hard-earned money to Marvel and movie theaters. But I have a difficult time agreeing with the faults they see in this movie, which immediately has become my favorite of 2022.

I've been doing this long enough to know that superhero films of worth usually come to be appreciated and some that are hailed upon release are gradually re-evaluated. Notice the hivemind hate that Spider-Man 3 initially inspired in 2007 has largely dissipated. I also know it's doubtful that I'll ever agree with the 2022 moviegoer consensus that The Batman is brilliant and Morbius is a mess. (The former is an overcooked bore I expected much more from and the latter at least tried to shake up the formula of what a superhero movie is in a decidedly more compelling way than Venom.)

I don't care if my opinion aligns with the general moviegoer, just that creativity and wit in cinema is rewarded. Anytime a form becomes as big and popular as the superhero movie has been for decades now, there is a tendency to rely upon tried and true formula. And while you can accuse Waititi's fourquel of not straying far from Ragnarok in its sensibilities, it isn't simply replicating its beats. It has its own ideas on humanity and heroism and how to advance and develop its cast of misfits.

As evidence to the substance and value this sequel possesses, consider the fact that I am now on my fourteenth paragraph about the film and I have yet to mention the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy feature within.

Ignore the negativity; Thor: Love and Thunder is sure to be one of the most fun experiences you'll have in theaters this year.

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Reviewed July 11, 2022.

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