When Taika Waititi directed 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, it was the film that somewhat redeemed its eponymous God of Thunder from being a static character in not only his solo films, but also his appearances in the Avengers movies. Waititi’s MCU debut reinvented the character, which not only allowed Chris Hemsworth to flex his comedic chops, but transformed his role as Thor in various ways. These were most obviously seen in Infinity War and Endgame, the latter of which featured the character being among the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end.
However, from the opening minutes of Thor: Love and Thunder, you can tell that Waititi has other plans for Hemsworth’s Thor. Despite the brief interaction with the Guardians – of which the director doesn’t seem to be that interested in – our hero has to defend himself and all the living gods who have become targets of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). Also, Thor is not the only God of Thunder as he is reunited with his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now wields a reconstructed version of his hammer Mjolnir and is the Mighty Thor.
While there are some returning elements from Ragnarok, most notably Waititi’s comic turn as Korg, Thor: Love and Thunder is attempting to be a different beast than its predecessor, which relished in its Flash Gordon-esque aesthetics while evoking the cosmic imagery that you would see in a Jack Kirby comic book. While the 80s feel still looms large – only for the needle drops to feature a lot of Guns N’ Roses – Love and Thunder is attempting to be both funny and heartfelt like you would see in a romantic comedy.
Like its own trailers, Thor: Love and Thunder does feel scattershot in nailing its tone. This is most notable in its comedic presentation as not every joke lands and whenever that is the case, Waititi throws in the screaming giant goats, which will most likely get the wanted laughs. That is not to say all the comedy is trying too hard, with actors such as Russell Crowe show off their funny side, while the romcom aspect allows for the banter between the two Thors to truly shine, balancing the cosmic adventuring and the everyday mundane.
As much as Hemsworth has redeemed Thor into a standout character that is able to balance the dramatic and the comedic as seen his recent MCU appearances, Natalie Portman goes through a similar journey in her turn as Jane Foster. From being the romantic interest in the first two Thor instalments, Jane has been never that compelling, but with this film taking inspiration from Jason Aaron’s run from the comics, you essentially have Jane as a rookie when it becomes a superhero while using this new persona to disguise her diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. When the emotional beats hit, it is usually because Portman is pulling our heart strings.
Along with a new hero, you also have a new villain thrown into the mix as Christian Bale plays one of the best MCU antagonists with Gorr the God Butcher, which allows the actor to go through another horrific body transformation and truly delivers on the horror. His presence opens the door for set-pieces that play more with visuals, the most striking of which is a visit to the Shadow Realm where all the color is drained out of the place and thus you have a CGI-filled fight sequence presented in monochrome. Along with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Waititi’s Thor instalments have done more visually interesting ideas than the majority of the MCU.
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