The God of Thunder loses some momentum in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his fourth solo entry.
If you had told me a decade ago that the first Avenger from 2012’s The Avengers to get a fourth solo film would be Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, I would have taken a bet that either Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Chris Evans’ Captain America would have gotten a fourth film first. It’s a testament to Hemsworth’s portrayal of the God of Thunder for over a decade, and especially after his performances in the last two Avengers films and the universal praise for the previous Thor solo film, Thor: Ragnarok, which is still a top-five Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film to this day. Some of the credit for why Thor was given a fourth solo film also belongs to director Taika Waititi, who gave the character and his world a different take from most of the MCU with Ragnarok by instilling great humor and just enough weirdness that suited the character of Thor and Hemsworth well. This was a natural fit, as Hemsworth always has had comedic chops outside the superhero films he dresses up in. Hemsworth and director Waititi are back together with Thor: Love & Thunder. But unfortunately, the results are mixed and make for the biggest letdown we’ve seen from the MCU in recent memory.
Thor: Love & Thunder finds Thor (Hemsworth) tagging along with the Guardians of the Galaxy across the universe on various missions. Trying to find inner peace after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor returns to earth after New Asgard, run by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), is attacked by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), whose mission is to wipe out all gods across the universe. Things become more complicated for Thor when he returns to Earth to also find that his old girlfriend, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), now wields his old weapon Mjolnir and is the Mighty Thor. With the help of Valkyrie, Mighty Thor, and Korg (Taika Waititi), Thor sets out on a journey to stop Gorr before all gods become extinct.
At one hour and 45 minutes before the credits roll, the jokes come as fast as the story, which is in some respects a romantic comedy. (As a brief aside, one thing a majority of these MCU films could learn from this film is that they should be two hours long, max.) The humor and banter between characters is very reminiscent of what you saw in Thor: Ragnarok, which did a great job of balancing wit with the story. However, in Love & Thunder, the comedy is put into hyperdrive with some of the humor beat into the ground to the point of not being funny anymore. For example, when we first meet the goats Thor is gifted, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, they are funny because they are wild and scream all the time. But after about the fourth or fifth rendering of the screaming goats, it becomes more nuisance than comic relief. This is how a lot of the humor in Love & Thunder comes across, as it tries to balance comedy with the film’s dramatic storylines, which are the best parts of the film. Without spoiling anything, the character arcs of Mighty Thor and Gorr are the highlights of this film, and one has to wonder that had the film focused more on these characters rather than trying to make another rendition of Raganork just how much better Love & Thunder could have been. But that’s not to say all the attempts at humor fell flat. For instance, Thor’s relationship with his current weapon, Stormbreaker, is closely examined as a focal point of the film.
The cast of Thor: Love & Thunder does a fine job with what they were given and are led by Hemsworth delivering another reliably good performance as Thor. Thompson and Waititi are back as Valkyrie and Korg after being introduced in Ragnarok and are good even if the script does not help them as much this time around. But the true standouts of Love & Thunder are Portman, returning as Jane Foster, and Bale as Gorr the God Butcher; they keep this film from being a total loss. We last saw Portman in a supporting role as Jane Foster in the MCU back in Thor: The Dark World nine years ago, and this part of the MCU sorely needed her then as Foster and now Mighty Thor. Offering up great chemistry with Hemsworth’s Thor, her humor as Mighty Thor is also one of the film’s few comedic bright spots. Bale as Gorr is one of the best villains the MCU has seen in years. While his presence in the film feels surprisingly small, it’s still one that makes a big enough impact due to its dramatic moments. And while he’s not a standout and is in the film for only a few minutes, Russell Crowe plays the god Zeus with distinction compared to other portrayals of the god seen in film and television over the years.
Thor: Love & Thunder is not a bad film. The dramatic moments keep the film from being too quirky while a bit of the comedy, when not beaten into the ground, works. And some of the action sequences, including one that’s almost entirely in black and white, are great. It’s just such a letdown coming off Thor’s character arc from Ragnarok and then Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Whether people will admit it or not, Phase 4 of the MCU has been hit or miss. And now with Love & Thunder being the biggest disappointment to come out post-Endgame, you must wonder what Kevin Feige will do next. Feige has said that the next big saga in the MCU will be revealed soon, and let’s hope it offers better clarity and quality for this beloved universe of characters–and that includes the character of Thor, who deserved better than what will go down as this summer’s biggest disappointment at the theaters.