Movie Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson,
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Jaimie Alexander

After fighting for thousands of years, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is searching for peace – both across the galaxy and within himself. However, his quest is interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who is trying to bring about the extinction of the Gods. Thor returns to Asgard to enlist the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taika Waititi)—only to discover that his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has shown up, wielding his old hammer Mjolnir and fighting under the mantle or “The Mighty Thor.”

For anyone wondering how Marvel was going to follow up a film that featured flying animals, super powerful gods, and battle scenes played out to classic rock songs, it’s now possible to report that the answer is with more flying animals, more super powerful gods, and more battle scenes played out to classic rock songs. After the technicolour triumph that was Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi returned to the helm to tell the tale of not just one Thor, but two; this go-around Chris Hemsworth’s Thor shares the stage with Natalie Portman’s ‘The Mighty Thor,’ aka Dr. Jane Foster.

Full of rainbows, raucous music, and rib-tickling humour, Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi’s first Marvel outing, was a sharp turnaround from its slow, dark predecessors. Doing away with the Shakespearean stuffiness and making Thor fun again proved to be a success; Ragnarok hit the screen like a bolt of lightning, reinvigorating Thor’s character and reigniting interest in his individual storyline. while Love and Thunder still goes to town with the razzle and dazzle (there are giant, screaming goats, electrifying displays of godly power, vast and majestic settings, and a ton of good old jokes filling the script), it’s a song that’s been written in a different key —one that reflects the heavy weight of Thor’s struggles, and of Jane’s. If the films truly were music, then Ragnarokbright and loud and self-indulgent, would be a soaring guitar riff, high energy and high octane, making the blood roar. love and thunder, by contrast, is a great, keening orchestral composition, full of up beats and down beats; a melody that is, appropriately, felt more in the heart than in the blood.

Waititi’s specialty (as seen with Jojo Rabbit, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and boy) has proven to be in striking harmony where there should have been discordance, in deftly offsetting the exploration of difficult topics and delicate vulnerabilities with offbeat quirks, humour, and vibrancy. Love and Thunder is more true to this than Ragnarok; while the hammer-wielding space-viking may exchange his dad-bod for a god-bod, post-Endgame Thor is still awash with grief and pain, trying to work out who he is and what he lives for after suffering through the loss of his parents, his brother (multiple times), and his break up with Jane, his one true love.

As the 29th Marvel movie, there’s a lot of history behind the tale, but never fear, Thor’s trusty side-kick, the one and only rock-man Korg, is on deck for an information download, chirpy narrator style. since Avengers: Endgame (2019), Thor’s been on a slate of adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but their team-up comes to a close when Gorr the God Butcher appears on their radar, by, unsurprisingly, going on a murderous god butchering rampage. With New Asgard in danger, Thor returns to Earth to help, not expecting to find his ex-girlfriend in Asgard too.

As suggested by the title, the film is an exploration of love—its costs, its worth, and its many different forms. With that also comes an exploration of pain, of emptiness, loss, the rise and fall of hope—byproducts of love lost. Yet, as each character grapples with finding peace and purpose amidst the grief that love has left in its wake, Waititi imbibes a message of hope, suggesting that where it has led to hurt, love can bring healing and happiness again, that where it has been lost, love can be found again. The film plays out positing that love is a path worth following, even though it won’t always be without pain.

Much of the impact of the message comes from Jane’s story; Portman’s return to the MCU is an abrupt turnaround from her last appearance in Thor: The Dark World (2013), where she was disappointingly short-changed. Love and Thunder is, as even Korg acknowledges, as much Jane’s tale as Thor’s, and given the chance to step off the sidelines, Natalie Portman packs a punch in a role that finally does her, her character, and females as a whole justice—Jane Foster is a vision of strength and fortitude, in more ways than one.

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The film moves so fast that at times it verges on emotional whiplash; laughter one second, a punch in the heart the very next—it’s a jagged rollercoaster of ups and downs. Jane’s story steals the show, and her and Thor’s interwoven arc is one of the places in which the film truly shines. Bale does well to convey a fair amount of depth in a short amount of screen time, his ability to stand out no doubt helped in part by the abrupt shift from vibrant color to greyscale during his appearances. Alongside the main plot, we get a little more (than perhaps needed or wanted) about Korg’s origins. Unfortunately, Valkyrie falls short on character development, largely ending up on side-kick duties with Korg. With so much to cram in, it’s natural that something had to give, nevertheless, it’s a shame that her role lost out in the run-time sacrifice, particularly given how much Valkyrie has to offer in her own right, especially now bearing the title or King.

Ending on just the right note to uplift the movie, Thor: Love and Thunder is packed full to the brim, overflowing with Waititi-ness. It’s a wild ride of so many oppositions, of kaleidoscopic color and greyscale, of love and loss, hope and hopelessness, laughter and sorrow. Waititi does well to balance such severe juxtapositions—bright, bold, and ambitious, Love and Thunder is a momentous, memorable spectacle that, despite depicting the trials and triumphs of gods, is gut-wrenchingly, hopefully human.

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