Stylistic director Taika Waiti makes a return to the Marvel Cinematic with Thor: Love and Thunder from Walt Disney Pictures. The Asgardian’s fourth led film finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced, a quest for inner peace. However, a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods, interrupts his retirement.
To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who, to Thor’s surprise, inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before its too late.
After a somewhat underwhelming response to 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, the brass at the Marvel Cinematic Universe took a different approach to the franchise’s threequel Thor: Ragnarok, giving the film a lighter tone. The decision was wise as Thor: Ragnarok would become the best-reviewed Thor film and the most financially successful. Thus, it was a no-brainer to have Taika Waititi return for directing and script duties. In addition, Waititi pulls in Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, a consulting producer from the Hawkeye series, for co-scripting duties.
When we last left Thor, he decided to join the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it was great to see Thor interact with them early on in the film. It is still hard to believe that Chris Hemsworth has such sharp comedic timing. The scenes we get with Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Starlord are some of the best in the film. In essence, Waiti could have repeated the formula from Thor: Ragnarok and had Thor engage in a space adventure with the Guardians.
However, Waititi wanted to differentiate Love and Thunder from Ragnarok by making a romance film and an adventure film inspired by the 1980s. Waititi also draws inspiration from Jason Aaron’s run on The Mighty Thor comic book, in which Foster takes on the mantle and powers of Thor. For the most part, Waititi succeeds despite a few hiccups. Our primary characters are set up early on with having an arc of their own. We get an early introduction to Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) and his motives.
Bale seems right at home after returning to the world of comic book adaptations for the first time in nearly a decade. Now I admit I am not that familiar with the character, but Bale kept my attention for the most part. Regarding Jane Foster’s return to the film, Natalie Portman appears to be having a blast. While I will not go into why Jane ends up in New Asgard and is worthy to wield Mjolnir, I liked the reasoning.
As for Tessa Thompson’s King Valkyrie, to my dismay, I found the character a bit underwritten. In essence, the angle of Valerie yearning for the days of battle but having to rule is a strong enough plot point for a series. There is a quick sprinkle of that in the film but not enough.
Concurrently this sentiment carries over to Russel Crowe’s take on Zeus, which appears to be more of a stunt casting.
Despite having a smile on my face for the film’s duration and enjoying the action eye candy, the biggest takeaway from Thor: Love and Thunder is the overtly mainstream approach. While Waititi set out to make a different film from Ragnarok sonically, it is the same, which may turn off some Marvel purists.
Nevertheless, I recommend the film and rank it third best in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Final Grade: B-
Thor: Love and Thunder will open this Thursday, July 7th.
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