Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, and Natalie Portman
Review: Do I really need to preface this review with my love for the MCU? I know that I usually start my reviews off with a little bit of a preamble as to where I’m coming from, but it really feels unnessecary here. After all, there have been 28 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before this, and I have enjoyed, if not loved, all of them. Everyone who is even remotely aware of my movie taste should know that I am a fan of the franchise. I also quite like Taika Waititi, so it’s not really a matter of whether or not I liked this movie. It’s more how much did I like it. And, unsurprisingly, the answer is quite a bit.
Ok, so what I’m about to say might sound a bit contradictory to my intro and maybe a tad blasphemous, but I promise it’s all out of love still. Despite my love for both Taika Waititi and Thor, Ragnarok has never really been my favorite MCU movie. While I do really enjoy it for what it is, I never thought it took itself seriously enough. It’s one of the few movies in the franchise that I can admit gets a tad too quipy at times. I mean… I still would probably rank it in the top fourth or so movies I’ve ever seen. However, the lack of emotional depth keeps it distanced from the highs of say Endgame and Infinity War. I’m only bringing it up because I honestly think Love and Thunder takes itself much more seriously. I went into it expecting another straight comedy and ended up getting pretty emotional. There are a couple of sequences in here that explore what it means to be a hero and dig deep into the characters’ psyches. While I never actually cried, I got a lot closer than I did during even the most emotional sequences of Ragnarok. And, perhaps most impressively, I think Waititi did so without sacrificing any of his quirky sense of humor. Personally, I think we’re just watching him grow as a director. Before Ragnarok, he was best known for What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Both are terrific movies, but definitely firmly in the comedy camp. Between these, he did Jojo Rabbit, which while lighthearted and fun covered a much more serious topic in the Holocaust. It’s honestly the perfect balance between emotional and downright hilarious. Now, am I saying that Love and Thunder is as good? No. But, I think it shows that he’s grown quite a bit as a filmmaker between the third and fourth Thor movies.
Likewise, I think this movie has some of the coolest action sequences in the entire MCU. They all just had such kinetic energy that was so much fun to watch. Between the two Thors, Valkyrie, and Korg’s unique fighting skills, there was always something exciting to concentrate on. On top of that, the way Waititi chose to film them was immensely visually appealing. I won’t get into detail since I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were two sequences in particular that I think will forever stand out among the sea of MCU fight scenes. In the first, they’re all fighting creatures who bleed gold. Apparently, that was enough to make both the censors and Disney willing to go with it because that really really gave Waititi the chance to get graphic. There is more bloodshed in this single scene than in the entire Deadpool franchise combined. You just don’t notice because it’s not the blood we’re used to seeing. But, the gold also makes it visually stunning with one shot in particular of Valkyrie basking in the glory of battle forever now etched in my mind. The second sequence is all over the trailers, but still equally impressive. They go to a world that almost completely lacks color except for the glow from their weapons. What follows is an extremely well-choreographed, visually interesting, emotional, desperate battle that was quite frankly brilliant. Personally, I think it would’ve been cooler to integrate some more of The Island of Silence into it and have the fight be dialogue-free as well, but that’s less of a criticism than a suggestion. Overall, I was extremely happy with all of the action in this movie, especially those two sequences.
And, of course, I can’t in good faith write up a review for Thor: Love and Thunder without praising the amazing cast. Everyone knows by now how great Chris Hemsworth is at playing Thor, but it’s still worth mentioning. Likewise, Tessa Thompson is so effortlessly cool as Valkyrie. I love what she brings to that character. However, I mostly want to talk about the two “new” scene stealers. I say “new” because technically Natalie Portman is an MCU veteran, having joined the franchise when Hemsworth did back in 2011. However, this is definitely a fresh take on Jane Foster. Through circumstances that the trailers have left quiet so I will too, she now has taken up the identity of the Mighty Thor and, holy crap, does Portman shine in this role. She’s just got so much charisma that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off of her. Plus, she brings a level of freshness, inexperience, and naivety that I feel the franchise hasn’t had since it introduced Spider-Man more than half a decade ago. And, speaking of things this franchise desperately needed, Christian Bale is absolutely terrifying as Gor, the God Butcher. No joke, he might be the scariest villain in the history of comic book movies. He’s got all of the unpredictability of Joker, but with the intensity of Patrick Bateman behind him. There is one scene where he’s interacting with children that felt like a scene out of It, not a Thor movie. And that’s just one scene in a whole movie of being absolutely bone-chilling. I know Christian Bale will always be remembered as Batman, but, honestly, this performance is as good, if not better. Easily one of my Top 3 MCU villains of all time.
As I’ve said, I really enjoyed Love and Thunder. I thought it was an excellent way to spend two hours. However, I do think it feels like it was spinning its wheels a few times. Towards the end of the movie, I couldn’t help but think “that’s it? Really?” It’s weird to say in a movie where the villain literally was murdering gods, but this felt extremely low stakes. Like, if this movie hadn’t happened, I don’t know that the universe or even the character of Thor would be that different. In a saga that’s constantly about character development and/or setting up the next big adventure, this one felt a bit adrift. It’s not like it didn’t have a story to tell. It definitely did. It just felt like it was missing that forward momentum. Not every movie needs to be a universe-shattering, Infinity War-style event, but it should at least rock the main character’s world. And I, personally, don’t feel like this one did.
Overall though, Thor: Love and Thunder was an absolute delight. I loved so much about this movie that the stakes feeling moderately low wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, it was another MCU movie that delivered on fun characters, amazing action scenes, and a healthy amount of laughs. What more could I want? As far as I’m concerned, this makes 29/29 for delivering on that promise.
TL;DR: Thor: Love and Thunder is another great entry into the MCU canon, bringing a healthy dose of Taika Waititi’s humor and some of the franchise’s coolest action scenes to date.
Score: 8/10 (Great)