Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 59 minutes, Director – Taika Waititi
Whilst trying to drop his ego and work as part of a team, including his now-superpowered ex Jane (Natalie Portman), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must take down rising god butcher Gorr (Christian Bale).
After some of their major, usually Avengers, films Marvel Studios has tended to drop a palate cleanser, usually in the form of a lighter Ant-Man film in the summer months. Now, their 29th feature release feels just like one of these, perhaps after the multiverse introduction and expansion of their previous two ventures. Certainly, with the humour, flashes of colour and Guns N’ Roses and ABBA infused soundtrack there’s a clearly different style and feeling to Thor: Love And Thunder to the previous entries in the MCU’s fourth phase.
We re-meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as he parts ways with the Guardians Of The Galaxy on the way to a new individual journey of self-discovery, with Korg (co-writer, alongside Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, and director Taika Waititi). However, as elements begin to pile up Thor finds himself having something of an identity crisis, particularly when rediscovering trusted hammer Mjolnir, now in the hands of ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – also going by ‘The Mighty Thor’ – arrives on the scene, causing something of a jealous relationship with his axe Stormbreaker. As the two get reacquainted and the god of thunder comes to terms with the idea that perhaps – as one of the film’s poster taglines claims – the one is not the only they, alongside Korg and king of prime tourist destination New Asgard, Valkyrie (a very enjoyable Tessa Thompson, truly running with her screen-time) to take down a rising threat who has been murdering gods all across the universe – Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale).
When on screen Bale truly steals the show with a dark, potentially scary, performance which deeply contrasts with the rest of the film. While his screen-time feels limited up until the climactic battles, which pay off rather well – particularly a colour-drained setting where some of the action engagingly looks like it could be from a 2D animation – Bale makes the most of what he gets and commands the screen whenever he appears. However, Thor is the core focus of this film. He may be learning to be more open and work as part of a team, but he is the main figure we follow throughout. And we certainly follow him to a number of places as the narrative feels constructed of having to go through points C, D, E, etc to get to point B. While there’s plenty of humour along the way – although perhaps less punchlines than Waititi’s previous Thor Marvel entry, Ragnarok – Love And Thunder does somewhat feel slightly held back by the construction of its narrative.
Certainly, it doesn’t overly prevent it, but it does mean that at just under two hours it perhaps stops itself before it has any run-time issues and it could fit in another location. Where things move forward with the most ease is when focusing on the action, especially in the aforementioned final stages where things appear to have properly come together, and there are some rather nice ideas laid out in perhaps unexpected ways. It contrasts well with the darkness of Gorr, and the cartoon-like nature of giant screaming goats – who conjure a chuckle every time they scream – and Russell Crowe as gluttonous showman Zeus. There’s plenty to keep things moving along nicely and keep the light, slightly ego-centric tone and humour that Taika Waititi has been credited as bringing to Thor, elevated and properly grounded by Chris Hemsworth’s fine comedic capabilities, going fairly consistently. The plot might have what feel like occasional tangents, with their own engaging elements, that lean away from Christian Bale’s scene-stealing turn, but there’s enough within the overall course of Love And Thunder to make it an enjoyable, if palate-cleanser feeling, venture and new turn for the god of thunder.
Thor’s new journey of self-discovery feels slightly stilted by its tangential narrative, however, while it might feel a bit of a palate cleanser, Thor: Love And Thunder has plenty of good humour to contrast with the darkness of Christian Bale’s brilliantly performed central villain, and help move things along.