Thor: Love and Thunder Reinvigorates Phase 4 With Comedy and Heart


It’s surprising that, after all of this time, Thor stands tall as one of the MCU’s longest-running and most beloved characters. You might not have thought that after Thor: The Dark World, but the Thor of Thor: Love and Thunder is a far cry from the young Asgardian god we met in Thor or The Dark World. And while it’s obvious that when Taika Waititi took over his story the series got a revitalization, that’s not to take away from the path we took to get here. In Love and Thunder, Waititi honors not only what he created in Thor: Ragnarok, with its raucous humor and colorful aesthetic, but also what came before, offering a complex look at the God of Thunder.

Love and Thunder follows a post-Endgame Thor, now traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Although he’s gone from dad bod to god bod, it’s clear that he is a man without a path. Thor’s struggle with finding his purpose has been a through line for his character, he started off as a spoiled prince and graduated to become his brother’s keeper, before taking on the mantle of King of Asgard. Of course, after the snap and killing of Thanos, he spiraled into depression and by the end of Endgame, he hands the kingdom over to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), telling her, “It’s time to be who I am rather than who I’m supposed to be.”


While Love and Thunder gives us back the comedic and confident Thor of movies past, we see that even if his fighting prowess is back at its peak — in an opening fight sequence that is sure to deliver loads of laughs — he’s still rather lost. Traveling with the Guardians has given him something to do, but he still remains rudderless. Thor never had the makings of a king, despite his royal destiny, and Love and Thunder gives him a new path to take, one that fits closer to who he is. When he learns that someone is killing gods and therefore he has a target on his back, his focus shifts to facing Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), starting him on his journey to finding a purpose.

RELATED: The First ‘Thor’ Movies Were Pure Melodrama, And That’s a Good Thing

Hemsworth here is at his peak when it comes to the God of Thunder. Waititi offered him the chance to fully embrace the comedy that he is so good at and it flourishes even more in Love and Thunder. Not only does he have fantastic comedic timing, but he’s been given more to work with. Every time Hemsworth takes on another project, he proves that he has far more range than most initially gave him credit for. The development and evolution of Thor makes him a character who hasn’t overstayed his welcome. There’s still more Thor story to tell.

Opposite him is Bale’s Gorr, who will quickly join the ranks of other MCU villains by making you think, “Does this guy with awful teeth kind of have a point?” Gorr, on paper, is not exactly the most complex villain: he’s got a standard tragic backstory, and his motivations are clear. We’re not breaking any new ground with this character, but it’s Bale’s menacing and physical performance that makes it stand out. Bale is obviously no stranger to playing villains (or heroes), but the way he delicately balances the sadness of Gorr’s past with his vengeful slaughter of Gorr’s present makes him exciting to watch.

Joining Thor on his mission are Korg (Waititi), Jane as the Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman), and Valkyrie. Love and Thunder is a perfect way to mark the official return of Portman as Jane, this time giving her a meatier role. She vacillates between embracing heroism and being haunted by tragedy. Comics readers won’t be surprised by the path her story takes, but it is satisfying nonetheless to see Portman adding some more complexity to Jane. Her romance with Thor, which we only saw the beginning and end of, is explored further and Portman and Hemsworth’s chemistry is delightful on screen. Their relationship is all about finding the balance between living every day like it’s your last and investing in yourself for the future. It is also impossible not to smile when she becomes the Mighty Thor, in full gleaming armor, beating the crap out of shadow monsters.

King Valkyrie gets a break from her royal duties to head back on an adventure, and while Thompson is always perfect in her role as the capable warrior with a dry wit, the film doesn’t go as deep as one would like with Val’s character. It feels like there’s more than enough material for Val to get her own spin-off, but that all depends on whether Marvel is ready to fully embrace Val’s sexuality, out loud and proud. There’s some of it here, and the movie is delightfully gayer than expected, but there’s room to grow with Val. Instead, the film lingers on her blossoming friendship with Jane, which, is not an equal trade-off but is still enjoyable.

With Love and Thunder, Waititi fully leans into his brand. Having co-written the screenplay with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, his DNA is all over this film. Eccentric and funny, with touches of slapstick, and a heavy dose of heart and some melancholy – it’s a familiar formula when it comes to Waititi’s work, but not one that has lost its charm. Many of the shots in the film look directly plucked from comic book pages, with drastic shadows, dramatic colors, and sweeping landscapes. There’s no mistaking what kind of movie you’re watching. It’s bizarre and bombastic, which doubles down the best of what a movie based on a comic based on Norse mythology could be.

You could easily describe Love and Thunder as over-the-top. The movie is excessive, it introduces a new superhero, a new villain, multiple new characters who we are sure to see more of in future stories, and hands us new Marvel lore to gobble up. It’s a lot, which means the exposition lasts a long time. The film’s first half might have stumbled a bit with so many moving parts, and it might not have worked without the strong performances holding it together. The second half soars, delivering spectacle fight scenes and elaborating on the film’s main theme of embracing love of all types – romantic, platonic, familial. It’s about being open and vulnerable, willing to fall in love, even if it means you could get hurt, that’s the lesson here.

The film is not perfect, but for the fourth movie in a franchise, Love and Thunder exemplifies the new directions a character’s journey can take while still being fresh and exciting. We are thankfully not subjected to a slew of cameos that make less sense plot-wise and are meant more as Easter eggs for the future of the MCU – looking at you Multiverse of Madness. The film embraces Thor as the flawed and sometimes silly man that he is. He has moments that easily prove that he is a god in more than just his name, but also moments where he can be a himbo. He’s not stoic or difficult to connect to, there’s genuine emotion there, happiness and heartache.

So, while there might be complaints about the film’s pacing or weaker first half, Thor: Love and Thunder recaptured exactly what charmed me about these MCU movies. I never once rolled my eyes at a joke that was clearly dropped in, so it could be a zinger and make it to the trailer. It successfully silenced a rather jaded MCU fan by offering a story that had it all without having to sacrifice its soul to the MCU machine that is eager to churn out stories for future phases.

Rating: A

Thor: Love and Thunder comes to theaters on July 8.

Check out more mighty stories about ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’:

‘Thor 4’: Release Date, Cast, MCU Connections & Everything We Know So Far About ‘Love and Thunder’

Thor Recap: From ‘Ragnarok’ Leading up to ‘Love and Thunder’

First ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Reactions Call It a Bright Spot and the Best of Phase 4

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’: Gorr The God Butcher, Explained

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Featurette Explores the Hero’s Journey and Legacy


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Written by Ritesh Kardam

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