Taika Waititi (‘Jojo Rabbit’, ‘What We Do In The Shadows’) brings his now well-recognised charm and humour to the forefront in the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’. This is the fourth stand-alone 'Thor' film and about 30th overall in the franchise, which would lead many - including myself - to a superhero hangover. However, Waititi is given seemingly considerable reign, which results in an altogether fun adventure flick.
A major problem that has personally hindered my MCU devotion is the sheer quantity of productions, making the more recent entries feel more like a spinoff series rather than anything I should care about. Unsurprisingly, I am not completely in the loop of all the goings on within this cinematic universe, having not seen much since the box office behemoth ‘Endgame’, but I can assure any audiences like myself that ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ sits nicely on its own - assuming you haven't amassed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all 29 movies and 12 TV series.
‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ begins with the titular Thor (Chris Hemsworth, ‘Extraction') on a team with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Unlike previous incarnations of Thor, this one is more content meditating under a tree and chasing retirement, and only really goes to fight when required. He is tired of getting hurt and losing the ones he loves, but his quest for inner peace takes a turn when Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale, ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Big Short’) attacks those closest to him. Wielding the mythical Necrosword, Gorr has vowed to murder all the gods as penance for leaving him behind at a time of need. In the opening sequence, Gorr is wandering through a barren wasteland, praying to his god to save him and his daughter’s lives - but to no avail. Alas, a chance meeting with the omniscient figure of his prayers leaves Gorr with a bitter and vengeful taste in his mouth.
After an attack on New Asgard where Gorr kidnaps all the children and locks them in a cage eerily similar to ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, Thor teams up with the new King of Asgard Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, ‘Creed'), his best friend Korg (Waititi), two yelling goats and the ex-love of his life, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, ‘Garden State’, ‘Black Swan’). It’s all over the marketing material, so I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Jane now wields the power of Mjolnir, making her "The Mighty Thor". It’s not the biggest or baddest team out there, and relative to other MCU films it’s barely a team at all, but they have all the motivation and character to fight for Asgard once more and bring peace to the gods.
Once again avoiding spoilers because it’s unbelievably and frustratingly in all the trailers, on their journey to find Gorr, the team treks to the city of the gods, and in one of the more comical scenes of the film, plead with Zeus (played here by Russell Crowe welding his own powerful and immediately recognisable Aussie Greek accent) to gather a team. Full of quips, gags, god cameos and talks of orgies, this scene encapsulates everything that Waititi gets right with this film. There’s an energy and - pardon the pun - an electricity to the comedy that keeps the audience engaged throughout. I laughed several times and was even a little surprised with some of the jokes they got away with, although it left me wanting a Waititi no-holds-barred cut of the film.
If the comedy in the the film gets a big tick - which it does - a lot of the credit of that has to go to Hemsworth - who, after appearing in a number of films as Thor, has really got his character down pat.
If the comedy in the the film gets a big tick - which it does - a lot of the credit of that has to go to Hemsworth - who, after appearing in a number of films as Thor, has really got his character down pat. His comic timing and physicality really embody that loveable, aloof figure, and it’s why he is probably one of my favourite on-screen heroes. Supported by a Guns N’ Roses-heavy soundtrack, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ certainly allows Hemsworth the space to play with his rollercoaster of emotions.
Humour aside, there isn’t really much on offer in the film otherwise. It’s certainly colourful and Bale does a decent job with limited screen time, but it lacks any depth and once again feels incredibly formulaic. Waititi is clearly pushing the boundaries and uses his sense of humour as a tool in doing so, but ultimately this will go down as yet another chapter in the endless cycle of rather forgettable plots void of meaning. There is drama to lean into here, but I found it hard to take too seriously, and didn’t much care for the fate of the characters. The action is likewise very mundane, without much clarity or thought behind any of it. I just would like to see more experimentation within this parameter, although I did enjoy Gorr’s often creepy screen entrances, as he lives and breathes in the foreboding shadows.
Audiences will know exactly what to expect here. Fans of the MCU will surely flock to the nearest multiplex to get a glimpse of the latest entry, and Waititi fans should definitely check this one out too. As a follow up to ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, this has all the glitz and humour of its predecessor and possibly more, but I wonder how much longer these entries to the MCU will survive - especially the ones that have no effect on the wider overarching narrative. ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ will certainly not be the film to bring the franchise down, and is worth the watch as a fun and entertaining enough adventure.