Chris Hemsworth is back for the first fourquel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Taika Waititi returning to direct and the original cast returning for a comedic space romp that sees the Thor series finally embracing the Norse mythology and embracing the other gods sprinkled throughout the universe. This time around Natalie Portman returns to the series as the central character taking on a version of Mighty Thor which allows for some great romantic comedy tropes to come into play. The action is bigger, the laughs are louder, the premise is outrageously camp showing there is still life left in the Thor series, Thor : Love and Thunder is the best MCU movie in the current phase, and perhaps the best Thor movie of the series.
The movie picks up slightly after the events of Avengers Endgame. Thor has his eye back and has joined the Guardians of the Galaxy as he is feeling empty and searching for meaning in his life. Meanwhile, New Asgard has settled on Earth and become a major tourist destination for the world to encounter the Asgardian’s lifestyle. When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is told of a monster Gorr (Christian Bale) equipped with a sword that can kill gods is on a mission to eliminate all gods travelling across the different realms to do so. Thor must enlist the help of Zeus (Russell Crowe) and bring his friends Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to stop the slaughter and save the gods and children of New Asgard.
The MCU have been taken huge creative risks lately with projects like The Eternals, Doctor Strange 2 and the array of Disney + spin-offs that don’t centre around main characters not delivering the billion-dollar blockbuster hits and near-perfect critic scores the studio is used to. Thor is the first character in the MCU to be given a fourth solo film and while there are many ingredients here that make it worth it, the return of Natalie Portman to the series, and to take up the mantle of Thor seems worth the money alone. Director Taika Waititi has taken the ingredients that made Ragnarok popular with Korg and Valkyrie returning and blending them with the cast of the original movie to deliver a story that won’t result in the end of the world (well human world at least!) Taking the fight to the gods in different realms is a clever tale to tell and with Waititi’s whacky mind to write and direct, only accelerates this turning into a blend of campy 80’s inspired action that will make you laugh, sometimes cry and a reminder of the power of Marvel comics characters when done right.
Hemsworth remains settled as the character, cracking out the one-liners at every turn. Bale was a great addition as the torn father turned murdering psychopath able to summon shadow monsters at the click of his fingers. His performance was outrageously campy and felt like a mix of Arnold Schwarzneggers Mr Freeze in Batman and Robin with Ray Fines Voldermort. There were times he appeared and it was incredibly creepy and threatening, and others where it felt outrageously camp. Portman’s return was warranted with an extended backstory and throwback scene explaining the reasons they broke up and why Jane feels the need to reach back out to Thor. Portman and Hemsworth were not a solid sell in the first two films, here the balance of power has shifted and their relationship is understandably different and fortunately feels more authentic.
Visually the film is clearly sticking close with its 80’s poster promises and trailer. There is a heavy neon aesthetic that is mixed up a bit in a few parts of the film. Waititi plays with black and white in the Shadow realm and allows the visuals to transform offering a different vibe and the shadow monsters to feel like creepy characters from an old black and white horror movie. It is good to see the studio trying different things, particularly in a movie that is bursting at the seams with colour and light for the majority of its two-hour runtime.
There are a ton of throwbacks to romantic comedies as Thor and Jane explore their new relationship and the possibilities that it may bring to each of them. Thor feels lost and clearly still loves Jane. Jane has a life-altering decision to make and must choose between life and love. This would be the first film in which their love story feels earned and the pay-off is extremely bittersweet.
The action scenes in this do feel a little light. While they are chaotic and loud, you can almost see the wires as the different characters fly across the screen or embark on large leaps and rolls set against the CGI landscapes. This is particularly true when it comes to Portman possessing the power of Thor. A few tumbles and hammer swings are effective, but after a few times, the cracks do appear. This is the same for Hemsworth who doesn’t get as much to do action wise this time around when it comes to fighting sequences.
Russell Crowe is the big addition here with the character of Zeus revealed, his take on the ultimate god of gods is different to say the least. Donning a white Australian trying to do a greek accent comes through as Con The Fruiterer from The Comedy Company (for your reference if you don’t know click here) This may sound like a negative, it is actually incredibly funny and his take on Thor and the god-killer is a great addition to the story.
Thor : Love and Thunder is everything that I wasn’t expecting from this film. It does offer a large neon world with a romantic comedy space romp with the characters from the franchise we all love, yet still remains to hit all the emotional beats it needs to and solidifies Natalie Portman’s return to the franchise. While this won’t be to everyone’s liking, there is so much thrown at the screen, so quickly, it all just kind of works. There are two credit scenes, both worth watching so make sure you stick around for both. Thor : Love and Thunder is the best film of the current phase of the MCU, with a refined pallette, two screaming goats and the original cast back, director Waititi takes the Marvel concept of gods and puts his own unique spin on it resulting in a gloriously camp romantic romp through space.
Thor : Love and Thunder hits cinemas July 7th.
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