Thor: Love and Thunder ultimately feels like two disjointed movies crammed into its brief two-hour run-time. Over-saturating an otherwise serious subtext with Marvel’s goofiest jokes and gags, the film never allows the poignant moments to truly land.
Taika Waititi returns to the Thor franchise after soft-rebooting the character in Thor: Ragnarok. My review for the film was quite glowing, giving the film four stars. With that film, Waititi’s humor felt unique to the franchise and much of the humor landed. While yes, it went a completely different tone direction than what “Ragnarok” would imply, the director’s vision stood taller than some shortcomings. Love and Thunder, however, is felt bombastic in its approach to humor and tone. In some ways, it felt like watching someone have an inside joke with themselves, not much landed.
The use of humor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its pros and cons, and for the most part, the action-comedy format never failed the franchise at the box office. Thor: Love and Thunder may perform quite well at the box office, but the film felt like an overload of goofiness, with not much substance to keep the viewer engaged emotionally. After Waititi attempted his 10th and 11th ex joke in the film, whether, between Thor and Jane or other situations, it’s a quick road to getting old. In Thor: Ragnarok, the jokes landed and the tone had the right mix of heart and humor. Here, it’s all goofiness, with only flashes of substance.
Speaking of substance, most of it comes with Natalie Portman’s return as Jane Foster. Portman is great as Jane, who gets to co-star this time as The Mighty Thor. Those familiar with her character’s comic storyline know where the major beats of the story will go, and the film tries to adapt the gist of it well. When the film takes a minute to get serious about Jane’s arc, the film is at its best. Despite Chris Hemsworth’s never-ending charisma as Thor, audiences will feel much more connected to Jane in this film. Portman provides the best performance of the film and deserves her flowers for each moment.
When Christian Bale was announced to play the main villain, Gorr, in Thor: Love and Thunder, it perplexed fans of the actor. Bale is at the top of his game, and a Marvel role was far from his norm. The once Batman actor returns to the superhero genre to play a villain. Gorr is an interesting character, albeit with a rather paper-thin motivation, which was partly set up through a humorous scene. His character mostly works only thanks to Bale carrying a thin script to its maximum apex. His character is severely impacted by the shortened run-time of the film. Another ten minutes of breathing room for his character arc and development could have very well made him the best in the franchise. Instead, he falls in the middle of the pack.
Despite the largest budget for a Thor film, the production quality felt considerably weaker than it’s predecessors. It’s a problem becoming alarmingly consistent in the Marvel franchise. Budgets continue to balloon and cinematic quality worsens.
On rare occasions like Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, when a director with a keen eye of Sam Raimi leads, Marvel films can be visually beautiful. Waititi, known more for his writing ability, left Thor with more to be desired.
When Waititi is at the top of his game, Thor: Love and Thunder has hilarious moments and heartfelt sequences. Yet for most of the film, the humor did not land properly. Attempts at poignant moments were overshadowed with a goofy subtext and major themes of the film were glossed over or rushed to the finish line to put the film under two hours. On a performance level, Natalie Portman led the show with the right amount of heart. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth continue to be lovable characters, though more scenes with the former would have been welcome. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe were the ones who greatly needed a beefier script for their characters to feel palpable. Unfortunately, the lack of substance from the two of them was one of the bigger disappointments of the film.
Despite strong performances and some heartfelt moments, Thor: Love and Thunder ultimately buckles under a tiresome amount of humor and thin character arcs. A sizable dip from the balance and success of Thor: Ragnarok.