You know when you sit at home and hear a distant constant grumble and have to discern whether it is the thunderous sound of an impending storm or just your neighbour taking out their bins? Thus the opening scenes of Thor: Love and Thunder leave you both poised and trepidatious.
Director Taika Waititi returns along with Chris Hemsworth (Spiderhead) to deliver the next stand-alone Thor instalment since the wildly popular and successful Thor: Ragnarok in 2017. Since that movie Thor as a character has gone through revenge, depression, and redemption which immediately presents Love and Thunder with a problem; what to do about the eldest Odinson?
What Is Thor: Love and Thunder About?
The clue is in the title. Through a clunky opening (featuring cameos from the Guardians of the Galaxy cast) we learn that Thor (Hemsworth) is feeling listless.
Seeking purpose, he returns to New Asgard to protect the people from Gor (Christian Bale); welder of the god slaying Necrosword.
There he also finds former love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who can now transform into The Mighty Thor whilst Thor’s reforged hammer, Mjolnir, is lifted in her grasp.
Love, then. Whether Thor is fighting his feelings towards Jane (who is fighting a battle of her own) or Gor is fighting to avenge his love for his daughter abandoned by the gods, the central theme woven through Waititi’s technicolour rainbow presentation is one of love versus shadows.
That in his anguish Gor hisses out shadow monsters which drain the colour from our heroes is as thematic as it is an excuse for Waititi to double and triple down on his light-hearted comedy approach from Ragnarok.
Ragnarok, though, delicately balanced the comedy with plenty of pathos. Love and Thunder gallops so gleefully with a sack of comedy over its shoulder that it doesn’t notice the scales loudly tip too far, none more so than with Thor himself.
The character works best when there is a level of dignity to be undercut. Once aware of his own self-delusion and pomp it is hard to land jokes at his behalf, despite Hemsworth mugging the camera for all it is worth.
Thor: Love and Thunder Official Trailer
Is Love and Thunder Worth Watching?
Love and Thunder does have plenty of ingredients that make for a mouthful of colourful pop rocks.
Gor’s tragic motivations give Bale’s antagonist some substance to chew on, even if this is mostly bookended to the start and finish points of the movie.
Portman’s grasp on her new powers has a desperate tinge that goes beyond simple shallow empowerment, and when she and Hemsworth get a scene not over saturated with gags they draw the emotion out admirably.
Underneath all the bluster and devil horns 80s soundtrack, there is a down-to-earth story to be told.
Love and Thunder commits to its 80s pastiche aesthetic hard. This generates some gleefully corny imagery (plastic Viking boat dragged by screaming goats over a magical rainbow, anyone?) which will either attract or repel you.
Metallic glinting colours kaleidoscope over a leg pulling humour style that does elicit plenty of chuckles but potentially dozens of eye rolls too; a running joke about Thor’s current weapon glowering over his sad eyes at his ex-weapon is crowbarred beyond the laughs it generates.
Waititi makes no effort to tie Love and Thunder into any current Marvel plotlines which makes it somewhat of a stand alone curiosity. There certainly wouldn’t have been room for a wincingly daft excursion to visit Zeus (Russell Crowe rummaging around his accent box again) had the movie had to set up or follow other threads.
Pushing aside the bluster, Thor: Love and Thunder has a sweet natured core that seeks to find motivations beyond world ending stakes.
The final words spoken between the principal three cast members has a mature refined brevity: what is the point of fighting if not for love?
With no purpose beyond this simple message, Waititi’s boggle-eyed route wins out once he arrives at his destination.
Words by Mike Record