Surprisingly, the 29th MCU movie, which arrived in theaters Friday, misses the mark. In trying to balance comedy with drama and merging multiple classic comic storylines into a single narrative, Thor’s
Thor: Love and Thunder seemed guaranteed to be a slam dunk. Director Taika Waititi is back at the helm following 2017’s immensely entertaining , with Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian Avenger finding his lovably comedic groove and making her epic return to the after a nine-year absence.
This movie isn’t nearly as as its immediate MCU predecessor, , but it does throw in a scene-stealing Russell Crowe as a narcissistic Zeus. Unfortunately, his role is mostly limited to a single shiny set piece that proves largely forgettable as the main narrative breezes through it. On Earth, Thor encounters his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Portman) in battle as Gorr attacks Thor’s fellow Asgardians. She’s wielding his old hammer Mjolnir, having been deemed worthy in her darkest hour and gaining powers similar to his.
Love and Thunder doesn’t live up to the incredible stories that inspired it. It neither leans into its director’s style or maximizes its cast’s dramatic potential, feeling more like a shallow, unsatisfying mashup. It’s still a fun, silly entry in the MCU canon, but isn’t the classic Thor adventure its hunky hero seems to think he’s on.
Rounding out the hero team is King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who’s bored with her role as the leader of the magical tourist trap that New Asgard has become (this location includes ). Though the movie fails to explore her ennui enough, Thompson infuses the character with sufficient mischief that she’s a joy to watch. Even her wardrobe choices hint at a fascinating inner life — her Phantom of the Opera shirt is way more intriguing than any superhero costume.
After his memorable introduction, Gorr’s menace is greatly diminished. The God Butcher’s comics counterpart (introduced in Jason Aaron’s ) feels like a major threat as Thor follows a trail of divine slaughter across the universe.
Given the very relatable human health problems Jane faces, this storyline should be Love and Thunder’s emotional heart. The movie just doesn’t take the time needed for the challenge she faces to sink in, like it’s afraid to get too real and overly eager to whisk us away on the next adventure (some dramatic moments are also undermined by its two post-credits scenes).
Despite this, Bale’s performance and the aesthetic choices inject the character with plenty of creepy spectral boogeyman vibes (apparently inspired by Aphex Twin’s deeply unsettling Come to Daddy music video). A midpoint confrontation with the heroes stands among the MCU’s most visually stunning sequences, with ingenious use of shadow and color.
The awkwardness between Jane and Thor is initially pretty fun — largely due to Portman and Hemsworth’s charisma and chemistry — but it doesn’t develop in a particularly compelling way. A one-note joke about Thor and his new weapon Stormbreaker proves more memorable, and even that quickly feels played out.
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It starts out promisingly enough, with a stark introduction setting up