Taika Waititi’s second Thor movie is a neon cosmic delight, and a great source of redemption for the God of Thunder.
After three years, having last appeared in Avengers: Endgame (2019), the God of Thunder returns to the big screen. In Thor: Love and Thunder, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) traversing the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy, just as we last saw him at the end of Endgame. But, when Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) sends out a distress signal, warning him of the incoming danger from god-killer, Gorr (Christian Bale), Thor must team up with some old friends to save New Asgard from destruction. Which, to his surprise, includes his ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who emerges as The Mighty Thor as an attempt to stall her terminal cancer.
This film is the second film in the Thor franchise to be directed by Taika Waititi, having previously directed Love and Thunder’s predecessor, Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Waititi’s approach to the franchise sets a very different tone from the other two Thor films, which were directed by Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, respectively, though, arguably, at a service to Thor’s character development. Over the course of his four solo films and four Avengers films, we see Thor go through a lot. Both of his parents are dead. His brother and best friend are killed right in front of him at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War (2018). He never received proper closure around his complex relationship with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). His entire home planet was destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered. He grapples with guilt around not being able to stop Thanos before the “Blip.”
Which is why it was all the more disappointing to see Thor’s grief and struggles chocked up to a joke in Endgame. Dawning a grown-out beard, a cardigan and sunglasses, and giving the aura of The Big Lebowski’s “The Dude,” “Fat Thor” memes took the internet by storm in the height of Endgame discourse. Sure, doing such gave Hemsworth the ability to show off his underrated comedic chops, but it also felt a slap in the face to the God of Thunder amidst all the other “main” Avengers each getting a moment of closure. Steve Rogers gets to go back for Peggy Carter. Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Which, to be fair, serve as glorious send-offs for the characters, while Thor gets to continue on, but watching Thor go through as much as he does, only to then board a ship with the Guardians was not quite as satisfying.
However, Waititi’s continuation of this story is. Thor: Love and Thunder showcases the same neon cosmic fun of Ragnarok, with a bit of 1980s influence strewn throughout, which, like its predecessor, includes a fun 80s rock soundtrack. The screenplay is equal parts hilarious and heartfelt, drawing on the important themes of family and grief. We get to see the God of Thunder return as we know him: simultaneously quick- and dim-witted, fighting for the planet he loves so deeply. Thor feels more developed as a character in this film, having gone from a cocky god who only seeks fame and glory, to a man so deeply burdened with the guilt he has over the part he’s played in all the loss he’s faced. This gives him a relatability that makes him easier to root for.
It’s also delightful to see some of the characters from the previous films return, including Valkyrie (the ever magnetic Tessa Thompson), Korg (the charming Waititi), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Natalie Portman also has a welcome return as Jane, and her chemistry with Hemsworth and Thompson is spot on. Bale gives a strong performance as Gorr, adding a level of humanity to the villain that makes him more complex than a mere super-villain. Russell Crowe also gives a standout performance in his debut as Zeus, and the scene where Thor confronts Zeus is definitely a standout scene in the film. The Guardians are also a fun addition, and they (and by they, I mean Chris Pratt), thankfully do not overstay their welcome. The costume and production stylings are also eclectic and colorful, making the film overall a sight to behold.
While Thor: Love and Thunder is definitely not the strongest contender in terms of award worthiness this year, it is a strong entry in Phase 4, and a nice redemption story for the beloved character. Waititi is inherently a gifted director, who has certainly cracked the code with this character and franchise. While it could be argued that Disney is perhaps over saturating the Marvel market a little bit, this film proves any film left in Waititi’s hands can be trusted.
Likely: Best Visual Effects
Should be Considered: Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Where to Watch: Disney+, VOD
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett