Almost three years on from the exciting announcement by director Taika Waititi and the cast at Hall H of San Diego Comic-Con, the fourth Thor instalment is finally here. Last seen in the 2013 flick Thor: The Dark World, Natalie Portman finally returns to the franchise as the beloved (and Mjölnir wielding) Mighty Thor, an adaptation of the game changing comic run which fans have long been looking forward to. With phase four of the MCU now well underway, (to a mix of fan and critic response) can the second instalment from Waititi live up to the much loved Ragnarok?
Thrown off guard during his search for self-discovery, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) discovers that the galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is leaving a slew of dead Gods in his wake. To help bring him down and rescue the children of New Asgard, the God of Thunder enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – who now mysteriously wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they travel through magical realms in search of the reasoning behind the God Butcher’s vengeance, in a hope to stop him before it’s too late.
In a similar vein as Ragnarok, Waititi continues to veer away from the family drama and Norse mythology of early Thor instalments for a cosmic journey with rom-com elements, exploring new horizons, characters and planets – featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy gang, Zeus + Omnipotent City and the Shadow Realm. With bestie Korg narrating the mythical tale of the space viking, the director unfurls his gleefully bonkers love letter to the Thor adventures of old, complete with screaming goats, outlandish costumes, a recurring love triangle gag between Thor, Stormbreaker and Mjölnir and plenty of Jim Henson-esque creature (and God) creations.
Reminiscent of the 80s run by Walter Simonson, this frenetically paced outing is undoubtedly a colourful and wildly fun ride for the God of Thunder – reuniting him with a number of familiar faces along the way, most namely with ex, Jane Foster. If you’re not a huge fan of Ragnarok, then you won’t find much to enjoy in addition as the flick is once again packed with Waititi’s signature wise-cracking humour, quirky gags and dorky self-awareness. While some gags are brilliantly hilarious, others can start to feel a little repetitive in a screenplay which has a tendency to overly rely on the comedic factors, sometimes undercutting the heartfelt undertones in result.
But much like Hunt for the Wildlife – the fourth Thor instalment is unafraid to wear its giant heart on its sleeve, and it’s all the better for it. On his quest to save the children of New Asgard, Thor finally uncovers the true meaning of life and love with a beautifully simple message full of soul at its core, particularly for such a cosmic MCU adventure. As the significance of the title finally comes to fruition towards the closing moments, Thor: Love and Thunder ends with such a surprisingly moving direction for the hero.
It’s clearly evident throughout that everyone on-screen is having a blast in their respective roles, but none more so than the God-like Chris Hemsworth, who’s relishing playing the loveable doofus as he navigates a journey of self discovery. The directional shift and evolution of the character continues as he begins to emerge from his self-imposed emotional reluctance, displaying a rare vulnerability following the events of Avengers Endgame. However the central dynamic with Foster’s The Mighty Thor proves the real heart of the tale as Portman is finally gifted an arc worthy of her talents. Closely adapting Jason Aaron’s seminal comic run, Portman and Waititi sensitively explore the emotional transition of the character, as the Mjolnir wielding Mighty Thor is afforded some outstandingly powerful action sequences. In all honesty, Portman could have carried her own in a spin-off solo instalment with the character, as the frenetic pacing and extended ensemble tends to eat into the runtime of the scenes told from her lens.
Also along for the ride is Tessa Thompson’s brilliantly deadpan (but disappointingly shortchanged) Valkyrie – who’s finding life as King of New Asgard a little on the mundane side – and fan favourite character Korg, who is afforded a little more runtime this time round. Christian Bale makes his return to the comic book scene as the villainous yet emotive Gorr The God Butcher, with a somewhat muddled performance, often switching between a truly ominous and empathetic antagonist, to a comedic Child Catcher-esque figure. Russel Crowe also makes his MCU debut as the scene stealing pompous Zeus, flamboyantly twirling his lightning bolt and delighting in updating the Gods about the annual orgy – he truly does have the wildest accent you’ll hear in the MCU yet. There’s also plenty of fun cameos to keep you eyes peeled for!
With a riot of rich colour, crazy settings and often bombastic costumes, the fourth outing is the brightest and most bombastic Thor instalment yet. The eclectic soundtrack is also a riot, ranging from the comical use of Enya and ABBA, to a slew of classic Guns n Roses tracks which truly hit the mark at key moments. The film also features a number of standout action sequences, particularly the visually striking showdown with Gorr in the Shadow Realm, with the trippy dimension proving one of the distinctive battle grounds in the MCU yet. However, as with more recent Marvel instalments, there are certain scenes which feature poor visual fidelity, with a distinct definition between digital backgrounds and actors, along with some ropey visual effects such as the Shadow Monsters.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a weird and wonderful cosmic adventure which truly wears its heart on its sleeve, as the God of Thunder and company journey on a charming and surprisingly sentimental quest. While there are some tonal and pacing issues, it’s hard to deny how much of a blast this latest instalment is – so sit back and enjoy the goat and metal fuelled ride!