By: Ethan Bloomfield, Reviews Editor
[Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture; 2022]
Phase four of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is underway, the latest collection in the over ten year-long experiment into blockbuster comic book cinema. Among these million dollar titles was Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth Thor movie in the franchise which released last month to a generally warm welcome by fans, yet tanked historically hard in its second weekend. When I got a chance to see the film in theaters, I understood exactly why the theater was mostly empty; Thor: Love and Thunder is both an insult to fans of Thor comics and an ego-driven victory lap for Taika Waititi. It was full of outdated jokes, needless pandering, incompetent filmmaking, and a general lack of understanding as to what made the last Thor movie so special.
To understand Love and Thunder, one has to look back at Ragnarok to get the full scope of what they’re missing. Ragnarok sees Thor imprisoned on Jeff Goldblum’s planet fighting none other than the Hulk in a gladiatorial subplot underpinning the greater fight against Hela to save Asgard. It is full of smart humor, interesting visuals, and genuinely gripping action that make the film worth watching several times over. Love and Thunder is none of these things.
Taika Waititi’s most recent Thor project is worse than humorless: it is misplaced and dated. One of the main gags throughout the film sees two giant, screaming goats making appearances throughout the runtime like the ghost of last decade’s jokes came to haunt the cast. Additionally, one of the main conflicts in the film is Jane Foster’s non-specific stage four cancer which is played for laughs at every opportunity, wiping away every bit of emotion that this plot point could have had. The film is also full of sitcom-like situations where Thor and even Jane (who is a published physicist in this film) talk to their weapons like significant others, with the weapons floating into frame like angry girlfriends in scenes that would be perfect with a hokey laugh track.
In fact, every character in this movie suffers from a lack of intelligence. In a cinematic universe where Thor’s comedy used to come from his unfamiliarity with earthly concepts like coffee and table manners, he has been reduced to a bumbling clown with zero ability to think intelligently or command dramatic emotion in a scene. This is true of every character including Jane Foster, King Valkyrie and Christian Bale’s extremely weak and wildly inaccurate portrayal of Gorr the God Butcher. In a movie where every character is the comic relief character, the movie feels unwilling to have any real stakes or tension. Additionally, the overwhelming amount of comedy in the film leaves very little room for actual storytelling, making the whole thing feel hollow and empty.
The soundtrack is similarly disappointing and ineffective. While Ragnarok had one well-placed inclusion of “The Immigrant Song” to highlight the main action set piece of the film, Love and Thunder shoves so many visual and audio references to Guns N’ Roses that one would swear Axl Rose executively produced. Not only does Guns N’ Roses appear during every fight scene in the movie, they appear on a poster, a T-shirt and most bafflingly, in one of the names of the main characters. That’s right, Heimdall’s yet unmentioned son wanted to be called Axl in this movie.
The last grievances for this film come from the effects and the pacing. The effects throughout this two-hundred-fifty million dollar movie looked extremely lazy, rushed and out of place. The costumes looked cheap, and every god shown in the movie looked like they came directly out of Party City. There is nothing fun to look at in this movie, whether you take the generic shadow monsters or the adobe after-effects black and white ending bit (it’s hard to call it a third act when it lasts all of ten minutes). In fact, this movie barely has a second act either. For coming in at just under two hours, the film wastes its time on a pointless Guardians of the Galaxy cameo with a pointless battle, a pointless ten minute cold open trying to humanize someone called the God Butcher and the same pointless recycled jokes over and over. This makes the film feel directionless, pandering and all-but inconsequential in the MCU canon.
The most disappointing part of this film is what happened to Gorr. The symbiote he was supposed to wield was changed to a less-interesting magic sword, he was given a needless backstory and motivation that resolves itself LITERALLY with the power of love and he was killed in his very first movie appearance. For such a terrifying and powerful villain in the comic books, he was treated as just another piece of cannon fodder for the heroes to smash, just like Ultron before him.
All in all, this movie is awful. I cracked a smile at a couple of jokes here or there, but the lion’s share of it felt cheap, lazy and like a complete misunderstanding of what made Ragnarok an enjoyable film. The last thing the bloated MCU needs is filler and Love and Thunder felt like loveless, meaningless filler; a generic sci-fi comedy movie for little kids that just happens to star Thor.