Thor Love and Thunder: Review
After years of besting foes in combat, the God of Thunder Thor undergoes a personal quest for inner peace. Unfortunately, his odyssey is soon sidetracked by the sudden arrival of a god-killing entity and an even scarier presence; his one true love and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder.
Thor represents a fascinating presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As one of the few characters still standing from the universe’s Phase One heyday, the character endured years of transformation as the executive team tried to find the right approach. Neither 2011’s Thor nor 2013’s Thor: The Dark World inspired much fanfare, but acclaimed writer/director Taika Waititi discovered an appealing avenue with 2017’s Thor Ragnarok.
Packed with vibrant colors and Waititi’s distinct comedic energy, Ragnarok re-discovered Thor as a man bursting with charisma and genuine vulnerabilities. The same creative team makes their long-awaited return with Thor: Love and Thunder, yet that once-bright creative spark feels noticeably absent here. Love and Thunder trips over its ambitions in a bloated and conceptually underbaked sequel.
If you loved Ragnarok, there’s still a good chance you’ll find enjoyment in Love and Thunder. Waititi doubles down on his comedic hijinks and lively imagination while pushing his auteur sensibilities to new limits. On paper, I appreciate Waititi and Marvel for embracing this level of auteurship. Allowing superheroes to come to life under the guidance of inspired directors is a much better decision than embedding the same blah flavoring into each MCU film.
Unfortunately for Love and Thunder, that level of open-ended creative control does not pay off. Waititi and co-screenwriter Jennifer Kaytin Robinson pack Thor’s coming-of-age story in a dense narrative experience that rarely receives breathing room. Alongside Thor’s search for personal solace, Love and Thunder tries to build more detailed backstories for Jane Foster, the villainous god-killer Gorr, and Thor’s friend King Valkyrie – all in an under two-hour narrative.
As you can guess, the narrative combusts from its sheer bombast. The screenplay dances between ideas and character arcs without developing a succinct identity, often coming off as a series of vignettes lacking a core foundation. Each character shares a symbolic connection in their search for love and self-acceptance. Unfortunately, frenetic pacing truncates a majority of those arcs into unfulfilling journeys. There is some promise in the film’s attempts to imbue a more character-driven and emotionally vulnerable approach amidst the superhero genre’s penchant for chaotic violence. Those sparks of vitality ultimately exist as remnants of what this film could have been with proper focus.
The breathless plotting rests all responsibility on melodramatic speeches and unprompted montages to carry the heavy lifting – a choice that coats every frame in a hackneyed sense of emotion. Mixed with half-baked attempts to ruminate on class divide and legacy, Love and Thunder spins a chaotic tornado of ideas and feelings that compounds itself into a weightless blur.
Even the elements that made Ragnarok a refreshing breath of fresh air feel noticeably absent here. Visually, the film undergoes a nightmarish night-and-day transition from Ragnarok’s opulent imagery. There’s never a moment when the film looks like a grandiose blockbuster. Despite the film’s $250 million price tag, cheaply-integrated CGI backdrops and unimaginative action setpieces are surprisingly commonplace. Waititi’s movies typically look vibrant – it’s really a bummer to see his usual visceral craft suffocate under the Marvel blockbuster train.
Other Waititi quirks also struggle to gain traction. Ragnarok built a sharp comedic voice from its mix of self-referential one-liners and quirky setpieces. With Love and Thunder, the eccentricities feel more like an annoyance. Tired running gags and cheesy references populate the screen without drawing the genuine laughter that made Ragnarok so dynamic.
Love and Thunder takes some earnest risks, but the experience lands with an oppressive sense of fatigue. The movie is over-stretched and underdeveloped as Waititi struggles to build upon his solid foundation. Even with my misgivings, I credit Marvel for trusting in the talents of a distinctive filmmaker compared to running another studio-assembled product.