Movies · Reviews

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is an Overly Flippant and Cocky Disappointment

Thor Love And Thunder
Walt Disney
By  · Published on July 5th, 2022

Few heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have seen as dramatic a shift in character, tone, and appearance as Thor (Chris Hemsworth). His debut in 2011 revealed a muscular, mostly serious god somewhat out of his element, but the subsequent sequels and crossovers have seen his body swell, both via fat suit and an insanely jacked up physique. Even more striking, though, has been Thor’s embrace of humor. It works, thanks in no small part to Hemsworth’s comedic chops, but if Thor: Ragnarok (2017) is the pinnacle of that journey then Thor: Love and Thunder represents a shockingly steep decline as it tries way too hard to be funny only to fall flat.

When we last saw Thor he was hitching a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the gang has been traveling the universe fighting baddies since then. It seems Thor is a bit of a downer, though, as his false happiness can’t hide the lack of love in his life. They part ways when Thor flies to old friend Sif’s (Jaimie Alexander) rescue and learns that a new uber villain, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), has been skewering gods with a fancy sword and is heading to New Asgard next. Thor arrives just in time to fend of Gorr’s shadow monsters and, much to his surprise, to see Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) whooping it up with Mjolnir as The Mighty Thor.

Thor: Love and Thunder sets up an interesting enough dual storyline — Thor’s fight against the big bad, and his love story with Jane — but while individual elements succeed, the film as a whole just can’t get (or keep) it together. The culprits are legion, but the main issue at play here is a relentless sense of humor, something that maybe wouldn’t be so bad if it was actually all that funny.

Director/co-writer Taika Waititi might just be in his fathead phase where, intoxicated on the fumes of his own good press has decided he can do no wrong and the people want more, more, more! Nearly every beat here is drowned in desperate, forced attempts at humor, and while some of it lands (thank Russell Crowe‘s Zeus for that) the bulk of it crashes into the screen yelling all the way “isn’t this funny?!” It’s unfortunate as not only are there the bones of serious, thoughtful narratives here with both Gorr and Jane, but Waititi has previously shown he can balance tone beautifully with Thor: Ragnarok. That film is visually dazzling, filled with rich character beats, and funny as hell — Thor: Love and Thunder is no Ragnarok.

The script, co-written by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, sees nearly everything as an opportunity for a joke. Some beats see that happen naturally, but far too often it’s punchlines delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It’s a generally unfunny movie, despite the filmmakers clearly thinking otherwise, and far too often those clumsy attempts at jokes end up treading all over character beats and serious undertones. One example — Sif makes a desperate call for immediate help, and we spend the next five minutes trying to squeeze laughs out of Thor’s goodbye to the Guardians. She was literally under fire in her message, but no, let’s milk a stale joke for a while.

Strangely, the comedic stagnation carries over to Portman’s performance too. Comedy has never been her primary genre of choice, but she’s proven herself in the past with the likes of Garden State (2004) and No Strings Attached (2011). Here, though, she struggles trying to find the laugh in repeated attempts at nailing a catchphrase and minor banter with a similarly afflicted Tessa Thompson. She’s far more reliable in the rare serious beats, noticeably in scenes apart from Thor and the others, and that carries over to Bale as well. He’s terrific here and makes for a memorably motivated villain, but he’s at his best in the bleak intro and a later scene between him and some terrified children. Mix him with Thor, though, and and Waititi’s grasp on the tone becomes nonexistent. The only one who succeeds completely at finding laughs is Crowe whose turn as the boisterously selfish Zeus (with possibly an Italian accent?) is the right kind of silly and serious.

If it sounds like I’m harping solely on the comedy, well, Thor: Love and Thunder is a comedy. The more serious elements are shoved aside with such ferocity that their effect is lessened dramatically. Both Gorr and Jane have threads that should land hard, but it becomes a matter of too little too late on both counts. The plot mechanics consist of slapdash connections and elements that the film doesn’t even bother to explore, explain, or expand upon. It’s a popcorn movie so logic isn’t a necessary ingredient, but the best of the “genre” still manage some kind of internal consistency. Here it’s simply to stump for laughs at all costs.

Is Thor: Love and Thunder a bad film? Some people like haggis, so who’s to say really, but it’s definitely several steps down from its predecessor in nearly every way. There are some eye-catching visuals here, particularly in a later sequence in a black & white part of space (don’t ask), but it’s also a film shot almost entirely against green screens with barely a natural landscape in sight. Bale’s gaunt and ghostly figure cuts a memorable villain, but most of the fights are against dull shadow monsters lacking in menace or personality. Michael Giacchino‘s score is perfectly fine but lacks the absolute banger status of Mark Mothersbaugh’s one for Ragnarok.

Is Thor: Love and Thunder a bad film? I don’t know, but maybe it’s time to reevaluate 2013’s Thor: The Dark World as the franchise’s weakest entry…

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.