Screaming goats and hammersexuality.
Thor: Love And Thunder is Thor: Ragnarok gone wrong, a silly, spastic, stupid, and straight-up ridiculous experience that feels more like a satire of an MCU film rather than an actual MCU film. Thanks to this movie, Thor is the first superhero in the MCU to have four movies in his franchise. And if it succeeded at anything, it showed why most superheroes should just stick with three movies going forward.
Taking place well after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love And Thunder picks up where everyone’s favorite blonde-haired thunder god (once again played by Chris Hemsworth) left off as he tries to discover who he is (as if he hasn’t already found out the answer to that question after eight movie appearances). But as he begins his journey of self-discovery (again), a vicious new enemy called Gorr the god butcher (Christian Bale) rises with one goal: to kill all of the living gods.
But wait! As he begins his violent quest, a new god emerges: specially Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) wielding Mjolnir. With two hammer-wielding thunder gods, the two Thors now have to team up to defeat Gorr and bring an end to his god-killing crusade.
When Thor: Ragnarok burst out onto the scene 10 years ago, director Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do In The Shadows) boldly redefined Thor and his mythos, putting him through a compelling story where he lost his home, his powers, and his hammer and asking who the man behind Mjolnir is. Everything in that film worked to near perfection, from the colorful and eye-popping visuals to the deeply dramatic character moments to the gut-bustingly hilarious jokes. It was a great film back then and it remains one of the best MCU entries to this day.
The best thing I can say about Thor: Love And Thunder is that it replicates *some* of the inspiration behind Thor: Ragnarok. I specifically say “some” because while it possesses many of the same qualities, they’re used nowhere near as effectively as they were in Ragnarok. Still, Chris Hemsworth is as likable in the role as he’s always been, the visual effects are captivating at times, and Taika Waititi brings his usual humorous, lighthearted energy to a character that has typically taken himself way too seriously.
The problem is Taika has gone completely off of the deep end. While Thor: Ragnarok perfectly balanced its action, comedy, and drama, Thor: Love And Thunder flails about aimlessly without sense or direction, and most of its jokes repeat themselves and quickly become redundant. There are a pair of screaming goats introduced early on that I thought were funny at first, but by the 100th scream, they were giving me a migraine. There’s an odd love triangle between Thor, Mjolnir, and Stormbreaker and Thor gets the bright idea of easing tensions by… pouring beer over them. And the climax involves a ridiculous action sequence where kids are imbued with Thor’s lightning that allow them to fight an army of shadow monsters. That’s what you can expect to find in Thor’s fourth movie, ladies and gentlemen: superkids.
What of the rest of the cast? How do they handle in this mess of a movie? Well like everything else in Love And Thunder, their skill is technically present. The error lies in how they are used and misappropriated. Tessa Thompson was such a standout as Valkrie in Thor: Ragnarok, but here, she’s shoved to the side in favor of some forced humor and semi-hammersexuality. In the same vein, Natalie Portman is brilliant as Jane Foster, a powerful, fierce, and domineering woman who has fought for and earned the right to call herself Thor too. Yet she is also forced through an overly dramatic plot that feels emotionally manipulative and ends up negating all of the development we see her go through in the film.
But Christian Bale is the worst of all. Strictly speaking on performance alone, Christian Bale is downright chilling as Gorr, a menacing, slithery presence who feels like the monster that children find hiding under their bed. Between his creepy, eerie performance and a compelling, human motivation, Christian Bale’s Gorr had the potential to be one of the best villains in the MCU.
But potential does not equal reality, and Taika’s biggest error with casting Christian Bale is not using him enough. Out of the movie’s two-hour runtime, Gorr appears four, maybe five times tops. That’s not enough time to care for and get invested into a villlain’s plight. It’s barely enough time to get invested into a character at all. Because Christian Bale is so absent for most of the film, he ends up having the least impact out of all of Thor’s movie villains. I am not kidding when I say that Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is a more memorable villain than Christian Bale solely because of his screentime. It’s such a shame, because you can see the effort that Bale puts into his performance. And in the end, it’s all left on the cutting room floor.
And if anything, that demonstrates the biggest flaw with Thor: Love And Thunder: it is wasteful. It wastes Chris Hemsworth’s and Christian Bale’s amazing performances. It wastes Jane Foster’s debut as the Mighty Thor. It wastes the Guardians Of The Galaxy, its jokes, and its visual effects. That’s ultimately what this movie is: a giant, pitiful waste.
Guys, I really can’t express this any more bluntly: Thor: Love And Thunder is terrible. The more I think about it, the more it enrages me. For every joke that landed, there were like five that made me groan in the theater. For every emotional moment that pulled at my heartstrings, there were three that felt cheap and unearned. And for every visually stunning and captivating sequence, there was another green screen-assembled mess that looked ungodly awful.
I make no exaggeration when I say this is my least favorite MCU film. There are certainly other films that are as badly written (including Thor: The Dark World and the recently released Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness), but they at least had some technical competency when it came to their editing, cinematography, and visual effects. Thor: Love And Thunder by comparison feels like it isn’t even trying. This is one movie that proves that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.