Thor: Love and Thunder REVIEW - stellar visuals can't make up for lack of substance

Director: Taika Waititi; Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Christian Bale.



I saw Thor: Love and Thunder. A fan of Jason Aaron's run on Thor, I was ecstatic that we would see Jane take up Mjolnir, and Gorr the God Butcher all within the same film. Upon leaving the theater I was in awe, having been flashbanged by the neon, hair-sprayed opulence of this space opera; however, as the dust settled it all felt so hollow. I loved Thor: Ragnarok for its ability to make fun of itself, to lay down a rocking riff while Thor shot lightning and learned more about his place in the universe. As bombastic as it is immaterial, Thor: Love and Thunder is a decadent fusion of pop culture references and insubstantial one-liners that manages to ignore a trilogy of character development, misuse a multitude of dynamic new figures, and tease a future MCU story that I just don't care about anymore.



The plot isn't too big a stretch for the imagination, considering we have Thor and another fellow titled Gorr the God Butcher; the conflict shouldn't be hard to suss out here. As I see it, Thor: Love and Thunder had an opportunity to pull together the disparate pieces of Thor given to us across 8 films and 6 directors — a difficult task to be sure — but instead we are given a film like a gilded bubble, opulent and soaring until the gentlest touch renders it meaningless. Rather than attempt to reconcile a complicated, war-worn Thor, director Waititi opts to ignore the past in lieu of a fun ride; though, to be fair, it was quite a fun ride. 



The sheer spectacle of Thor: Love and Thunder should be commended. It's easily the most visually striking and aesthetically unique film in the MCU. Occasional scenes are so outrageously adorned that I often found myself contemplating how a writing room comes to merge elements of Jack Kirby, Jim Henson, and Jean Claude Van Damme into one introduction without some connection to a dimension-shattering higher power. The third act of the film incorporates spectacular effects amid a more-than-decent climactic battle.



Gorr loses someone due to the apathy of gods so he decides it will never happen again, his solution colored in brilliant homicide. Gorr was an opportunity, a way to test Thor's alleged growth. Gorr's actions in the comics lead to Thor becoming unworthy to wield Mjolnir, and cut to the core of our hero; however, we barely get to see Gorr throughout the film and he has minimal (if any) effect on Thor. Our villain pops up only intermittently to remind us there's an actual antagonist to this story, but Christian Bale works his ass off every moment he's on screen. He delivers a performance with weight and pathos that ultimately feels out of place against the light-show of surrounding footage.



The reintroduction of Jane Foster is one of the few bright lights of this film that offers substance beyond the initial flash. I was impacted by her storyline and feel that she brought a shred of reality to the proceedings. Her go as the Mighty Thor is everything I wanted, yet even this is not untainted. It's clear that Portman's Jane was brought back to reinvigorate Thor's perspective: her appearance —though rife with imaginative combat and distinguishing abilities — is meant to serve Thor. Their romance is forced with years of past heartache, summed up with exposition that seems insulting given the gravitas of previous entries. I feel this strips Jane's story of its power, though to me it will always have a heartstrings power over me (you'll know when you see it).



I am disappointed with Thor: Love and Thunder. Thor has lost almost everything and everyone he holds dear; he has seen his loved ones slain before his eyes and has borne the weight of half the universe's massacre, but here it is as if we are back to Branaugh's Thor and everything in-between has been ignored.


RECOMMENDED READING: Thor's encounter with Gorr the God Butcher in Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is life altering for our hero, ultimately stripping him of both his self-worth and his Mjolnir-worth in Original Sin. All of this occurs alongside Jane Foster battling cancer while being the new Mighty Thor in Jane Foster: The Saga of the Mighty Thor.


Waititi manages to take a multi-faceted narrative cultivated in the comics and market it as Happy Meal toys. For that digression, I unhaltingly award Thor: Love and Thunder with 2 POPs out of 5.



RECOMMENDED READING: Thor's encounter with Gorr the God Butcher in Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is life altering for our hero, ultimately stripping him of both his self-worth and his Mjolnir-worth in Original Sin. All of this occurs alongside Jane Foster battling cancer while being the new Mighty Thor in Jane Foster: The Saga of the Mighty Thor.


 

Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.




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