REVIEW: Portman, Bale help make ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ more than just another goofy adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps no character in the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone through a greater tonal shift from their first appearance until now than Chris Hemsworth‘s version of Thor.
Viewers initially saw him presented as a powerful, serious, Shakespearean-type, mythic-level hero who fought epic battles and lived a warrior’s life, by directors Kenneth Branagh (in 2011’s Thor), Alan Taylor (in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World) and Joss Whedon (2012’s Avengers & 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron) .
But things changed with director Taika Waititi‘s take on the character in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi took the character much less seriously and went for a more comedic feel while leaning into some of the absurd aspects of Thor’s history, utilizing and showcasing Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents.
The result was a bigger box office take and a renewed interest in the character for some, but also proved to be a little divisive for other fans who felt the sardonic and goofy tone were disrespectful to both the comic book source material and the previous on-screen characterizations.
This tonal shift towards goofy humor was dialed back a little during Avengers: Infinity War but came back again for Avengers: Endgame, both directed by Joe and Anthony Russo.
Now, for better or worse, Waititi is back at the helm, both directing and co-writing Thor: Love and Thunder, Thor’s fourth solo outing on screen and the 29th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Thor, who we last saw leaving the Avengers to patrol the stars with the Guardians of the Galaxy, has backed away from his warrior nature and spends a lot of time meditating. This semi-“retirement” is interrupted by the news that a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), seeks the extinction of the gods and has already managed to take some of them out.
To combat the threat, Thor and his rock-covered buddy Korg (voiced by Waititi) return to Earth to enlist some additional help, since he knows Gorr will eventually seek to destroy him and the Asgardians.
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is King of New Asgard–which has become something of a tourist destination–and likes the idea of doing something more exciting than just endless administrative meetings and diplomatic functions.
But Thor is surprised to find ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in New Asgard, and even more surprised to see that she is somehow able to wield his formerly-shattered magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor.
Together, the group heads out on a dangerous cosmic adventure to hopefully rescue some missing Asgardians, uncover the mystery of Gorr’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.
THINGS I LIKED
I really liked the casting. Hemsworth’s comfort with the character of Thor really shows through as he humorously grapples with complicated feelings for not just Jane, but his old hammer and the apparent jealousy his new weapon, Stormbreaker, feels about that. We also get a surprisingly humorous cameo from Russell Crowe as the god Zeus, who leads a council of gods that looks from a visual standpoint like the senate scenes from Star Wars, but really feels like more of a political rally.
But it was Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster/Mighty Thor and Christian Bale’s more nuanced Gorr characters that stood out the most. To not spoil anything, I won’t explain Portman’s situation any more than to say that she is dealing with some stuff when she’s not doing Thor things, and her story arc does her character justice.
The talented Portman, who buffed up significantly in real life for this role, can switch emotions and emotional states almost like a light switch, and her comedic chops might surprise you, if you haven’t seen her do comedy before.
Bale appears on the surface to be a traditional villain, but the story allows for you to see why he is how he is and why he does what he does, and while I’m not always in favor of getting a villain’s backstory, this time it was beneficial and actually adds resonance to the movie’s resolution.
Long-time nerds like me will notice and appreciate the nods to the comics scattered throughout, including some screaming goats that I found to be hilarious.
kids in peril and a jump scare or two.
There are two scenes during the credits, one mid-way through and one after they are all done so you won’t want to leave early.
Another “warning” is for those who may be expecting or hoping for the Guardians of the Galaxy to play a key role throughout. They do not.
But don’t despair, , Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is still on track for a May 2023 release and will take place after the events of Love and Thunder.
There’s no question Thor: Love and Thunder is funny. In fact, besides being a Marvel superhero movie, the continuation of a light and irreverent take on Thor may be the biggest draw for many people. Yet there were also moments where the movie was so dead serious, that it only highlighted the contrast between those parts and the silly parts. I loved Hemsworth, Portman, Bale and Waititi’s portrayals of their characters.
I think ultimately, however how you felt about Thor: Ragnarok may shape your feelings for this latest film because of how similar they are in tone. It took me a few viewings of Ragnarok before it finally grew on me. I expect a similar result for Love and Thunder. I enjoyed it on first viewing, but with some reservations.
Andy’s final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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