Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor Odinson [Hemsworth] has been travelling with the Guardians of the Galaxy, getting in shape and answering distress calls far and wide. On his adventures he learns of Gorr [Bale], a being in possession of the Necrosword (the only thing capable of killing gods) hellbent on revenge against all gods. At the same time, Jane Foster [Portman] is battling stage 4 cancer but, due to a sort of enchantment, is deemed worthy to lift Mjolnir and given the power of Thor.
I think it’s fair to say Thor has been a bit of a bumpy franchise, crashing around in its own corner of the MCU. In terms of tone and design, it seems to change from film-to-film but Taika Waititi really leaned into the strongest iteration of the character, by celebrating the potential for whacky adventure and utilising Hemsworth’s notable comic ability. And subsequently, free from a lot of the wider continuity baggage, Thor: Ragnarok was a wonderful breath of fresh air. This time round, the gang is all back and what’s more, Natalie Portman returns to introduce the relatively new but very popular Mighty Thor, as well as Christian Bale bringing one of the more interesting villains to life in Gorr. Clearly, this fourth Thor film was never going to be anything other than a sure-fire hit.
Yet somehow, it isn’t. In an almost remarkable fashion, with two hours of storytelling time and $250 million, it boils down to an entirely blunt, unsatisfying yarn. Neither nuanced nor especially clever, it is at once a very full film and yet such an empty film, and I left the cinema disappointingly numb. I appreciate, at this point, almost everyone reading this review will be saying, “surely it’s not as bad or boring as Thor: The Dark World?” And while that film is, in hindsight, pretty mediocre, it didn’t leave me this cold. But we’ll circle back to why in a minute.
From a production point of view, this is a huge studio blockbuster, it’s undeniably going to shine in certain areas. The production design is fantastic, the sound design is solid, the visual effects can be very inventive and striking at times, and Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad’s score decently navigates the aural landscape, truly standing out during the softer moments thanks to some tender harmonies.
The performances are also incredibly charismatic. Hemsworth and Thompson continue to shine and Waititi continues to inject levity as Korg, jumping in with one-liners and punch-up. Natalie Portman also finally feels like she’s got some actual meat to work with; being both a renowned astrophysicist in her own right but also able to sample the life and powers of a superhero – rather than meekly relegated to an incredibly outdated and unforgiving role, as the hero’s love interest. And Bale impresses as the god butcher with an eerie glee – like a fucked up children’s entertainer.
So why doesn’t the whole thing work?
Put simply, the story isn’t up to snuff, feeling like a first draft narrative with far too many undercooked ideas. There are so many legitimately fascinating plot threads and directions for this movie to explore but, despite all the bluster, surprisingly little actually happens.
**heavy spoilers throughout these next two paragraphs**
What is initially pitched as a galaxy-hopping undertaking, is quickly reduced to a handful of inconveniences. I don’t usually do this, but here’s the plot in total: Gorr becomes the god butcher, Thor leaves the Guardians, Jane gets Mjolnir, Gorr steals the children from New Asgard, the team go to the Omnipotent City (home of the most powerful gods) to steal a weapon, they fight Gorr, head back to earth to drop off Jane and Valkyrie, Thor heads back, Thor fights Gorr, Jane turns up and they save the kids. That’s the whole film. And what we do end up with, is so full of holes. Every time we run into a pain point or challenge, it’s neatly sidestepped in a wholly uninspired and flimsy manner.
The centre of the universe can only be accessed by the bifrost. Why? Doesn’t matter. There’s a being who can grant wishes. Is this a one-time deal or could that have been used to stop Thanos? Again, doesn’t seem to matter. While empowering all the kids during the final fight is a great use of the solo from November Rain, isn’t it something that Thor could have done with every Asgardian and brought a full-on army with him? Well, that would be too easy. Isn’t Gorr entirely right and justified in his quest (especially when we learn how much of a dick Zeus and his cadre are)? No because, like Killmonger in Black Panther and Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, they’re just too murder-happy. And how is Mjolnir reforged? It just is. Not to mention so many other weak imperfections. All before we slump over the finish line with a semi-lacklustre ending that leaves the audience frustrated – as if all the narrative momentum was driving in a specific direction, before pivoting wildly and ending abruptly.
Overall, this movie feels like an entirely vainglorious victory lap, sporadically interrupted by a sincere attempt at telling a new story. When it starts to gather real speed, it’s a fun caper but for the majority of the very crammed runtime, Thor: Love And Thunder fails to impress or excel. Worse still, it takes one of the most successful MCU reinventions and limply dithers before shrugging its shoulders and proudly saying “good enough.”
08 July 2022
The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m not going to spoiler tag this but the Asgardian actors from the previous instalment make an appearance. And for all of 20 seconds, it was an amusing return – especially as New Asgard has become a thriving tourist destination – but the actual joke itself proved to be strangely flat and uninventive.
In many ways a lot of this movie felt like a bridge to another story. This was very specifically felt with the use of Omnipotent City. That being said, I did enjoy the arrogance, pomposity and pettiness that Russell Crowe brought to Zeus and would honestly be happy to see him in future releases.
“We shall return. With children. Many children. And we shall feast. Not on the children. We don’t do that anymore. Those were dark times.”
In A Few Words:
“A very muddled movie that ultimately squanders more than it incorporates.”
Total Score: 2/5