Thor: Love and Thunder review: Uneven but enjoyable
James R | On 10, Oct 2022
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale
“All gods will die.” Those are the words that effectively kick off Thor: Love and Thunder, setting in motion a dark tale of death and loss. It sounds like an odd fit for Taika Waititi, unless you’ve seen JoJo Rabbit – and there’s an unevenness on display here that recalls his misjudged World War II comedy. However, there’s also imagination and heart to go with the clash of humour and sorrow, and that’s enough to make this Marvel sequel warmly entertaining.
The film picks up as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a bit of a midlife crisis, back to his outwardly heroic best but lacking a sense of meaning. Parting ways with the Guardians of the Galaxy, he winds up defending New Asgard alongside King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Kong (Taika Waititi) from a dark new threat: Gorr (Christian Bale). If Thor is in an existential limbo, Gorr is over-burdened by purpose, wielding the soul-destroying Necrosword and determined to wipe out any deity that crosses his path.
Thor’s quest takes him to Omnipotence City, where he hopes to assemble an army of gods. There, he comes across Russell Crowe as a mini-skirted yet heavily accented Zeus, an all-powerful lightning bolt and space goats that scream like a YouTube meme. These flourishes are enjoyable diversions, but the script doesn’t know when to hold back on its more-is-more philosophy, throwing cameos at the screen that land with a bloated thud, not to mention biker creatures, shadow monsters and Guns N’ Roses needle drops.
The result is a bloated, uneven blockbuster that barely leaves time to admire the creativity on display – the shadow monsters are based on actual kids’ drawings – or the remarkable technical wizardry behind the jaw-dropping finale, which uses a groundbreaking lightning rig to craft a dizzying moon showdown that’s dripping with black-and-white atmosphere.
But if you can sidestep the spectacle, the reason Thor: Love and Thunder works is because it wields an unexpectedly emotional hammer blow. That comes from the very welcome return of Natalie Portman as Dr Jane Foster, who is fighting off cancer – and ends up using the fragments of Mjolnir to give her a boost of strength. Portman’s understated vulnerability – when she isn’t having fun shouting “eat my hammer!” – is the perfect counterpoint to Bale’s terrifying villain, who leaps from sinister bedtime stories to agonising desperation and grief in the flicker of a smirk.
Together with Hemsworth’s knack for finding the bruised ego beneath Thor’s brash surface, the trio turn a Marvel sequel into a meditation on accepting one’s own mortality. “Another classic Thor adventure!” the Asgardian proclaims after unwittingly demolishing a sacred building. It’s not, but there’s enough love behind the thunder to still make a rumble in your heart.