Thor Loves Thor
Thor: Love and Thunder
What do people need from a ThorBorn to one day by the king of Asgard, Thor is the god of thunder. His power is divine but can be tapped into by whoever wields his hammer, granting them the powers (and title) of Thor. movie? The general complaint about the first two films in the series was hat they were too dour and wasted the potential of the stars. The second film, Thor: The Dark World, was an improvement by degrees over the original Thor, but neither would top the "best of lists" for any Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. fan. Then along came Thor: Ragnarok, a film that had the main character let loose in his world, being a funny, over-the-top, and day-glow as he wanted. It was a film that perfectly suited the character, as well a lead actor Chris Hemsworth, and became a massive success.
One would thing, then, that the answer to "what do people want from a Thor movie" would be "more Ragnarok", except that's exactly what fourth film Thor: Love and Thunder provides and it was savaged by critics (and making slightly less at the Box Office). it would see that just doing Ragnarok again wasn't the answer, but I'd argue this is still the kind of film Thor needs. It's big, it's bold, and it's silly and it lets Thor, and Hemsworth, do as they like. For fans of this version of Thor, this is frankly all you could want from an MCU film.
In the film we find Thor (Hemsworth) adventuring (and annoying) the Guardians of the Galaxy. He's a well meaning lunk but he just doesn't jive with the energy of this space-traveling superhero team (and he causes a little too much carnage and chaos in the process). Despite trying to use this time to find a higher purpose, and inner peace, Thor remains the same old lunkhead. But he is pulled away from the Guardians (much to their relief) when a distress call comes in. Thor runs off to the aid of his old friend, Sif (Jaimie Alexander), who was just attacked by a man named Gorr (Christian Bale).
Gorr ended up in possession of the Necrosword, a magical blade with the power to kill gods. The sword called to him after his own gods betrayed him, letting his daughter die for no reason. Since then, Gorr has sworn to kill every god he could, wiping them all from existence. He's set his sights next on New Asgard, which sends Thor flying off to the city to aid his people (bring Sif along so she could get aid for her wounds). This teams Thor up with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and a surprising new hero: the Mighty Thor, aka Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). The shards of Mjolnir (seemingly blasted apart in the last film) apparently called to Jane and gave her the power of Thor. Now she heroes for New Asgard. With her aid, and Valkyrie, the gods might just be able to stop Gorr once and for all.
The criticism of the film focused on a number of things: its overstuffed nature, its sloppy tone, story inconsistencies, and while I think some of that might be fair, I would say that any digs at the "tone" of the film fall flat. The tone is "Thor", as seen through the veil of Ragnarok. That film perfectly tapped into the energy and vibe of Thor, giving him a story told basically from his perspective and voice, and it worked well. This film continues that, with all the dumb Thor-isms you'd expect. It's consistent in that, giving us a film that's pure Thor id, and it works well. It is everything you expect, tonally, from a follow-up to Ragnarok.
It is also really funny. The film doesn't take anything in regards to the man heroes, or the gods, at all seriously. This is an action comedy through and through and it does everything for a laugh. Action eventually comes out from time to time, in the few necessary battles you expect in a superhero film, but by and large if the film can mine a laugh from a situation that's what it'll go for first.
In fairness to the critics there are a few things it could do better. For starters, it does feel like Valkyrie and Jane are under-served by the story. The two characters (via their actresses) have great chemistry and the film hints that they had a bunch of adventures together while Thor was off planet, being powerful heroines together. It's an easy chemistry that I wish could have been explored more as seeing these two fight side by side is a thrill, as much as seeing them pal around together. I wish there was more of this.
Story wise the two characters don't get as much time as you'd like, either. Jane has cancer and Mjolnir lets her be strong and healthy so long as she wields the hammer. It does steal power from her body, though, so over time the very thing keeping her alive is also killing her. I want more exploration of this, more time with Jane getting the hammer, learning to use it, spending time with Val as they figure out how to be heroes together. Jane's story is condensed to fit a single film, while Val doesn't really get much story outside of Thor and Jane. Despite being leads to this film it does feel like more story for them was needed.
I don't necessarily think this is a flaw of this film, though. Instead I feel like this is a flaw of the Marvel machine. Marvel has a bunch of shows they're putting out on Disney+Disney's answer in the streaming service game, Disney+ features the studio's (nearly) full back catalog, plus new movies and shows from the likes of the MCU and Star Wars., shows that, by design, allow us to focus on new characters and get longer stories that wouldn't fit into the big movies. Love and Thunder would feel more complete if, before it came out, a mini-series focused on Jane's Mighty Thor and Valkyrie had been released. Then we could have gotten all the necessary story we needed there, capped with a film focused on Thor (like the title of the movie implies).
Gorr fares much better, getting some early sequences that really flesh out his story such that you at least understand where he's coming from. Even here, though, the film doesn't really know what to do, long term. Gorr shows up, gets a great story, and then reveals some cool powers in a couple of encounters, all before just fading away for half the film. He's the villain, and he's played well by Bale, but he's missing for too much of the film to feel like a real threat. We need more of his Necro-powered evil to truly feel like he's someone Thor has to defeat.
But then, the film never really does come up with a good reason why the gods need to survive. Across four Thor films, in point of fact, we're never really shown just what benefit the gods give to their people. This film gives us a lot of gods, including Zeus (played by Russell Crowe), but we never see what the gods do for the citizens of the universe. They've big and dumb and vainglorious, but they don't seem to help anyone. If they died, would that put the universe in peril? The film doesn't even bother to raise that question, let alone answer it.
I think the film would be different if it had Thor and Gorr run up against each other with Gorr realizing that Thor isn't the usual kind of god. That would then give us thinking, and explanation, and really meat to the story of a god-killer. Is he motivated so blindly by hate that he has to kill everyone, or is there a mind in there? Does the sword could his thoughts and control him, or is he more of a dark version of Thor and his hammer, a symbiotic relationship. The film tells us that the Necrosword is killing Gorr, like a cancer, but it never makes the case that it's controlling his mind. We're missing a step here.
I do appreciate, though, that not every problem in the film has to be solved with a fist (or a hammer). Many of the issues that come up see Thor (and his allies) resolve conflict with words and jokes. Hell, the climactic last encounter is solved with love instead of violence. Fighting does occur, but it's never at the prescribed "every 10 minutes" like in most action movies. This is a film that can find its own flow, and its own solutions, without having to stick to a formula.
I think trying to cram all of this -- the characters, the stories, the background, the setup for the next movies -- into a single film does make it feel a tad overstuffed, but to the credit of director Taika Waititi (who co-wrote the film with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) the film does about as well as it can cramming all of these story beats into a single movie. You an tell that the film has setup via mandate, with executive producer Kevin Feige (he of the big, multi-year plans for the universe) saying, "we will do this run of The Mighty Thor" and the creatives had to make it work. The Marvel machine marches on, and each film is set in stone long before it comes out in theaters. If this is what was demanded, this story for this piece of the larger continuity, then that's just what had to happen.
It does feel like sometimes films can't quite handle the demands of the Marvel machine or, more accurately, the machine demands too much. Thor: Love and Thunder, isn't a perfect film by any stretch, but it is a big, dumb, enjoyably brash movie that rolls along at a steady clip and has a grand old time of it. Its weakness are due to having to put all these elements together into a film and make them work, and that's a lot for any film. Waititi deftly does as well as he can and it does work. The film moves along at a fun and happy clip, dragging you along for the ride and never letting you really stop and think about the flaws. It works, and it makes for an enjoyable experience for the two hours of run time.
There are probably ways to make this film better but it would require a drastic rethink of the Marvel process. Marvel would have to start pre-planning their TV shows to serve the plot of the movies, and vice versa, in a way that the complex system doesn't quite do right now. If this film could have be preceded by a mini-series focused on the ladies, with some more time following Gorr battling gods and seeing just what benefit the gods really gave us, then this big film could have acted as a capper to that story while giving Thor the film he needs. This movie serves Thor well, and is enjoyable on its own because of it, but there are just enough things I wish the film could have done (but were impossible in a two-hour run time) that I wish things could have played out differently. For one film to have to do all this, Thor: Love and Thunder is the best version would could have gotten.