Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
“Thor: Love and Thunder,” directed by Taika Waititi and released on July 8, attempts to strike an ideal balance between Marvel’s brand of cheesy humor and giving this summer’s audience the most intimate picture of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) yet.
The sequel to the critically–acclaimed “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) begins with the titular hero living a life of meditation, nature dwelling and casual destruction of enemy armies, but his journey of self-improvement is thrown into disarray by the emergence of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) and the return of Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taika Waititi) return in “Love and Thunder,” but Thompson’s presence is diminished from her pivotal role in “Ragnarok” — Valkyrie is relegated to a tertiary hero below Thor and Jane.
Gorr is severely underutilized in ‘Love and Thunder,’ but Christian Bale offers a compelling performance. Gorr was absent from the trailers leading up to the film and he occupied minimal screen time, so ‘Love and Thunder’ lacked a strong villain presence to suspend the audience in thrills, like Hela (Cate Blanchett) did in the previous film. Because of this shortcoming, watching ‘Love and Thunder’ felt like a boring road trip, mindlessly traveling from point A to point B.
Gorr is introduced in the opening scene of “Love and Thunder.” His young daughter, Love (India Rose Hemsworth) dies in their harsh desert living space. Gorr ventures and finds Rapu (Jonny Brugh), the god he worships, but Rapu mocks and attempts to murder him. The Necrosword, a special blade that can defeat gods, then gravitates to Gorr’s hands and empowers him to kill Rapu. After Love’s tragic death and Rapu’s betrayal, Gorr denounces all gods and kills several of them off-screen before targeting Thor in Asgard.
The introductory scene is a nice start to establishing Gorr as a worthy adversary, but the film ultimately fails to show viewers that Gorr is a threatening antagonist by making the choice to tell them that he has murdered other gods in passing instead of devoting time to a scene where the audience could see him defeat powerful gods.
Jane is now suffering from stage four cancer and travels to Asgard in the hopes of curing herself with the rumored health benefits of wielding Mjolnir, though Hela destroyed it in “Ragnarok.” She successfully acquires the hammer, which reassembles itself due to Thor previously, although unknowingly, enchanting it to protect her, and immediately assists in the fight against Gorr. He assaults the newly repaired Asgard and abducts many children, but Jane has a shocking reunion with Thor in helping him and Valkyrie to drive Gorr away and prevent further death and destruction.
In the aftermath, Thor sadly reflects on his regrets about his relationship with Jane, but he is brought back into action by Heimdall’s (Idris Elba) son Axl (Kieron Dyer), who was kidnapped by Gorr. Axl projects his surroundings into Thor’s mind, enabling Thor to figure out that the Asgardian children are being held in the Shadow Realm where Gorr’s shadow manipulation powers are strongest.
Attempting to recruit other gods to their cause, Thor, Jane, Valkyrie and Korg travel to the visually stunning Omnipotence City, the hub of the gods, only to find that Thor’s idol, Zeus (Russell Crowe), and the other gods are too cowardly to leave the city and fight Gorr. Zeus then tries to kill the group, but only destroys Korg’s body, save for his still-alive face, before being impaled with his own thunderbolt and presumably dying.
The parallels between Gorr, Rapu, Thor and Zeus could have been utilized to make a stronger statement on the dangers of blind worship, but the potential for an impactful message is buried under gratuitous shots of Hemsworth’s muscles and jokes about disturbingly horny gods.
Jane and Thor re-establish their romantic relationship on the way to the Shadow Realm, but with the teary revelation that she is doomed to die. Once Thor, Jane and Valkyrie reach the Shadow Realm, the film is shot with a black and white filter, a great creative choice that helps to create some of the most tense, attention-grabbing moments in “Love and Thunder.”
Thor, Jane and Valkyrie explore Gorr’s dark lair before realizing that the children were kidnapped as bait so that Gorr could steal Stormbreaker to access the Bifrost and reach Eternity, a shrine that grants one wish to whoever finds it first. The heroes then fight Gorr, with their radiant weapons creating a pleasing contrast to the absence of color in the Shadow Realm. Ultimately, Gorr steals Stormbreaker from Thor while teleporting the three heroes back to Asgard.
Stripped of Mjolnir, Jane becomes extremely feeble and learns that using the hammer is actually draining her life force, and Valkyrie is too injured from the Shadow Realm fight to assist Thor. Jane and Thor share a heartfelt dialogue as Jane lays on an Asgardian hospital bed, but the lovers’ powerful dynamic was too few and far between in “Love and Thunder.”
With Jane, Valkyrie and Korg incapacitated, Thor sets out to save the Asgardian kids and thwart Gorr by himself. Thor somehow teleports to the temple that houses Eternity and frees the children, but Gorr creates shadow monsters to stop him. Inexplicably, Thor raises his own army by bestowing his power unto the kids. It leads to another absurd, eye-roll inducing scene that looks like a battery commercial gone wrong — the bright, lightning-colored children, some equipped with stuffed animals, vanquish the shadow creatures all by themselves.
Gorr gains the upper hand in fighting Thor, but Jane senses this and activates her powers again, saving Thor and breaking the Necrosword. However, Gorr still reaches Eternity, with Thor holding a now dying Jane behind him. The couple say their goodbyes and kiss one last time before Jane evaporates into golden dust. The post-credits scene shows Heimdall welcoming Jane to Valhalla, reaffirming that she died a glorious death as a god.
After Jane passes away, Thor tells Gorr to “choose Love,” referring to his daughter Love, and love itself. Gorr dies as he revives Love and asks Thor to look after her. It works well as the most emotional scene of the movie, but viewers may leave “Love and Thunder” wishing that there were more emotionally potent moments like this in place of the numerous forced jokes (and obnoxious goats). The glaringly obvious CGI whenever any character jumps does not help either.
“Love and Thunder” concludes by showing how Thor lovingly adopts the now super-powered Love as his own. He makes pancakes for her, helps her get ready for the day, and tells her to protect the weak — not to prepare her for school but to get her ready to fight villains. The title of the movie not only refers to Thor’s love interest in Jane, but it also hints towards Love and Thor forming a superhero duo in films to come.
The mid-credits scene reveals that Zeus is alive as he instructs an eager Hercules (Brett Goldstein) to defeat Thor, revealing the central conflict of the forthcoming final installment of Waititi’s Thor trilogy. Hopefully, it is more focused than this one. After the epic “Ragnarok,” Thor’s latest adventure was a disappointing side quest that fell short in showcasing the humor and romance that previous Thor installments have incorporated more effectively.
Daniel Waters is an Opinion Editor for the 2022-23 school year. He can be reached at email@example.com.