Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars; Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Russell Crowe, Taika Waititi, Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, Ben Falcone, Simon Russell Beale, Sam Neill, Stephen Curry, Elsa Pataky, Chris Pratt, Jaimie Alexander, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Sean Gunn, Melissa McCarthy, Kieron L Dyer.
This is the fourth film in Marvel’s series based on the character of Thor, the mythical Viking warrior who also became part of the Avengers adventures.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a troubled superhero, who is still grieving over the loss of his father, his brother and his realm and he is emotionally vulnerable and feeling lonely. Since the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor has hooked up with the Guardians of the galaxy crew for some interstellar adventures, but he is still something of a maverick and not a team player. After resolving a war between two alien races he walks away, trying to find inner peace. He returns to Earth where he reconnects with his former girlfriend the astrophysicist Dr Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She moves to New Asgard, which resembles a Viking theme park, where she hopes to find a special force that may prolong her life or heal her.
Meanwhile moving through the galaxy is a nasty serial killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (played by Christian Bale, buried under layers of scary makeup). Gorr has made it his mission to kill gods because he feels disillusioned that they failed to save his planet from destruction nor save his young daughter from a cruel death. The film opens with Gorr’s backstory on a barren planet that has been turned into an arid desert wasteland. Gorr stumbles upon a lush oasis where the god resides in comfort and is unapologetic about his lack of assistance. Gorr finds the magical Necrosword, a powerful weapon which he uses to kill the God and then he sets out on his mission to kill all gods in the universe.
Gorr makes his way to New Asgard in pursuit of Thor. He attempts to draw him out by abducting all of the children in Asgard and taking them to the Shadow realm. Thor teams up with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and surprisingly Jane who has somehow developed superpowers of her own and is able to control Thor’s magical hammer Mjolnir, which was previously destroyed. This motley crew head to Omnipotence City, the home of the gods, to seek the help of the mighty Zeus (Russell Crowe) to track down and destroy Gorr. But he is too self-involved and enjoys his hedonistic lifestyle to help.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has, with a few exceptions, been brighter, more colourful and leavened with touches of humour, unlike the films in the DC Cinematic Universe which generally tend to be dark and dour in tone. And, as he did in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, returning director Taika Waititi has injected generous doses of off-beat humour into proceedings, helped by Hemsworth’s irreverent and self-deprecating take on the eponymous superhero. However, the strike rate for the gags here falls short of its predecessor.
As expected, Thor: Love And Thunder is heavy on the special effects and the main action set pieces are staged with plenty of energy, but they start to seem a bit familiar and formulaic. The special effects and visuals are superb, with some nice production design from Nigel Phelps (Troy, etc) that brings to life the garish splendour of Omnipotence City, although it has been augmented by CGI and green screen effects. The film has been nicely shot by cinematographer Barry Idoine (The Mandalorian, etc); and when Thor and Jane arrive in the Shadow realm, a world devoid of colour, he shoots these scenes in black and white, giving the material a noir like look and feel and creepy atmosphere.
Thor: Love And Thunder has been written by Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (tv series Sweet/Vicious, etc), but they seem to be positioning the Thor story and mythology further away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the usual Marvel action set pieces are tempered by the emotional demands of the long-awaited reunion between Thor and Jane. However, the balance between the action and the humour is a bit uneven and the film itself is tonally uneven. But with a fairly brisk running time of two hours, the film never quite outstays its welcome. The soundtrack leans towards heavy rock, featuring plenty of Guns N Roses.
Hemsworth and Porter share a palpable chemistry that makes their romcom like subplot work. Bale seems to relish his role here and he makes for a sinister, scary looking villain, although the backstory makes him more sympathetic and less generic. Waititi provides plenty of humour as Korg, Thor’s rock monster ally. The film boasts a superb supporting cast with cameos from the likes of Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, Ben Falcone, Simon Russell Beale, Sam Neill, Stephen Curry, Elsa Pataky, and the cast of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Crowe shamelessly chews the scenery with his over-the-top performance as Zeus, while Thompson’s Valkyrie seems to be sidelined for much of the film’s second half.
While entertaining enough, Thor: Love And Thunder may ultimately prove to be a bit divisive amongst hard core Marvel fans.