90 / 100
- Run time: 1 hour 59 minutes
- Studio: Marvel Studios
- Director: Taika Waititi
- Where to Watch: In Theaters / Disney+
Gorr, a starving man lost in the desert begs for the eternal reward that he believes is owed to him by the gods he so reverently worshipped his entire life. When he stumbles upon the oasis home to his god, Gorr is told that his only purpose in life is to suffer and worship. Enraged that his life and all those who came before him are so easily cast aside, Gorr the wandering man becomes Gorr the God Butcher and begins a merciless revenge-fueled crusade across the cosmos to eliminate all gods. When word of this unstoppable foe reaches Thor, he recruits his best friends Korg and Valkyrie from New Asgard along with Jane Foster, his ex-girlfriend, and newly-minted Asgardian defender, to defeat Gorr.
A starving and weak man roams the desert with a small child. Their planet has been stripped of all resources and it is as if these last two lost souls are all that remain. When the girl dies, Gorr continues to wander and pray for a sign, anything from his god to tell him that his suffering has been worth it, that he will receive the eternal reward. As Gorr stumbles closer and closer to death, he begins to hear whispers of something calling to him. He is drawn to the oasis home of the god he spent a lifetime worshipping. Gorr confronts the celestial being and is told that his suffering is meaningless, that there is no such thing as the “eternal reward”, and that his daughter died for nothing. The formerly devout disciple cannot believe his ears and as he accuses the god of being a false idol, he is given the chance to take revenge. In his despair and anguish, a mystical weapon called the Necrosword makes itself known to Gorr, and with its extreme power, Gorr kills his former deity and assumes a new name – Gorr the God Butcher. Now armed with a weapon to kill the gods themselves and hell-bent to seek revenge upon those who call themselves gods but do nothing to protect their people, Gorr travels the cosmos and takes countless lives in his quest to reach Eternity. As the God Butcher spreads chaos and death throughout the galaxy, Jane Foster battles against her own mortality as she struggles with her stage IV cancer diagnosis on Earth. Not willing to resign to her fate without a fight, she too hears something calling to her and she travels to New Asgard to see what secrets the Viking city holds.
While this is marketed pretty heavily as the standard MCU comic book movie, it’s drastically different than what most audience members would expect at this point. It is 85% rom-com with some revenge mixed in. The audience expectations are molded by the previous 900 Marvel products and Love and Thunder tosses those out the window. As such, there really isn’t any lasting impact from what Gorr does or doesn’t do in the 2-hour feature. Sure, he butchers a few gods and then Thor shows up and hits him really hard and also (self admittedly) breaks the scales of balance in the god’s playing field, but it’s all relatively small stakes. It’s been said before, “how do you make anybody care about a villain after Thanos?” and while I don’t have an answer, I’m going to keep watching until they figure it out. This classic Thor adventure is more about the journey than the destination. The change of pace creates a really good rom-com and a so-so comic book movie.
What the audience gets to see and hear on screen as Taika Waititi tells this story is bright, colorful, and expressive. He managed to put effective sight gags and prop comedy in an MCU movie and get away with it. The color grading of the initial two Thor movies was so dark and depressing that it was hard to imagine Thor as even being capable of laughing. Ragnarok changed all of that with incredible colors and sharp set design and Love and Thunder took that baton and ran with it. When the ragtag group of desperados reaches Eternity, there is an incredible visual experiment presented to the audience and it looks amazing. Without spoiling too much, it harkens back to the silver age of sci-fi and really plays into the creepy and unsettling nature of Gorr the God Butcher. Put all that together with classic Guns and Roses tracks and the audience gets a hell of a good time.
There is a lot of star power and charisma in this movie. It’s not a cameo fest like movies of the past, but it does start to feel cramped at about the 60-minute mark. Chris Hemsworth is joined by the Guardians of the Galaxy crew for about 15 minutes of opening shenanigans and it further cements the fact that Taika Waititi and James Gunn are some of the best things to ever happen to the MCU. They understand fun action sequences, soundtracks, and stories in such a unique way. While the Guardians are present in the trailer and marketed pretty heavily, they really are just a feature and disappear pretty quickly. There’s also Taika Waititi himself returning as Korg, everybody’s favorite rock man. Russell Crowe also makes an appearance as a hilariously overweight and out-of-touch Zeus. The entire interaction between Thor and Zeus is amazing and highlights some of the annoying things about gods in the MCU. And then there’s Natalie Portman, returning to close the book on the MCU once and for all. Portman and Hemsworth pick up right where they left off and this is what makes Love and Thunder more like a romantic comedy than a comic book movie. Portman’s return as Jane Foster gets girl power right without missing a beat. She’s exactly what Captain Marvel wishes she was like. Oh, and Tessa Thompson is back as Valkyrie and is just as amazing and naturally badass as ever. While Zeus and Gorr are shiny and new, it feels as if something is missing. The mid-credit scene does add a new face as usual, but it doesn’t do much to create any sort of hype or excitement for the next movie.
Now, onto the main two characters. For most audience members, Gorr the God Butcher simply sounds like an awesome villain. Just seeing that name in a character list with Christian Bale’s name alongside it as the actor would be enough to sell most people on the ticket. Bale is a fine addition to the MCU’s alumni. As a villain, Gorr stands with some of the best of them in terms of powers and design. The guy can summon shadow demons with the use of his corrupted sword and functions almost like a vampire with his amber-colored eyes and gruesomely pale skin, akin to something like Nosferatu. He’s creepy when Bale is allowed to go all-in and thankfully, Taika Waititi knows how to get the best out of his cast. As great as Bale’s portrayal of Gorr is, he is still just another one-off villain. He may or may not meet his ultimate demise in this movie (sorry no spoilers) and there is no larger bread crumb (that I could find) that will lead to the ultimate Phase 4 villain. At this point, it’s a safe bet to assume that it’s going to be Kang the Conqueror based on Jonathon Majors’ portrayal of the character in Loki, but that doesn’t even seem to matter as far as Love and Thunder is concerned. For as much as I’ve complained or applauded the MCU for keeping all their movies connected, it seems odd to have a movie that is almost totally standalone at such a random point in Phase 4.
For the titular character, let’s take a step back. The contrast from the original Thor directed by Kenneth Brannagh to Thor: Love and Thunder directed by Taika Waititi over 10 years later is incredible. From a dull, broken English-speaking, flat character to the colorful, hilarious, and three-dimensional Thor of 2022, Chris Hemsworth has taken Thor through an insane metamorphosis. The character has gone from a franchise joke to one of the few remaining original avengers that continues to get better with age. Hemsworth continues to kill it as Thor and I hope he’s part of the MCU for years to come. I know there will come a day when he decides to hang up the braids, but I hope we manage to get at least one more good Avengers-level movie from him. His continued development of comedic timing and delivery makes each new Thor movie funnier than the last. Each new movie serves to teach Thor lessons and further develops him into an actual role model. I would love to see him take on more comedic roles outside of the MCU, similar to something that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have done in the past few years.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a hilarious and over-the-top comedy, with plenty of suggestive and outright adult humor that will keep the audience in stitches throughout most of the two-hour run time. With Christian Bale and Russell Crowe making their debut in the MCU plus a Guardians of the Galaxy guest spot, Love and Thunder is brimming with charisma and pure acting talent. But star power and witty writing aside, there just isn’t enough comic book in this movie to really propel anything in the MCU’s Phase 4 forward. It doesn’t introduce many new characters (good and bad), it doesn’t leave a breadcrumb for the new big bad guy (good and bad), and it certainly doesn’t have enough breathing room for any one single character to have a meaningful or lasting impact on the story it just tried to tell. While the audience may be laughing to tears throughout certain parts of the movie, it is a cramped and fast movie that does leave some things to be desired.