[Nightmarish Detour Review] THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER

[Nightmarish Detour Review] THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER
Courtesy Marvel Studios
These are dark times we’re living in. On an individual level, we are coping with the current moment in a variety of ways. Some of us are raging against the systems and ready to dismantle any and every institution that stands in our way. Others are withdrawing into personally curated nests of comfort and safety and anything that we can cling to, to keep the fall of society at bay. Fortunately for the summer moviegoer, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is just the film to address both the need to cynically challenge the powers that be and to wrap yourself in a safety blanket of pretty colors and warm fuzzies.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Christian Bale, with Tessa Thompson, Russell Crowe, and Taika Waititi. Waititi brings his unique brand of vibrant quirkiness to his second Thor film from the director’s seat, solidifying his grip as the defining voice of the franchise. In THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, Thor (Hemsworth) is seeking his place in the universe. Adrift in the universe and directionless, the eternal life of a god holds little promise for the god of thunder… but Thor perhaps doesn’t have as much time as he thinks. Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) seeks vengeance on divine forces across the universe. His goal is simple – to wipe out the gods. Thor must enlist the help of friends Valkyrie and Korg, as well as Jane Foster – his lost love – to stop Gorr.

The Thor franchise has been a tad tumultuous, so let’s take a moment to address it. With films that tend to rank a bit lower on any “Best of the MCU” list and a rocky franchise start with two films that hit an awkward fantasy tone, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok came in like the proverbial wrecking ball and shocked the Thor story with a sharp tone shift. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER runs with this new energy and puts the Thor films on an apparent upswing.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor 

Thor’s narrative, throughout every film, is one of self-realization and growth. In some form or fashion, each Thor film acts as a sort of coming-of-age story. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER maintains the central theme of Thor’s personal journey with a focus on matters of love and vulnerability. A very clear influence in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is Taika Waititi’s own children and it lends a sweetness to the film that still comes from a grounded place.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is absolutely branded by Waititi. The soundtrack is simultaneously on-the-nose to the cheesiest degree, yet epic and fist-pump inducing. LOVE AND THUNDER is bold and brash and legitimately hilarious, if not a bit silly at times. Nothing is off-limits and every opportunity for a laugh is languished in. It’s the best time that families will have at the movies, this summer.

Performances are strong from Hemsworth and Portman and LOVE AND THUNDER gives a worthy redemption to Portman’s formerly bland love interest character. This is a better use of Portman’s talent and a proper adventure for fans. An absolute standout of the film is Christian Bale as Gorr, who is almost too terrifying to feature in what is obviously a family film. His presence is delightfully unsettling and its images of Gorr have haunted me in the days following my viewing of LOVE AND THUNDER. Once again, a Marvel film demonstrates capable horror chops (can we get THAT universe please?).

In fact, Bale is such an overpowering force in LOVE AND THUNDER that he is a perfect vessel to highlight the film’s balance problems. The story of Gorr is appropriately cynical for the current times. In response to the cruelty of the world and the averted gaze of powerful gods only concerned with staying in power, Gorr takes up the cause of eliminating the source of so much suffering. It’s cynical. It’s dark. Hell, as of now, it’s political. Bale plays Gorr straight in true terrifying fashion, with a deeply human core that audiences can’t help but empathize with. It’s a resonant chord that can’t quite find harmony with the neon bombast of the rest of LOVE AND THUNDER.

Christian Bale as Gorr 

Independent of Gorr, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER gives itself permission to be silly and takes audiences on a fun ride. It knows what it is and does well in giving us that summer blockbuster feeling. But something is off. Like a sweet treat that has gone off. Or like biting into a squid ink noodle in a bowl of Froot Loops. It’s just out of place and the juxtaposition is obvious, but that doesn’t mean it goes down easy.

Once again, it appears that Marvel – through this massive universal lens that we now must observe it – is struggling to nail down its audience. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER works as a family film. It’s a damn good family film. It is a film that should be able to reach beyond the younger crowd and into an adult fanbase. It does this just fine. However, certain elements seek to lift the film out of its family-friendly realm: Gorr and adult humor that goes a little beyond a wink and a nod – I’m talking about invitations to orgies and Hemsworth butt. The result isn’t bad, it’s just… off.

While it may struggle at times to get on firm footing, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is a blast. Imperfect, for sure, but fun and sweet and brassy and absurd (in the best way possible). Go in and choose joy, the rainbow road will rise up to meet you. Don’t miss it.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER strikes theaters on July 8, 2022.

All images courtesy Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Caitlin Kennedy
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