Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Written by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Directed by Taika Watiti
Well. This is not surprising. When I saw Thor: Ragnarok, I enjoyed it for one primary reason: it was not like previous Marvel movies. It wasn’t a masterpiece of filmmaking, no Marvel movies are or ever will be, but it was fine entertainment. In true wash-rinse-repeat fashion, Disney and/or Taika Waititi said, “Hey, let’s try and do the same thing but worse.” They certainly accomplished it. I can’t say I’ve seen too many films with this large budget that feel incredibly lazy in every production aspect. Scenes happen, and then another scene happens, and they are loosely linked, propelled at most by a plot that fans of the Power Rangers would find lacking in substance.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wraps up his time with the Guardians of the Galaxy in the first 10 minutes of the film (oh, all his adventures with them mostly happened off-screen, and we won’t be seeing them, I guess?). He then learns of the threat of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who is moving through the universe, slaughtering deities. New Asgard is next on Gorr’s list, so Thor rushes back to Earth to stop him. He’s in for a surprise when he finds his former partner Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), wielding the broken Mjolner hammer. These two, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Korg (Waititi), all jump in a flying boat pulled by magic goats to try and stop Gorr, who kidnapped the children of New Asgard. They visit the meeting place of the universe’s gods where they meet Zeus (Russell Crowe) and then spend the rest of the movie in uninspired, boring, digitally made action sequences. Yawn.
It feels obvious that the pandemic has affected whatever quality control was in place at the Marvel factory for previous pictures. Every scene feels like the first and only take of the picture; I can imagine Watiti sitting in his director’s chair scrolling on his smartphone after half-heartedly shouting “Action!” The actors stumble through their scenes, standing in front of an eye-melting green neon screen, unsure and frankly too tired to give a shit. I mean, I just cannot see any actor being passionate about making this crap. It’s a big fat paycheck, and so what the hell? Put the minimum effort in because most people aren’t paying close attention.
What makes it even more comical is how bad the special effects look here. As the characters travel from one location to another, it never feels like it. Every location is not really there, and I’m sure many of the actors weren’t even in the studio at the same time when they shot their scenes. The action scenes are so artificial that I felt insanely distracted while watching; my attention just wasn’t there. Martin Scorsese’s comments about Marvel flicks have not been proven wrong; they are the most factory-made, processed stupid shit out there. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness was only partially saved for me due to the stylistic flourishes Sam Raimi was able to add, but the script there and here are weak as hell.
The biggest problem is that the script has no idea what it wants to do with these characters. We have four heroes we’re following plus the villain, and I still have no idea what the arcs were, how where everyone ended up made sense with the problems & conflicts introduced in the first act. There was great potential for Jane Foster to be redeemed from her previous sidelined damsel in distress status in the first two Thor films. She has cancer, wielding Mjolner seems to interfere with her chemo, and…yeah, the film doesn’t really know where to go with that other than the most obvious, lazy direction. She and Thor’s relationship ended on bad terms, and then they sort of make up and are friends, I guess. Our villain, Gorr, gets a pretty strong introduction to establish him and his goals, but then he is treated like Rita Repulsa for the rest of the picture, just a bad guy who wants to do bad things. The film briefly returns to the themes introduced in the opening and resolves them in a clunky, incoherent manner, but it’s okay because cosmic space stuff is beyond our understanding. There is no interest in exploring these characters beyond the surface level, which may be because there’s so little to work with.
Everything about Thor: Love and Thunder is shallow. Even the story it introduces, which potentially has thematic weight and interesting ideas to explore, is just tossed aside for painfully unfunny joke moments. Chris Hemsworth, who has typically been a bright light in the MCU at least because he’s charming, feels bored here. He’s been playing this character for over a decade, and Thor just has nowhere else to go at this point. I also find it insulting that Waititi and Portman hyped how “gay” the film was, and in typical Disney fashion, both instances of “gay-ness” are inconsequential to the plot and can quickly be deleted for prejudiced audiences. What can’t be cut out is the cis heterosexual relationship between Thor and Foster. Valkyrie briefly flirting with a woman has no weight in the story, and Korg’s explanation of rock dude reproduction on his planet is a comedy bit that is also easily edited away.
There’s this common adage online where someone criticizes a film like this and is met with, “It’s just a dumb movie. Turn your brain off and enjoy it.” I don’t think that’s possible here, and audiences are being asked to turn their brains off so often I’m beginning to think that’s the default position. There’s a reason I’m finding so much more speaking to me in older movies made by and for grown-ups than in the modern popular trends of candy-coated Marvel bullshit that don’t seem to view humans with any emotional depth.