DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi

CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn

RUNNING TIME: 119 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: Thor (Hemsworth) reunites with his former flame Jane Foster (Portman) to face off against a new threat…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has lost a great many things across his eight main appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: his mother, his father, his brother (many times), his home, his hammer Mjolnir, his waistline, and at one point even one of his eyes. However, there was one other thing he lost which kind of slipped under the radar: his first Earth girlfriend Jane Foster, who was swiftly written out of Thor’s life to explain Natalie Portman’s non-appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, but has since gotten a few people curious as to whatever happened to that character, who was once integral to Thor’s experiences on Earth, but now seemed as disposable as one of the many other forgettable B-list characters in this franchise.

Those people will be pleased to know that Jane Foster makes one hell of a comeback in Thor: Love and Thunder, while plenty of the more casual Marvel fans will be reasonably satisfied with the movie as a whole, which is a whole heap of silly but thoroughly entertaining superhero action.

The film, which also sees the return of Taika Waititi to the director’s chair (the Oscar-winning filmmaker even has a co-writing credit this time round), quickly gets the audience up to speed with what Hemsworth’s Thor has been up to since we last saw him at the end of Avengers: Endgame, about to travel the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy. As it turns out, not only has Thor gotten back into shape, but he’s struggling to find new meaning in his life, which not even adventures with the Guardians can provide for him. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Portman’s Jane is in a slightly more delicate position: riddled with cancer, she’s desperately seeking a cure, but is soon called to New Asgard – which has become a hot tourist destination under the rule of its new King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) – where she suddenly gains the powers of the Mighty Thor from the broken pieces of Mjolnir, giving her an all-new boost of life. Her path soon awkwardly crosses with her ex Thor, as both learn of the sinister threat posed by a being known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who wields a powerful weapon that can – what else? – butcher gods, and kidnaps a bunch of Asgardian children. It’s now up to Thor, Jane, Valkyrie and Thor’s rock buddy Korg (Waititi) to travel the cosmos to find the children, defeat Gorr, and maybe, just maybe, rekindle some of their past romance.

This sequel is full-on Taika Waititi weirdness, from the bonkers plot to some of its often bizarre visuals which accentuate its irreverent sense of humour, and if you weren’t a fan of that style with Thor: Ragnarok, then you’re probably not going to enjoy Thor: Love and Thunder much more. However, Love and Thunder does mostly avoid the trap of just being a bigger and more overt version of its predecessor, comfortably doing its own thing while also leaning heavily into what made Ragnarok a fan-favourite amongst the Thor entries. The movie manages to score a lot of laughs, largely from some of the quick-fire visual and verbal gags that Waititi constantly throws at the audience, and while not all of them land neatly on the bullseye, enough of them get close enough that you’re enjoying the ridiculousness of it all. There are also a lot of outstanding visual sequences, wherein Waititi gets to experiment with different colour palettes (or even no colour at all) that are certainly some of the more interesting to look at amongst the more recent Marvel movies. It has a very Flash Gordon feel to it, like you’re watching an enjoyably naff space opera that happens to have the budget of a Marvel movie, and Waititi wears that particular influence on his sleeve throughout, right down to the rock-heavy soundtrack and colourful (and, again, not-so-colourful) sci-fi sets; in many ways, it’s also the kind of 80s/90s space epic that Lightyear should have been, which is apt because Waititi was also in that Pixar disappointment.

As with Ragnarok, the filmmaker injects a lot of his eccentric personality into this Marvel entry, but there is a surprising tenderness to the movie which does give it a solid enough reason for existing, even if in the larger scheme of the ever-expanding MCU, this one is probably the least consequential in a while. Hemsworth, who at this point really can’t do anything wrong with his portrayal of Thor, does share some strong chemistry with Natalie Portman, who makes the most out of her belated return to this franchise, which lends weight to their many scenes together where you can certainly still feel their spark from the first two movies. Meanwhile, there is a rather strong villain in the form of Christian Bale’s Gorr, and the former Batman does not waste a single second of his screentime here, neatly going from creepy murderer to a cackling over-the-top baddie, all while still feeling like the same character and not betraying the uneasy tension that his character constantly builds throughout. Like some of the better Marvel villains, he does have a fairly good reason for doing villainous things, and you buy why someone like him would go on this dark path, to a point where you’re almost shedding one or two tears for him by the end. These actors bring so much screen presence on top of their natural likeability that you really do want to root for them, and they are helped by a fun script that gives them enough material to work well off of.

It certainly isn’t perfect, for there are a few times when the tone does threaten to become wildly unbalanced (a pretty serious scene will suddenly be interrupted by characters doing silly things on the side), and as much as Waititi’s Korg was such a lovable presence in Ragnarok, he’s really not given that much to do this time round, to a point where you could logistically write him out of the movie and nothing significant would have changed. For the most part, though, this is one of the more entertaining Marvel movies of recent, because it does embrace its oddness almost to a fault, and know exactly what it is without trying to be anything that it isn’t.

Although, if screaming goats and wisecracking rock monsters aren’t your thing, then maybe you’re better off waiting until the return to Wakanda in November.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Thor: Love and Thunder is an entertaining space opera that sees filmmaker Taika Waititi embraces his trademark oddness for a funny, colourful and sometimes emotional ride with Chris Hemsworth’s charismatic God of Thunder.

Thor: Love and Thunder is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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