A half-plate of warmed-up leftovers from Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) did so much more than could have been expected prior to that point: it breathed new life into Thor – both the character, and his world. Director Taika Waititi not only unleashed Chris Hemsworth‘s comedic potential and revelled in, rather than shied away from, the pure Jack Kirby-ness of the character’s mythology and aesthetics, but he also infused the goofy comedy with the themes of family and race which he explores across all his work. The film was also a huge financial success – so, one at least imagines, Waititi might have been given room to run even wilder in its follow-up. Thor: Ragnarok opened the door to so many things that Thor: Love and Thunder could have been, and sadly, bewilderingly, isn’t. Put simply:
No character has an arc, and so the fun stops being fun.
The comedy isn’t only mediocre, it’s untethered to anything in the story. For each idea that is set up, there’s no actual character resolution or thematic follow-through. Thor has already had quite the ride to get to this point, particularly in the Ragnarok-to-Infinity War stages of his journey – and Love and Thunder seems to say little, or have little to say, beyond that. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becomes Mighty Thor, but not for any reason stemming from her character or her stage 4 cancer, and her final sacrifice isn’t in response to learning or growing from her new power. In perhaps the biggest disappointment, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, doing so much with so very little), after her show-stealing introduction in Ragnarok and promising appearances in Infinity War and Endgame, has no character journey here (she literally sits out the final battle) and doesn’t even get her queen (cowards). And what a waste of the return of Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) – at the very least, make her the queen (cowards). So this turned out to be patently untrue:
Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale, whose typically committed performance feels imported from another film altogether) has a point: gods are wicked, and they do not save their worshippers from grief and death, so what good are they? We’re told that the Necrosword is “infecting” Gorr, which may explain why a grieving father would be creepy and threatening to other people’s children; but even his introduction before that, in which we watch his daughter die in his arms, is still somehow unsympathetic (how on earth does a film mess that up?). Gorr’s ultimate turn feels less like the final act of a dying father, and more like a contrivance to get us to a “happy” ending (why is it a good thing that the gods get to live on?).
Thor: Ragnarok walked so Thor: Love And Thunder could reheat a half-plate of its leftovers.
Likewise: why is the quest is to stop the gods from being exterminated? Why do we care? We might, had we seen more of them than just Russell Crowe as Zeus doing a… Greek, I guess? accent, while the other gods are seen, not heard, just… sitting there. We know that Zeus knows about Gorr, but do the others? If they do, and don’t care, maybe show us their hubris? Instead of a scene where the heroes cut down a bunch of gold-blooded foot soldiers, the story could then have been about Mighty Thor and King Valkyrie leading a substantial revolution against unworthy and complacent gods, and turning the tables on the idea of divine power itself (not unlike, say, the revolution in Ragnarok). This would have been a fitting development for Thor himself, whose arc across his various film appearances has been about escaping his divine “right”, and by extension outgrowing the entitlement, toxic masculinity, patriarchy, and colonialism which had been so formative in his archetype.
Instead, we’re instead given Korg (Waititi) narrating skits, needle drops from Guns ‘n’ Roses replacing Ragnarok‘s Led Zeppelin (which… ok?), and gags based on memes – a “fellow kids” move in any film, but particularly embarrassing for Waititi who, it seems, either was pressed for time (between his other high-profile projects), or simply believed his own hype. Whatever the case: it isn’t lamp-shading if the “joke” is actually that the film isn’t doing its own storytelling.
Where is excitement, the visual flair, the care that gave us scenes like this?
Ragnarok was the surprisingly subversive walk, so that Love and Thunder could have been the truly revolutionary run. Instead, Love and Thunder is warmed-over leftovers – and only half a plate at that.
No. This entry doesn’t get BTS extras – why should we care how this was made when, as Mark Kermode observes, “the [film-]makers don’t seem to care about it either“?