Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to fight Gorr the God Butcher, who intends to make the gods extinct.

Chuck says:

Hobbled by a broken heart as well as an existential crisis, the God of Thunder is at the crossroads in Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” one of the better entries in the Marvel Films universe. Initially sporting the same tongue-in-cheek humor that made the previous entry “Ragnarok” such an outlier and fan favorite, Waititi maintains this irreverent approach through the film’s first act before gradually shifting to a more serious tone. This raises the emotional stakes and provides a sense of humanism and poignancy that have been sorely lacking in movies of this ilk of late.

As the film opens, we see Thor has overstayed his welcome with the Guardians of the Galaxy, each member tired of his off-hand arrogance and numerous misguided attempts to find himself. Taking some advice from Star Lord (Chris Pratt) he returns to New Asgard, where he finds Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) has turned it into an extravagant -verging on tacky- tourist destination. However, it’s here where Thor finds his purpose as he sets off to rescue the town’s children, all kidnapped by Gorr the God Killer (Christian Bale). Complicating matters is the appearance of our hero’s ex, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).  Seems that through some odd twist of fate, she’s been deemed worthy enough to heft the hammer Mjolnir and has assumed the mantle of Thor. She’s intent on accompanying him, along with Valkyrie, on his mission of mercy. Needless to say, he has mixed emotions regarding all of this.

Bale’s Gorr is a formidable and sympathetic foe, one that logically pushes the heroes to their limits yet elicits the audience’s sense of sympathy as well. In the film’s prologue, we witness his creation, transformed from a grieving father into a vengeful wraith, betrayed by the god he worshiped and, as a result, intent on slaying every deity that crosses his path. His presence helps make this one of the stand-out features in the Marvel Films canon.

As does the introduction of Jane Foster’s Thor, one that gives the actress a role far meatier than those in the first two entries of the series. The reason behind the character’s new guise is compelling and adds a degree of emotional weight the film needs to ground it, preventing it from becoming the erratic romp that Ragnarok was. And as for Hewsworth, he gets to run the gamut here from buffoonish to conflicted to heroic, each of these firmly in the actor’s wheelhouse. The relationship between the two leads is far more complex and satisfying, the two actors rising to the occasion.

Also of note is the inclusion of Russell Crowe as Zeus, the actor channeling Donald Trump in his portrayal as an arrogant, isolationist who doesn’t want to be bothered with Thor’s plea for help in the face of a threat that will kill them all. Omnipotence City, where he and all the other gods reside, is a marvel to behold, as it the Dark Realm, a genuinely foreboding locale where the final throwdown occurs.

Briskly told – the action scenes are not superfluous or overextended – the end result proves to be a major surprise from Waititi who tends to favor irony over poignancy. That he would allow the latter to creep in and drive this superhero epic makes “Love and Thunder” one of the most surprising and satisfying films of the summer. In the end, not only was I bowled over by the visual grandeur and narrative sweep of the film but moved by it as well, all of which provides a bit of hope for the many Marvel features to come.

3 1/2 Stars


Pam says:

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is the fourth installment of the Asgardian saga starring the charmingly handsome Chris Hemsworth and his love interest Natalie Portman (Jane).  Some may argue that the 2013 sequel, “Thor: The Dark World” doesn’t count as most have forgotten what even happened in it…and it really doesn’t matter. Director Taika Waititi steps in for a second go of it to bring his strange and quirky sense of humor to the story as he narrates what has happened to the Asgardian god over the past decade.  It’s Waititi’s oddball perspective that makes these narrative portions work, but overall, the film is just another super hero film made for fans of this genre.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its merits: it does.  The first scene is powerfully evocative as we witness the origin story of Gorr The God Butcherer (Christian Bale).  Artfully shot, Bale brings his heart and soul to this character who loses his daughter,  and wraps his head around the religion he fought for and so adamantly believed in.  We then quickly cut to the narrative portion that wipes away our tears and makes us laugh as we hear about Thor’s transformation from “Dad bod to god bod.”  Now enter Jane Foster who is fighting cancer and on her quest to live, she finds that she is worthy of being the female version of Thor.  Of course, the Thor and Jane are awkwardly reunited and together they must defeat Gorr.

It’s a great beginning, but there’s something off about Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor.  Ever the malleable actor, Hemsworth takes on the attributes of whoever is directing.  The first “Thor,” directed by the Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh, gives Thor the elegance, power, knowledge, and emotional stability.  But now, with Waititi at the helm, Thor becomes a bit of a bumbling teen; unsure of himself to a point of disappointment as he attempts to take on the personality and humorous delivery of Waititi.  It doesn’t work.  What is intended to be lovestruck awkwardness makes us question who Thor really is.

The story becomes a female-centric one as Jane holds all the cards and must make some pivotal decisions that will effect not only herself, but the world as she knows it.  Portman feels larger than life or at least larger than her petite frame we typically see.  She’s buff and her body language lets us know she’s in charge. Supported by the strength of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thomspon), these women possess the strength to save humanity…again.

With its strong beginning and storyline, “Love and Thunder” hooks you, but it just can’t reel you in as it sloshes around in the middle of the story.  Introducing more characters such as Zeus (Russell Crowe) and bringing back the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for a brief minute, the story stalls.  Having high hopes that Waititi can right this ship for the third and final act, this becomes disappointing as it falls into the “just another super hero film” category.

Yes, there are extraordinary special effects and the fight scenes do not go on and on (thankfully), but Waititi loses his vision, forgetting that he has the reigns and can do whatever he wants.  Keep up that humor!  The narration is hilarious with its self-deprecating senses, but alas this is but a wee part of the film.  And by the end, Thor doesn’t leave that powerfully indelible image, but has morphed into someone I don’t even recognize.

IF you are a fan of this film, be sure to stick around for the credits…all of them.

2 1/2 stars


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