Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder. A Review



I do not think that a film has had such contempt for its lead character as Thor: Love and Thunder has. Plotless, pointless, pretty witless, its efforts to make the world's longest and most expensive soap opera jokey end up making it a waste of time to all but the MCU's hardest of hardcore fans.

Narrated somewhat by rock creature Korg (cowriter/director Taika Waititi), we learn that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is palling around with the Guardians of the Galaxy, forever fighting battles and forever making a mess wherever he goes. This himbo with an inflated view of himself eventually returns to Earth after learning of a new threat to both himself as a god and to New Asgard.

New threats, rather, as there is Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who has sworn to kill all the gods, and a surprise rival for both the title of Thor and his beloved hammer Mjolnir. It is in the shape of The Mighty Thor, who just happens to be Thor's ex-girlfriend, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Despite having Stage Four cancer, Jane can wield Mjolnir with ease. Thor's longing for his old hammer causes conflict with his new weapon, Stormbreaker.

Gorr has abducted all the children, and now it is up to Old Thor, New Thor, Korg and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to rescue them. The other gods are no help, particularly Thor's hero, Zeus (Russell Crowe), a dilettante who is sillier than Thor and does not take Gorr seriously. Now it is up to the Asgardian crew to fight Gorr, stop him from reaching Eternity where his one wish will be granted, and save the children. Will everyone survive?

I think there is consensus that Thor has been one of the weaker MCU characters. Unlike the evolution of Steve Rogers into Captain America or Tony Stark's Iron-Man journey from arrogant to conflicted, Thor has pretty much not changed. At least not changed enough to where he is different in Love and Thunder as he was in his debut. I would argue that he actually has regressed from 2011's Thor to 2022's Love and Thunder. In the former, he was arrogant and pompous, but that fit his life prior to being banished to Earth.

Now, he is still arrogant and pompous, but that is mixed with a blinding idiocy. Less a muscular man of action and more a meathead Mr. Magoo, he apparently journeys with the Guardians to save various worlds but appears unaware of the chaos and destruction he himself causes. Early on, despite being victorious against his foes, he is blissfully, happily unaware that the Guardians are tired of his lofty battle declarations or that the planet's sacred temple was destroyed behind him. Thor appears to think he will be praised, the collapse of the structure he was asked to save being a non-issue for him. 

Love and Thunder has no structure. The entire opening with the Guardians of the Galaxy could easily have been cut given how unnecessary it was to the film. Same with the visit to the gods' compound, which added nothing to the story except the chance to see Russell Crowe ham it up for a nice paycheck.  For an actor once known as this intense performer, seeing him adopt a bizarre accent and daintily lift up his skirt as he skips down the stairs shows people will do anything if the price is right.

The phrase "as funny as cancer" has taken on a new meaning with Portman's Jane Foster. When Foster's wacky BFF points out that she has Stage Four cancer, Dr. Foster replies, "It's Stage Four, out of how many stages?" Hold the beat, with reply of "Four". The delivery from both actresses is cringe inducing.

Granted, not as cringe inducing as Melissa McCarthy's cameo as Hela in a New Asgard stage show, but it is hard to impossible to look on her impending death with any interest. If Love and Thunder does not care, why should we?

The film is desperate to be jokey to funny, but the comedy such as it is, is forced. I cannot figure out why Thor, who should on some level realize that children are in danger of being killed, can try to encourage them by calling them "Team Kids in a Cage" to their faces. It makes him look stupid. Love and Thunder almost goes out of its way to make its lead look stupid. The sight of this mighty, hunky Asgardian going all fanboy when he sees Zeus fly down should depress longtime fans, not cause them to cheer. Seeing Bao, God of Dumpling pop up just shows how Love and Thunder went overboard on the goofy.

There are no performances in Love and Thunder. Hemsworth, to my mind, is not an actor. He's a very built, good-looking action star, which is fine. However, I did not see a character or performance. I saw someone just speaking words written for him with no sense of conviction. Portman too seemed like she just wanted to get through this, but at least with the opportunity to show she could play superhero. 

Bale has been much praised, but I think he was in Love and Thunder so little that it did not impact me one bit. He filled the requirement for an antagonist, that is all. 

It is sad that Waititi, who cowrote the script with Jennifer Kaytlin Robinson, now enjoys mocking the visual effects in his own film. For a movie that cost an estimated $250 million dollars to make, some of the visual effects are sometimes shockingly weak. Given the reports of how the VFX staff was pushed to create so much with few resources and limited time, I won't be harsh on this aspect.

I think Thor: Love and Thunder was not interested in the title character. I think it was interested in making fun of the title character. I think it was interested in looking as silly as it could. Whether it was using November Rain for a climactic battle (which I still think is the wrong use for the Guns & Roses song) or Thor telling someone he has kept people at arm's length (and then literally putting his arm out to keep someone at arm's length), the film I think isn't fun.

I think it makes fun of both the characters and its devoted fanbase. More than anything, Thor: Love and Thunder lives up to Martin Scorsese's remark that comic book movies are theme parks. Given that New Asgard is essentially a theme park itself, down to an Infinity Cones Ice Cream Shop and a tacky stage show of Thor: Ragnarök, Marty is right.


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