While I can’t say that I’m a big fan of superhero movies – I’ve said time and time again that they are redundant and repetitive—the Thor franchise was an exception. At least, initially.
In large part, that was due to Chris Hemsworth and what he brought to the role. Like Gal Godot in the Wonder Woman series, he was the perfect choice.
As required, he was a muscle-bound hunk with a boyishly handsome face who brought charm and empathy to the part. He was wholesome and likeable. And he was strong--
the only person in the universe who could wield an ominous hammer-weapon that only he could lift. He was, after all a god. Not just a superhero, but a mythical god.
He lived in a mythical kingdom ruled by his wise, one-eyed father Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his strong-willed mom (played by Rene Russo). His rise to the throne was only complicated by his conniving brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) who would apparently do anything to surpass Thor as Odin’s heir by hook or by crook.
It was clear from the beginning that Thor was Odin’s favorite but that he needed some life experiences to forge him into the great leader that he was destined to become.
Thor was a hero’s hero. He could swing the big hammer. We sensed, deep down, that nothing could possibly get in his way. He was strength and determination personified.
Thor (2011) set the stage, followed by Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) as well as a cameos in two Avengers movies in which he buddied up with The Guardians of the Galaxy.
It’s been a long and winding road, as The Beatles would say, that has led to the latest installment Thor: Love and Thunder.
Along the way, he has been separated from his magical hammer, Mjolnir that is now in the service of his ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster, or more accurately, Jane’s superhero alter-ego who bears a strong resemblance to Thor, from her costume right down to the buff, bulging biceps.
Thor apologetically teams up with a new sidekick/weapon in the form of a mighty axe. The split with Mjolnir is painful.
As Neil Sedaka once sang, breaking up is hard to do. In this case, it’s also a little scary since Thor and his fellow gods face the threat of Gorr the God Butcher, played by Christian Bale, taking time off from playing superhero characters like Batman, to take a walk on The Dark Side, so to speak.
He bears a strong resemblance to Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies. You can only assume that the filmmakers here asked themselves, why invent a new face of evil when you can just borrow one?
In order to take Gorr down, Thor enlists the aid of his “ex” Jane Foster as well as King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (voiced by Love and Thunder’s director, Taika Waititi).
It’s that rag-tag team of mismatched characters that we’ve seen so many times before. It’s just a short hop from his last team of mismatched comrades, The Guardians of the Galaxy. It would seem that Thor just can’t go it alone these days, despite his thunderous descendance from mythical gods.
Luckily, he finds himself in the company of a couple of strong female characters to protect him and guide him. A large part of Thor: Love and Thunder is about girl power.
What’s also apparent is the tone of the film that leans in the direction of dumbed down comedy. Early on, Thor acquires two mythical goats that pull his Viking-style wooden ship across the sky, all the while vocalizing those crazy, humanlike screams that real goats make in those countless YouTube videos that we’ve all seen.
It might have been funnier here if it had been used a little more sparingly.
Thor: Love and Thunder seems to target younger audiences. The silly, stripped down, plot focuses on Gorr’s kidnapping and imprisonment of all the children of a seaside village in a rescue mission storyline that seems stolen from another movie with the word Thunder in the title, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Here, the children are not innocent victims. They become trained and empowered and fight for their own freedom.
There is a lot of empowerment in Thor: Love and Thunder, at the expense, to some degree, of Thor himself, who almost becomes a minor character in his own story.
It’s a movie targeting kids that may be a little inappropriate for kids in terms of content and language. Case in point, Russell Crowe’s appearance as Zeus on his floating platform of babes, impatient about an upcoming orgy. His performance and on-screen presence here makes you wonder if he’s this generation’s Marlon Brando, and not in a good way.
There is some recurring dialog (one of George Carlin’s seven forbidden words) that parents might not want younger kids repeating in the car on the way home from the theater.
As suggested in the title, Thor serves up some degree of burning love and rumbling thunder, but is largely a misguided mess of a movie that fails to deliver on the things that we purchased a ticket to see. Namely, Thor kicking ass and taking names as he’s done in his previous movies.
Let’s hope that Thor and Mjolnir kiss and make up soon and that Loki gets back to doing what he does best, making Thor’s life a tortured, living hell. It makes for a more interesting story.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in theaters now.