“Thor: Love and Thunder”: Deities and Tonal Inconsistencies


Source: Disney

Will Teare

Director: Taika Waititi

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson with Taika Waititi, Chris Pratt and Russell Crowe

Release Date: July 8, 2022

Rating: 2.5/5 


“Wait, is this the climax?” my friend said sitting next to me, attending the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I deftly responded, “Um, I think so?” This wasn’t our first time realizing how truly “off” the film was, and it was certainly not the last. 

Thor: Love and Thunder (I will say, I love that title) features Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a man wielding an ancient sword capable of killing gods. On his quest for vengeance against the deities of the universe, the only thing that can stop him is a depressed Asgardian god of thunder (Chris Hemsworth), his human ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman), their equally troubled best friend (Tessa Thompson), a pile of sentient rocks (Taika himself) and the power of love. 

To talk about Thor, we must first talk about Taika. I have been a huge fan of his work ever since I first saw him in Thor: Ragnarok. After seeing it I went back to see What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and went immediately to theaters to see Jojo Rabbit when it came out. His ability to balance a deeply emotional story with an oddball comedy where everyone is just a loser really struck me as a wholly unique and singular style that I could get behind. Still, that’s a complicated line to walk between comedy and tragedy in the same movie, and sometimes the cracks show a little bit because of how he’s balancing two extremes. Cracks would show every now and then in previous installments, but this seems like the time the dam broke. 

Chris Hemsworth nails it. He has the Thor formula down pat and his ability to work in a Taika comedy and a Taika drama is unmatched. No notes. Additionally, Christian Bale as Gorr was so fun, spooky, and impressive. Bale understood that he had to be menacing but also realized he’s in a comedy, so his performance goes over the top in such a calculated way in which he can find a comedic delivery in a dramatic line all at once.

Natalie Portman, as Jane Foster/The Mighty Thor, although I am a massive fan of hers, is where the film’s cracks really show. Portman’s best work is found as complex and subdued characters, so being an action hero in a Marvel movie that is mostly a Taika Waititi comedy, she’s entirely out of her element, and it shows. Specifically this running gag of Jane trying to figure out what superhero catchphrase to use fell remarkably flat on me and the entire theater audience. The emotional crux also lies with Jane Foster for reasons I can’t disclose, and those emotional scenes actually kind of worked but its mileage will vary considering they flip between that and lighter scenes in some unintentionally comedic ways. That’s partially due to Portman not being able to carry the transition but also due to the film’s editing.  

It’s been heavily publicized that there is a much longer cut of the film which seems to make sense, considering Taika’s improvisational (or close to it) style of filmmaking. 

In a startlingly telling interview via IndieWire, Portman said, “There were whole sequences, planets, characters, and worlds that didn’t end up in the movie that were hilarious and amazing and [that] we spent a lot of time and energy on, and certainly the entire crew also designing and conceiving.” 

Korg, one of the best parts of Ragnarok, is some sort of semi-narrator telling the tale of this movie but we never know who to or why and it only happens at the beginning and end of the movie. This seems like Marvel’s infamous ability to change a movie after it’s finished by frankensteining a movie together to make it work with their style and has been a culprit of the reduction in quality recently. I’m not exactly sure how the producers handle their creatives and how much say they get in the final cut, but the post-Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man narrative indicates it’s much stronger than we think. It seems this film was a serious victim of that. 

Post-Guardians of the Galaxy they seem to be chasing the next big 80’s based soundtrack to capture the glory of that series but unlike Guardians, it seems very thrown in at the last minute. Guns and Roses comes and goes for whatever reason in a movie about space gods and vikings but I guess that’s what Marvel thinks is best. 

All in all, Marvel is losing me. I’d always cut Marvel some slack in the past (pre-Endgame) because it was all dumb fun summer movies that were leading to something really cool. Now I have to watch mediocre at best television every week all year and sit through two-hour messes 3-4 times a year just so I can keep up. I used to be the biggest Marvel fan I knew back in phases 2-3 but now the only thing keeping me here is nostalgia, hope, and a whole lot of Feige-induced FOMO.