The God of Thunder has now had four solo movies, more than any other hero within the MCU. After the delightful chaos that was Thor: Ragnarok, Love and Thunder was always going to be compared to arguably the only decent solo outing for this character. While the movie gave fans plenty to love, there were more than enough missed opportunities. Even so, Chris Hemsworth gives his absolute all, and proves that his version of Thor was always so full of potential.
The first thing Thor: Love and Thunder does right is get rid of the Guardians of the Galaxy immediately. Whether that was Taika’s choice, or whether it was into response to a certain star just generally having the worst public persona, it helped the Love and Thunder in the best possible way. The Guardians have never been a personal favorite within the MCU. However, there was just enough of this motley crew to provide comic relief. They left at the perfect time, presumably to go on their own adventure which fans will get to see soon.
Jane Foster’s arc is the one aspect of this movie that I remain deeply conflicted about. On one hand, it’s always great to see more Jane Foster. Her phenomenal mind, combined with the fact that she’s actually pretty funny makes her among Marvel’s most endearing characters, who has never been given enough screen-time. The way that her story is filled in, including her relationship with Thor, works incredibly well. It also has to be said that Natalie Portman is an absolute force of nature, who’s legendary status likely precludes her from regularly committing to these movies.
Unfortunately, fans were teased with glimpses of The Mighty Thor. Marvel can forgive us for letting our imaginations run wild. This was a fantastic opportunity to give Chris Hemsworth’s Thor a fitting farewell, and make room for a new iteration of this character. It was not to be. While this particular storyline does have it’s roots in comic lore, it was frustrating to see Jane Foster’s arc only mean something when she was killed off in a glorious act of heroism. In contrast to Tony Stark’s storyline that saw him grow and change, it feels like Marvel missed at least several steps with Jane Foster.
Jane Foster’s story in Love and Thunder is ultimately a continuation of Marvel’s treatment of any of their female or female-presenting characters. They are either never given complete, satisfying story arcs, or killed off to bring their arcs “full circle”, despite not giving them enough screen-time in the interim. It’s incredibly frustrating for fans, who just want to see themselves represented in these heroic stories. It’s not that death can never be the culmination of a character’s story, it’s that these heroes deserve to be treated with respect while they exist within this Universe.
Relatedly, Love and Thunder did not contain nearly enough King Valkyrie. Tessa Thompson plays another character who also really should have her own solo feature. Valkyrie is short-changed in Love and Thunder. Her time as King is spent…talking about how much she doesn’t like being King and would rather be in the thick of battle? Don’t get me wrong, this is a strong character beat. It just felt like there were more stories to tell with Valkyrie being in a position of political power. Make her a reluctant leader, but make her one that people look up to.
The villain, probably unsurprisingly, falls into the Marvel pit of terrible antagonists that fail to make an impact. Christian Bale deserves so much credit for trying his absolute best to make this character work. There was also so much potential to make a powerful theological point through this character, by asking where does humanity’s responsibility lie in contrast to that of the gods. Perhaps too deep a question to be asked by Marvel.
Russell Crowe’s Zeus is also a flop. The character comes across as insincere, and misguided comic relief. It’s surprising that Marvel couldn’t find a way to poke fun at Zeus in an authentic way. There’s plenty to make fun of beyond orgy jokes and feminine clothing. Crowe does such an odd caricature, that it’s frankly distracting from literally anything else.
Thankfully, other comedic components of Love and Thunder work incredibly well. The fact that Melissa McCarthy now canonically exists in the MCU is nothing less than perfection. Seeing the actual mechanics of the theatre adds such a delightful bit of world building that this movie sorely needed. Of course combined with the classic Marvel banter, it can never be said that Love and Thunder wasn’t just plain fun.
Not everything about Thor: Love and Thunder comes together. However, all things considered, there is still a lot to love and appreciate. Perhaps its a testament to how endearing these characters are that often the biggest criticisms of these movies is that fans want more. If this was not the end for Hemsworth’s take on the God of Thunder, he can hopefully be given an epic send-off befitting the hero he has been from the first time we met him. In the meantime, hopefully Marvel can take a lesson from Waititi’s chaotic storytelling, which serves this character well every time.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in theatres now.