WARNING: This review includes MAJOR spoilers from Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder!
There have been four Thor movies (Four for Thor! Four for Thor!), and the latest installment of the Avenger’s individual franchise, Thor: Love and Thunder, has finally arrived in theaters today. The God of Thunder has found a storyteller in Taika Waititi, whose take on the franchise has made Thor the strongest Avenger – when it comes to jokes and heart. People forget the heart in superhero properties quite often; it’s only been recently, since the end of Phase 3 and into Phase 4, that superheroes have been seen as in-depth, fully fleshed out humans. It takes a series to turn the characters into fully fleshed-out individuals – the talent being that Marvel has the power and celebrity blessing to take their time and do it well.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a story about celebrity – something poignant with the times that we live in. While it’s a story about Thor, the story of Love and Thunder is about dissatisfaction with authority figures and the lengths that people will go to when disappointed that these individuals don’t have the answers they seek. Thor: Love and Thunder opens with one of those individuals, Christian Bale, who is absolutely tenacious and terrifying as Gorr the God Butcher. Disaffected, his belief tossed away by his Gods, he vows that “All Gods must die.” He travels the cosmos and begins slaying the deities with the necro sword, one of the only things that can kill a God. One is left to wonder how the “Gods” that the superheroes in the MCU represent to many humans would fare against it. Thor: Love and Thunder, however, is a Thor movie, and it’s left to the Asgardian Avenger to handle the problem.
This one has Thor sharing the screen with Jane Foster, and while two Thors might be better than one, there’s not nearly enough spent with Jane in Thor: Love and Thunder, given the severity of her storyline. When we see Thor again, he’s lost and living the life of a pop star, asking what matters in life – saving people, winning goats, and living his life. Jane is also living her life with a determination that can outshine Thor’s – accept that determination is also applied to the fact that she has stage four cancer that has left her with an unknown amount of time to live.
The Mighty Thor storyline in Thor: Love and Thunder caused quite a bit of controversy over the idea that a “woman couldn’t be Thor” despite the hammer being explicit in its dictum, “Whoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Jane feels a pull to Asgard and Mjolnir, and we learn that New Asgard has become a tourist destination with stuff perfectly suitable to theme parks (hint-hint, Disney, hint-hint) such as the “Infinity Scoops” ice cream stand. Jane takes the tour, drawn to Mjolnir, and her fate is left ambiguous as Thor and Stormbreaker return to earth and reunite with Valkyrie, who has settled into her role as King with panache, style, and perfection.
Throughout Thor: Love and Thunder, Mighty Thor and Thor meet up, and the romantic comedy meet-cute engagement ensues. Thor has clearly missed Jane, and Jane has been affected but living her life as best as she can. The stakes are raised away from love when Gorr kidnaps New Asgard’s children. It’s worth noting that not all children are Asgardians by birth. Asgard is a place, not a people. To try and draw Thor, Jane, and Valkyrie to him, they are forced to reckon with their drama, how they drifted apart, and how they can work together to get the children back.
To do so, they go to Immortal City, or a “City of the Gods,” where we learn that there are more than Asgardians in the universe, which begs the question, just how many Gods are there? Does this retcon the idea that Asgardians are aliens? Wasn’t that the whole idea? Thor as a franchise would have been better served in the hands of Waititi from the beginning, if only to introduce amazing concepts like Zeus discussing orgys, color Gods, and massive depictions of every sort of God in the universe in one big dias. Thor attempts to sway the Gods of the universe to their cause, and Zeus flicks him away like an ant, to the delight of the Gods and the audience watching. Also, a brief moment of praise for Waititi for including Zeus’s male assistant as falling down when Thor’s godliness is laid bare. We love to see that everyone can fall sway to the God of Thunder’s good looks.
Thor chastises them for forgetting their place, Jane transforms, excited to battle, and they fight with Thor slaying Zeus and stealing his thunderbolt, thinking it might be one of the few things to kill Gorr on his rampage. Zeus hints at there being a goal to Gorr’s rampage, that he’s seeking out the mysterious “Eternity”. They head towards Eternity in a realm of shadows where the film becomes something out of a nightmare as they try and help the kidnapped children.
Bale’s performance as Gorr is the equivalent of Caine’s in A Muppet Christmas Carol. Caine was quoted as saying he wanted to treat his costars – the muppets – as if he was working with Shakespeare. Bale treats the cast like he’s gunning for an Oscar, and it delivers an absolutely terrifying performance. He’s not playing Gorr, he’s back in Empire of the Sun or The Machinist, and he chews his way up to the top of the heap in scary Marvel villains.
The biggest problem with Thor: Love and Thunder is an important one – Mighty Thor deserves more. Jane weakens; they temporarily lose access to Stormbreaker, as it’s revealed that she is dying and that Mjolnir is killing her by feeding off her energy. Really building up Jane’s loss would have been better served by another Thor movie (or a Thor series) where the relationship she had with Valkyrie and New Asgard, with Korg and Thor, could have been explored. Instead, Thor charges off to save the world and promises that they will have a life together.
Ultimately she decides that the answer is no, landing back with Thor and doing battle with an amazing collection of kids armed with the power of Thor (proving that anyone is worthy, as it should be.) They make it to Eternity…
Thor Love and Thunder expand the cosmos. Waititi has turned Marvel’s cosmic side into a blast of color and fun and weird – and his choice of Eternity as a pivotal plot point – not character but plot point – is a wild one. Eternity is the literal embodiment of the MCU, which is the most meta the series has ever gotten. Nothing compares beyond the notion that there are other universes. Eternity is the most biblical, the most meta because they imply the existence not just of the multiverse but of creator Gods – IE – us.
Eternity is the ultimate deity, and those who find them get one wish. Initially, Gorr wants all the Gods to die, but he is so moved by Jane’s sacrifice that he wishes for his daughter to have a second life and dies in her arms. Thor says goodbye to Jane, and it turns out that the Love and Thunder of the title actually refer to Gorr’s Love – his daughter – and Thunder (Thor), who becomes the ultimate dad. It’s a perfect ending to the series centering Thor because he and the “child of eternity” can now travel the galaxy, and she can take up his mantle if she so chooses.
Thor Love and Thunder is a great movie, but fans of Mighty Thor might be disappointed. A story that required quite a bit of attention was cut down, and whatever the reason Mighty Thor’s presence in the MCU was potentially far too short-lived. Thor being a dad, however, is a stroke of clever genius, leaving the room for more Thor – and there will always be more Thor. If there are always going to be Lokis, there have to be Thors, while introducing one of the weirdest concepts to the MCU at large – Eternity.
There are two end-credit scenes, one of which introduces more new God characters – because Marvel went there – in a wild choice and hints potentially at Jane’s return by introducing Valhalla. Thor: Love and Thunder is a story of the downfall of celebrity and the rise of what matters: community. Thor is here to stay, hopefully keeping the bright and vivacious colors and the love of family.
Additional Thor: Love and Thunder Take-Aways:
Screaming Goats: Just, screaming goats and the writer’s fervent hope that the goats remain to torment the Asgardian corner of the MCU for eternity.
Eternity: Eternity is a wild choice! While the concept of God was introduced in Eternals, but abstract concepts like Eternity (Epiphany, Eros, etc, etc.) are going to be interesting for general audiences to swallow. Marvel is diving into the weird and the wild – it’s a bold move Korg, let’s see how it pays off!
The Queer is everywhere: A scene confirming Thompson’s Valkyrie is bisexual was cut from Thor Ragnarok, but Waititi goes all in and dares anyone to stop him. From the idea that Russell Crowe’s Zeus would happily participate in an orgy involving Chris Hemsworth’s Thor – who wouldn’t though – to Korg’s two dads, to Valkyrie and Jane Foster with immense amounts of chemistry-)
In writing this review; the author is driven to wonder if they might pick up on Jane’s other occupation in the MCU, that she herself would end up as a Valkyrie tasked to deliver the souls of the dead to their eternal rest in Valhalla.
Thor: Love and Thunder is now playing in theaters worldwide!