Before we begin, please take a look at these quotes:
“So one of the things that surprised me about this movie on re-watching was that it is much better than I remembered, or at the very least far more interesting. Thor exists in a much richer emotional universe than the two Iron Man movies or Hulk.”
“Something that I don’t think gets talked about when it comes to [Thor 2] is just how gorgeous it is. Seriously, the art design in this is just jaw dropping, it is hands down the best looking picture in the MCU.”
“A thought occurred to me as I watched Thor and the Revengers speeding towards a giant wormhole called the devil’s anus while blasting spaceships with lasers while Mark Mothersbaugh’s awesome techno score rippled in the background: is this movie the greatest thing ever? Yes. Yes it is.”
“Wow” you might ask. “What pathetic, gushing, blinkered, Thor-fanboy said THAT?”
“Um, me” I reply.
“Oh. Well, this is awkward” you might answer.
“Yeah. Yeah, maybe think before you say something really hurtful” I sob.
Sorry, feeling a bit emotional today. I put those quotes above to give some context. If there’s an internet reviewer who’s been as unstintingly positive to the Thor series as me I am unfamiliar with their work. I have gone to bat for this series again and again. I made Thor my highest ranked of the Phase 1 origin movies. I made Ragnarok my number one movie of the entire MCU. I HAD NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE DARK WORLD.
So when I say that Love and Thunder is not only the worst Thor movie but the worst movie in this entire 30 film franchise, I hope you understand that this is a big deal. Something that I loved has betrayed me and left me angry, appalled and ready for revenge.
There is so much I hate about this movie: The cringey dialogue, the nonsensical plot, the cheap chintziness, the My-Little-Pony Lunchbox Aesthetic, the mixture of smug emotional insincerity and saccharine, hock-inducing sentimentality. It’s the movie equivalent of a tall glass of Mabel Juice.
And you might say, “well wasn’t Ragnarok also a brightly coloured irreverent comedy? Are they really so different?” To which I reply “Some Like it Hot and White Chicks are both comedies revolving around cross-dressing, it doesn’t make them equally good” to which you reply “I’m an obvious bad faith strawman you just created to make your point, what do you want from me?”
Okay fine. I can explain pretty much everything wrong with Thor 4 in one scene. Here’s the context. Thor has found the Lady Sif, one of his oldest comrades in arms, dying on an icy battlefield. Let’s watch!
THOR: I’m gonna get you home.
SIF: No! Leave me here. I want to die a warrior’s death. On the battlefield. In battle. And then I can claim my place in Valhalla.
THOR: Oh, I hate to break it to you, but for a warrior to get into Valhalla, you have to die in the battle. You survived.
SIF: Oh, shit.
Now, the problem is not the joke. The joke is perfectly fine. Solid on the page, with the potential to be a howler with the proper delivery. The problem is this. Imagine a dear friend is dying in your arms. Is “Oh, I hate to break it to you” the kind of thing you might realistically find yourself saying? Of course not. That’s a “you may not be able to redeem that voucher” kind of phrase, not a “my dear friend is dying and may miss out on her eternal reward” kind of phrase. This is the kind of writing you get in a sketch comedy, where the joke is always prioritised over the characters. And there’s nothing wrong with that in a sketch. But we know Thor, we’ve followed him across seven movies and this mildly concerned reaction to Sif’s predicament makes the character seem absolutely psychotic. And it’s an easy fix! Here:
THOR: I’m gonna get you home!
SIF: No! Leave me here. I want to die a warrior’s death.
THOR: Sif listen to me!
SIF: On the battlefield.
SIF: In battle.
THOR: Sif please…
SIF: And then I can claim my place in Valhalla.
THOR: (desperately pleading) Sif for a warrior to get into Valhalla, you have to die in the battle. You survived.
SIF: Oh, shit.
See? The joke remains perfectly intact, and Thor is now acting in a way that feels emotionally true to the character. And this is the big, glaring difference between Ragnarok and Love and Thunder. Ragnarok built jokes around characters acting consistently and believably, and Love and Thunder builds its jokes and then bends and breaks its characters trying to fit them in.
The movie opens with an alien named Gorr played by Christian Bale as the sole redeeming element of this whole mess. He travels through a parched desert with his daughter…Love. Oh shit, that’s actually her name. That’s why it’s called…fuck. That’s terrible.
Gorr desperately prays to his god Rapu for deliverance but to no avail and Gorr has to watch as his innocent daughter dies of thirst in his arms.
Sooooo…about that tone problem. Love and Thunder deals with some incredibly dark subject matter; cancer, loss of faith, child abduction and attempted murder. We even see the onscreen death of a child which has been a major Hollywood taboo since the earliest days of film. And yet, so much of the movie is just so fucking “lol nothing matters” that it becomes really gross. And let me clarify, some of my favourite movies are comedies with very dark subject matter. Hell, my favourite comedy is Death of Stalin. But, how can I put this? Taika Waititi is no Armando Ianucci. And I’m starting to think he never was.
Anyway, broken and distraught, Gorr comes to an oasis where he finds Rapu celebrating with some of his fellow gods for having defeated a warrior who was wielding the Necro Sword, a cursed weapon that can kill gods. He then mocks Gorr for expecting his gods to actually help him or his daughter. While the dude is literally a foot away from the only weapon in the universe that can kill him. So Gorr, understandably, kills Rapu and decides to do a full Kratos on every deity in the universe.
So here’s what I think needs to be fixed here. Firstly, this sequence needed to be longer. The ease with which Gorr wanders into Rapu’s domain and just finds the Necro Sword is so damned contrived and makes this whole planet feel roughly the size of a city park. Secondly, this is Rapu.
If we’re supposed to invest in Gorr’s turn to murderous misotheism and feel that he’s at least somewhat justified then it’s not enough for Rapu to be a ridiculous asshole. He should be truly vile. Viscerally repellent. The idea that got lodged in my head is that Gorr envisions Rapu as a beautiful colourful tree frog only to finally meet him and discover a grotesque, corpulent, venomous toad.
Prologue over, we finally see our main character.
I loved Korg in Ragnarok. I think everyone did. But if you took my Korg-love and your Korg-love and everyone else’s in the entire world and put it all together, it would not be as much love for Korg as Taika Waititi evidently has. Korg is our narrator and has a vastly expanded role without really being relevant to the main story and I just got sick of this guy. Even a great joke becomes torture after the tenth telling.
So Korg gives us the backstory of the Space Viking aka The God of Thunder aka Thor Odinson aka this is not really a joke in the conventional sense but if we drag it out long enough the audience might give a mild chuckle of bemusement. He recounts how Thor lost his parents, his brother (three times), his closest friends, his kingdom and his mental health before joining up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and going on space adventures. But, according to Korg, it was the loss of Jane Foster between Dark World and Ragnarok that really got him in the giblets and he’s sworn off love forever. Oh yeah, if you thought that the Thor/Jane Foster relationship was a basically harmless but ultimately inconsequential fling that was rightly dropped from Ragnarok YOU HAVE NO SOUL. This was the greatest love story of all time and hugely important to Thor’s character and we have the retroactive continuity to prove it!
Okay, so Star Lord and Mantis come to get Thor to join their battle against the Booskans, a race of alien marauders who look like the Fireys from Labyrinth.
We get a bafflingly stupid line of dialogue where Rocket complains that Thor said they were going on holiday and Thor points out the beautiful scenery including “the three suns of Saturn”. And that is what he says. I checked the subtitles. And then I went online and found people asking how many suns Saturn has.
This leads into a battle scene between Thor and the Booskans set to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses. It’s a fairly transparent attempt to recreate the sheer metal awesomeness of the “Immigrant Song” sequence that opened Ragnarok. It fails, obviously, because Welcome to the Jungle isn’t worthy of carrying Immigrant’s Song luggage and it’s a shallow re-tread that doesn’t even have a rocket powered dragon, of all the nerve. That said…it’s still probably my second favourite part of the whole movie. The Booskans are a really fun bit of design and Chris Hemsworth looks like he’s having a great time so yeah, I’ll give it a passing grade. Anyway, Thor defeats the Booskans but accidentally destroys the glass temple that he was supposed to be defending. In thanks/punishment, the aliens whose temple it was gift him two giant screaming goats.
Meanwhile, back on Earth Jane Foster is quirkily dying of cancer. In between chemo/gal pal sessions with D’Arcy she sends her blood results off to Erik Selvig so we can get a completely baffling cameo.
Out of options, Jane decides to head to New Asgard which has, under the rule of King Valkyrie, become a corporatised theme park presenting a safe, blandly Americanised version of Norse mythology and oh Christ, I think the movie is trying to be self aware.
Yeah, the Space Jam 2 defence. Not going to fly here. Also, while I feel this is just going to be tea-bagging a beehive, why exactly is Valkyrie the “king” of Asgard again? I mean, she doesn’t identify as male. And we’ve seen TWO Queens of Asgard before now so it’s not like the term is gender neutral in this context. Is the implication that Valkyrie has to be a king because she’s just that badass? Because kings are just better than queens? For some reason? Is that the implication? Because that’s a hell of a fucking implication.
Anyway, this whole sequence shows just how brutally this movie will massacre any sense of coherent and consistent world-building for a cheap joke.
Thor gets a message from Lady Sif, we get that scene I described earlier and Thor races to Asgard to stop Gorr because apparently he seeks the extinction of the gods. So, I guess this is as good a time as any to ask this.
What ARE the Asgardians? What the actual fuck are they?
Are they aliens?
Are they gods?
Are they pretty much just regular humans?
Are they super-powered?
Are they mortal?
Are they immortal?
Are they just incredibly technologically advanced or do they wield actual magic?
The movie just doesn’t seem to know or care. And no, this is not a problem limited to Thor 4, the MCU has always played pretty loosey goosey with them but it’s here that the sheer unwillingness to pick a damn lane really starts to stick in my craw.
Thor arrives in New Asgard where Gorr is attacking with an army of shadowy monsters called *checks notes* the “shadow monsters” who proceed to abduct all the children in New Asgard. Okay. Put this off long enough. Let’s discuss Gorr (short for Gorr Blimey, what a mess).
The Thor series is the fucking Kingda Ka of villain quality. The highs (Loki, Hela, The Grandmaster, Skurge, Topaz) are so very, very high. But the lows (Malekith and now Gorr), man are they low. And weirdly, they’re both played by two of my favourite actors in deathly pale makeup. Gorr, however, is even more infuriating than Malekith. Malekith was just inert and dull. But Gorr had the potential to be absolutely phenomenal as a villain, maybe an MCU GOAT. Bale is actually doing Trojan work here and there are parts of Gorr’s story that absolutely work but the writing scuppers this character to his very core. I’m not the first to point this out, I know, and you probably already know exactly what I’m going to say but to be clear; Gorr’s plan is to abduct New Asgard’s children and bring them to the Gates of Eternity, thereby luring Thor who will obviously come and rescue them. Then, Gorr plans to use Thor’s axe to open the Gates, which will grant him an audience with Eternity who is, let’s not split hairs, a god, who he plans to ask to annihilate all the gods in existence. The problem is not that the plan doesn’t make sense, it hangs together in a nutty, supervillain plot kinda way. The problem is that it completely undercuts the single most important defining element of Gorr’s character.
Gorr is a deicidal misotheist who believes that all gods are as selfish, cruel and uncaring as Rapu was. But his very plan relies of Thor being good and selfless, and Eternity being willing to almost literally answer his prayer. This is is like if….fuck, I dunno. Scar was introduced in The Lion King and then spent the rest of the movie ensuring that Mufasa stayed on the throne.
The movie also repeats The Dark World’s blunder of having a villain who has no personal interest or relationship with Thor outside of getting his hands on a Maguffin. And this is particularly galling because there was so much potential here for a very compelling, deeply personal antagonist for Thor.
Look, many (many, far too many) people have awful experiences with religion that results in them losing their faith. And when such people meet others who had a different, more positive experience with their own faith traditions they often react badly. Because it can be easier to believe that all religion is equally bad than, no, you were just dealt a really shitty hand. And then it becomes necessary for their sense of identity to try and dismantle the beliefs of others even if those beliefs are actively beneficial to the people who hold them, becoming aggressively evangelical in their atheism (and sub-optimal in their ability to appreciate irony).
So picture this. Remember Prince Thor from the first movie? That callow, selfish dude-bro. Imagine if he had an encounter with Gorr long before he came to Midgard. Maybe Gorr was questing for the Necro Sword but hadn’t found it yet. And young Thor pretty much re-affirms everything that Gorr has come to believe about the gods of the universe. And then, years later, Gorr is doing his murder rampage and he finds a planet where the people are giving thanks to Thor for saving them from some menace or other. And Gorr just can’t believe it. “Thor? Thor?! That asshole!?” And so, because he thinks he knows Thor better than anyone, he makes it his personal mission to prove to the universe that Thor is just as bad as any other god, if not worse. Now, you’ve got personal investments, you’ve got personal stakes and, you have the emotional investment of the audience as well. Because of course, we know Thor better than anyone. We’ve followed his growth from callow wastrel to true hero over eight movies now and we have a vested stake in seeing Gorr proved wrong.
I don’t want to shit on the character completely. The makeup and effects work are fucking phenomenal and Gorr is at least scary. He is a genuinely creepy dude. Bale plays two versions of the character, stoic, grieving father and creepy cockney Meth-head Voldermort and they don’t make a lick of sense as the same guy but they are individually very good performances. Such a goddamn waste.
Anyway, in the middle of the battle Thor sees a familiar figure wielding a familiar hammer and is stunned to see Jane, with Thor powers. So stunned in fact, it activates his rarely seen “shitty helmet manifestation” power.
Gorr abducts the children and am-scrays and we now enter probably the most excruciating part of the whole film, the stretch where that tone problem becomes unignorable.
There’s just this endless parade of dumb rom-com schtick; Thor’s butthurt that Jane and Mjolnir are now an item, Storm-breaker is jealous (neither have been given the slightest hint of being sentient in previous movies lol nothing matters). Valkyrie and Korg play the sassy gay best friends. And all the while, DOZENS OF CHILDREN HAVE BEEN AMBER ALERTED BY A FUCKING CENOBITE.
Thor tells the gang they have to travel to Omnipotence City to consult with the other gods of the universe. We get a scene where Jane goes to the bathroom and releases the hammer (not a euphemism) and we see her in her actual, cancer ravished state. We get a very, very generic “dying Mom” flashback where we see that Jane’s mother also died of cancer and told her to never stop fighting. And then Valkyrie shows up at her door and starts pulling weapons out of literally nowhere like Garfield the fucking cat. This movie has more clashing tones than a paint catalogue. Speaking of:
At Omnipotence City Thor meets Zeus played by Russell Crowe playing my elderly Greek uncle (he’s actually a lot of fun, I like Crowe in this part). And it’s here where the movie gets weirdly horny. With repeated references to the gods having orgies and generous helpings of Chris Hemsworth’s majestic buttocks. Now, as I told the gimp-haram only the other day, I’m no prude but this tone seems weirdly at odds with a movie that ends with a superhero giving a load of small children super powers so they can fight monsters. I mean, that climax would suggest (to me at at least) a movie heavily geared at small children. In which case, maybe dial down the Animal House shenanigans?
Well anyway, not only does Zeus refuse to help against Gorr, he tries to take the gang prisoner to stop them revealing Omnipotence City’s location. Thor stabs Zeus through the chest with his own thunder bolt and they escape to track Gorr into the shadow realm on their own. Thor tells Jane he’s still in love with her, Jane tells him she has stage four cancer, they make out and…this, just doesn’t work. The performances aren’t working, the dialogue isn’t clicking, none of this feels earned, it’s just a mess.
Okay, let me be positive for a minute. the whole sequence in the Shadow Realm is pretty goddamn cool.
The movie does a reverse “Wizard of Oz” and switches from a garish colour palette to stark black and white with the exception of the magical weapons. The battle takes place on a kind of mini planet and all in all it’s very distinct and atmospheric and cool golf clap, golf clap.
Jane sees what the Wikipedia recap for the movie calls “ancient drawings” depicting Stormbreaker being used to open the gates of Eternity. Of course, since Stormbreaker was only created in Infinity War the very earliest those drawings could have been made is 2018 which…okay, yeah, I guess that would make them ancient.
Realising that it is a SNEAKY TRAP she throws Stormbreaker into space and Gorr ambushes them and threatens to kill Jane unless Thor calls the axe. This whole sequence is bafflingly better than the rest of this movie. It looks greats, it sounds great, the music is atmospheric, the visuals are chilling, Christian Bale is skin-crawlingly terrifying. There is a version of Thor 4 where everything is on the same level of this sequence and it could be my favourite MCU movie.
Anyway, they have a big fight and Valkyrie is badly injured and they retreat back to New Asgard. Jane’s condition worsens and she has to go to hospital because, while Mjolnir allows her to function it’s not actually keeping the cancer at bay. So Jane has to make the choice between prolonging her life through chemo for the slim hope of beating the cancer or just picking up the hammer and living as much to the full in the time she has, even though it will mean her certain death. And…that’s a really heart-rending choice that many people with cancer have to make. But if you’re going to show that, the movie kinda has to be about that. For all that this movie was trumpeted as Lady Thor taking over as the new Thor…no. This is Thor classic’s story and Jane is a supporting character. And there’s just too much else going on in the rest of the movie for this to be effective.
We now get a scene where Valkyrie gives Thor Zeus’ thunderbolt and reminds him that the Gates of Eternity are at the literal centre of the universe and I’m sorry I can’t fucking even. I want you to imagine a version of Lord of the Rings where the hobbits were just popping between Mordor and the Shire between scenes. You see how that would just completely neuter any sense of epic scale for that world?
Anyway, Thor arrives as Gorr is trying to use Stormbreaker to open the gates of Eternity. Thor gives the Asgardian kids superpowers so that they can be his little army of child soldiers and they fight Gorr’s monsters. In her hospital bed Jane senses that Thor is getting his shit staved in so she summons Mjolnir, transforms into Lady Thor and travels to the centre of the FUCKING UNIVERSE in like two minutes. The two Thors destroy the Necro Sword (fun trivia, in the comics it’s actually a symbiote like Venom and Carnage) but Gorr succeeds in opening the gate and all three stand before Eternity.
Jane is dying so Thor tells Gorr he’s won and that he doesn’t want to fight anymore. He also suggests that instead of using his wish to destroy all the gods he could just, y’know, bring his daughter back. And Gorr’s all “ohhhhhhh yeah” but then he coughs and says “I’m dying”.
Thor offers to look after his daughter, Gorr makes the wish, he dies, Jane dies, Thor now has a daughter who he makes pancakes for because this movie ran out of script and had to hastily patch the gaps with the fan-fiction of a horny forty something Mom from Utah.
And the movie ends with Thor taking his eight year old daughter into battle to fight monsters.
When I reviewed Hercules way back in the Cambrian period I said it was “Aladdin, but too much”. In the same way Love and Thunder is Ragnarok shoved down your throat until you choke along with random fistfuls of a completely different, much darker movie that got mixed up in all the rush. It’s not very good. Is that coming across? IT IS NOT VERY GOOD.
A Thor movie that doesn’t feel like the comics, doesn’t feel like the previous movies and is so tonally inconsistent it somehow manages to not feel like itself. A spectacular clusterfuck.
Our Heroic Heroes: 07/25
I was a fan of Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor long before most of you Johnny-come-latelies which is why it’s so hard for me to report that something has gone seriously wrong. His performance here has descended into broad pantomime, like he’s playing the version of Thor that lives in the Anchorman universe.
Our Nefarious Villains: 08/25
I confess I haven’t actually read any of Gorr’s comic book appearances but I honestly think that’s irrelevant. The concept is perfectly clear and solid, and it’s been completely mishandled here. God bless Bale, he’s trying his damndest.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 03/25
It’s genuinely impressive how many of my favourite Marvel supporting characters this movie managed to make completely unlikable.
Back in Omnipotence City, Zeus (who is still alive), bemoans how superheroes have replaced gods in the minds of mortals and orders his son to kill Thor. That son’s name? HERCULES.
And the audience went…
Until they start introducing X-Men and Fantastic Four characters into the main MCU, we’ve basically run out of big marquee names. I’m happy to see Hercules though, the Marvel version is actually a really fun character.
The second stinger
Jane Foster arrives in Valhalla and is greeted by Heimdall.
And the audience went
Always happy to see Idris Elba, but it really should have been Odin. Jane Foster and Heimdall never really had any meaningful relationship. To have Odin go from seeing Jane as a “goat at a banquet” to welcoming her into Valhalla as an honoured warrior would have been a much more satisfying resolution for her character. Maybe Anthony Hopkins wasn’t taking their calls.
FINAL SCORE: 22%
NEXT UPDATE: 26 January 2023
NEXT TIME: A movie called “Batman and Robin” simply cannot be bad. That’s just science.