Saturday, July 30, 2022

Stubs - Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman. Directed by Taika Waititi. Screenplay by Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. Based on Marvel Comics. Produced by Kevin Feige, Brad Winderbaum. Run time: 119 minutes. Color. USA. Superhero, Action, Adventure, MCU.

While my enthusiasm for the MCU has cooled substantially since Endgame, there were still films in Phase Four that I was still interested in. Following Thor: Ragnarok (2017), one that I was looking forward to was Taika Waititi’s return to the Thor franchise. The first two Thor solo films, Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), were okay, it seemed the character did better when part of an ensemble. But Ragnarok seemed to change that. Waititi’s humor really helped that film to be more fun and enjoyable than the previous two.

In Love and Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leaves the Guardians of the Galaxy to help a friend, Sif (Jaimie Alexander), who is in trouble fighting Gor: The God Butcher (Christian Bale). Disappointed by his own god Rapu (Jonathan Brugh), whose indifference led to the death of Gor’s daughter, Love (India Hemsworth), Gor kills him after having been deemed worthy to use the Necrosword. Now a man on a mission, Gor goes around the universe killing more gods, leaving many a world without someone to look over it.

Meanwhile, Thor’s former love, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is suffering through stage-four cancer, the type of which isn’t revealed. While chemo doesn’t seem to help, Foster does hear the Mjolnir, Thor’s destroyed hammer, and goes to New Asgard, which is now a tourist trap with the pieces of the Mjolnir on display.

Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

When Gor arrives there looking for Thor, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), now King, confronts him and before Thor arrives, so does Mighty Thor (Portman), transformed by the hammer into a mortal superhero. While they manage to hold him off, Gor, who uses shadow monsters, kidnaps all the children.

After failing to get the other gods, led by Zeus (Russell Crowe), to help, it is up to Thor, Jane, Valkyrie, and Korg (Taika Waititi) to get the children back. That, of course, is hard to do, as they are in a race to stop Gor before he can get to Eternity’s altar and wish for the death of all gods, presumably including Thor.

The film is a reunion twice over. From a movie perspective, most of the main and still living characters from the previous Thor films make an appearance. The film, judging by the credits, was also an opportunity for the Hemsworth family to work together as there seems to be at least a half-dozen involved.

There are, as you would anticipate, a lot of big-budget special effects throughout the film. Despite that, there are the occasional duds, including one in which Axl (Kieron L. Dyer), Heimdall's son, appears in some sort of ghost conversation with Thor. His first appearance looks surprisingly cheap.

The acting is not bad. Hemsworth makes Thor a likable character, strong but a bit dim at times. There is always a shadow of a doubt if he has enough on the ball to get the job done, though through luck and skill he always manages to get through whatever the obstacle. And it should come as no surprise to anyone that Thor will return.

Christian Bale seems like an actor who always puts everything into the character he’s playing and that seems to be true here again. Thin and almost ghostly, Gor is possessed by the Necrosword and it is only after that spell is broken that he does the right thing.

Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) returns to help Thor.

I really like Tessa Thompson, but her performance here seems a little uninspired. I don’t know what’s missing but Valkyrie’s spirit seems to be broken. She’s not as fun as she was in Ragnarök. Hopefully, she’ll be back when Thor returns.

Natalie Portman always seemed to be an odd choice for a Marvel film, though serious actors no longer seem out of place in the MCU or even the DCEU films. Her appearance as Mighty Thor seems a little uninspired. What makes her worthy of the hammer besides Marvel’s desire for diversity? I’m not bothered by a woman superhero; I just don’t want them to be male retreads.

Taika Waititi’s Korg is there for comic relief for the most part, though we learn more about him this time around. Again, perhaps driven by Marvel’s push to explore all angles, he is revealed to be having a baby with another male Kronan he has somehow met. It is also revealed that Valkyrie is suffering from a broken heart from the death of her female lover in service to Odin. Again, nothing against diverse sexuality, but these both come across as being somewhat tacked on.

Capturing magic in a bottle is not always easy a second time as Thor: Love and Thunder demonstrates. The humor that helped raise up Ragnarök gets in the way this time. Note to Waititi, not everything is funny, including things like stage-four cancer. We are also introduced to a pair of goats Thor receives as a gesture for his saving a civilization. Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder may be based on Norse mythology but I wonder if their screaming was part of that mythology? Yes, they scream, and not just once but every time they appear on the screen. What might have been funny the first time gets to be wearing after a while.

I went in really wanting to like this film but I came away sort of disappointed. While Ragnarök soared, Love and Thunder doesn’t. There is a lot of effort on the screen but it comes across as uninspired and trying too hard to be all things to all people. Thor will return but he might be better off if he’s included in the next Guardians of the Galaxy ensemble rather than on his own again.

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