Earlier this year, the cinema industry-eating titan known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a compelling case that there was life in the ole girl yet, with Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. By no means a perfect film, hindered by the usual MCU tie-in obligations, it nevertheless miraculously arrived on the big screen as an offering reasonably faithful to Raimi’s delirious, heightened sensibility, such a rarity in this series that it felt like an oasis. The other big name in the MCU, as far as director sensibility being lent to the ‘feel’ of a film, is Aotearoa’s local hero Taika Waititi, whose irreverent comedy stylings brought a refreshing sheen to 2017’s Thor Ragnarok and now return for its latest sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder. The latest adventure for the blond, buff interstellar god finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) adrift, having lost almost everything dear to him. Soon, he finds himself coming into conflict with Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who has a very personal vendetta against any and all Gods, intending to slaughter every last one. As well as this, Thor contends with the return of his long-lost ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now wields Thor’s old hammer Mjolnir and has become a Thor herself.
The latest in the exhausting, never-ending Marvel machine is this lazy, disaffected sequel that fails even to justify the continuation of the series. It’s not quite a career low for Aotearoa’s own Taika Waititi, but it’s close.
Post-Avengers: Endgame, Marvel’s offerings have been an extremely mixed bag, spitting out countless television series that feel messy and inessential, similar to the Mouse House’s treatment of the once-great Star Wars series. It’s a case of too much ‘content’, all the time, cheapening the entire enterprise. Though Thor has the distinction of a cinema release, it crucially shares the half-assed, tossed-off feeling of these other works, an example of an output that, while largely fundamentally inoffensive, feels devoid of a reason for existence beyond meeting shareholder expectations. Waititi’s direction here is limpid and messy – the feeling of offbeat irreverence becoming something of a crutch, robbing even the film’s climactic sequences of real pathos. Hemsworth and Portman largely seem to be snoozing their way through the film, their chemistry virtually non-existent here – a shame, as it was the highlight of the first two otherwise fairly dire Thor offerings. Indeed, for a film subtitled Love and Thunder, this is remarkably sexless and lacking electricity – the supposedly smouldering relationship at the core of the film resigned to a couple of chaste kisses, the sexuality of any other character largely the source of weak jokes. A few bright spots exist – Christian Bale, as menacing God Butcher Gorr, brings a thespian’s commitment to what could have easily been another goofy footnote in this film’s repertoire, crafting a genuinely unsettling ghoul lurking in the shadows of the frame. A scene set in a void drained of colour, occasionally evoking silent-era science fiction classics, is the film’s highlight, a moment of visual inspiration boosted by Bale’s presence. Even this, though, feels underdeveloped – instead of really committing to the strangeness of the space and the feelings evoked by the imagery, Waititi opts for another bland action sequence, a real missed opportunity.
Crucially, the film ultimately loses its sense of fun in trying so desperately to be so. While occasional moments of comedy hit (a recurring gag involving giant, screeching goats that carry Thor from place to place, for example), it feels like a film that can’t be bothered committing to anything that meaningfully draws its characters forward, and, considering the film’s denouement, does an enormous disservice to the significance of a woman inheriting the Thor title for future instalments. It’s not helped by the overwhelming fakeness of the film’s look and feel, it’s endlessly greenscreened locales giving the project a feeling of weightlessness only amplified by the impression that often actors might not even have been in the same room when performing. It’s not quite a nadir for director Waititi, but it certainly isn’t a highpoint either.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in cinemas now!
Thor: Love and Thunder
Movie title: Thor: Love and Thunder (Taika Waititi, 2022)
Movie description: The latest in the exhausting, never-ending Marvel machine is this lazy, disaffected sequel that fails even to justify the continuation of the series. It’s not quite a career low for Aotearoa’s own Taika Waititi, but it’s close.
Date published: July 7, 2022
Author: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Director(s): Taika Waititi
Actor(s): Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy