Our favorite thunder god is almost back in theaters, as Hemsworth returns for another round as the ever-evolving Norse deity. Thor: Love and Thunder is a rapid-fire action-comedy that adeptly balances a lot of humor and some considerable combat in what’s sure to be a crowd pleaser, alongside an intimidating and memorable villain in the genocidal Gorr the God-Butcher. The film could be a little longer, it’s emotional scenes (which do land) given more room to breathe, but it certainly has strong rewatch value.
Thor: Love and Thunder sees a Thor return (once again Chris Hemsworth, with a great and hilarious performance) who has long given up love and is trying to find some semblance of peace. Unsurprisingly for Thor, at least, peace seems to come with an axe. He finds his world and expectations upended when he discovers that his ex-love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been chosen worthy by Mjolnir and she is now the Mighty Thor, powers and all. Further complicating matters: a god-killing villain named Gorr (Christian Bale) has been assassinating gods across the universe.
A former believer who lost his daughter from a god’s callousness, Gorr found himself armed with the All-Black, a mysterious sword that chooses its user much in the same way as Mjolnir, granting them powers and a thirst for divine blood. When Gorr takes Asgardian children in an effort to provoke the thunder god(s), the Thors, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and allies have to hunt down the god-butcher while Jane Foster struggles with a cancer diagnosis.
Taika Waititi returns to direct the film, a follow-up to his prior outing with Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a swiftly-paced Marvel entry, with the action punctuated by a lot of humor that largely lands. Humor aside, it’s still an action-heavy outing with a number of strong battle sequences and some really interesting combat choreography and choices. (There’s one scene where Thor grants a portion of his power to others, which is a top-tier fight, successfully badass and funny simultaneously). The worldbuilding here is also adeptly handled, showcasing so much more of the MCU’s deities beyond Asgard than we’ve ever seen before. It’s most certainly Marvel’s funniest film, and while that does on occasion detract from the action the balance largely works.
Portman’s return as Jane Foster is a welcome one. She lands the action sequences, but more importantly her struggle with said ailment and her history with Thor bring a lot of closure to the threads of their arc together. Hemsworth and Portman have both top-tier acting chops and great chemistry, and the emotional scenes between then land well. Perhaps the film’s biggest issue is that the mile-a-minute pace gets in the way of some solid emotional work. The interactions between the pair reach crescendos that have strong emotional authenticity and a real poignancy, but they’re frequently sandwiched between scenes of an entirely different emotional beat. The pace is so quick that it often interrupts the audience’s ability to sit with the emotion.
Bale’s Gorr is one of the strongest and scariest villains we’ve seen in the MCU, with a menace and a danger that really lands. Even better, he’s given truly fleshed out backstory that allows the audience to understand, even sympathize with the factors that made him the obsessive god-killer he becomes. He steals every scene, and there’s a real gravitas to Bale’s performance that really works. His arc in the film does wrap a little too suddenly and easily, and the movie slides through some important details that feel a little rushed. The divergence from a comics-accurate design is also a bit of a let-down. Given how the story wraps it makes sense to make Gorr’s species a little more human, a little less alien, but it would really amplify Bale’s impeccable performance by making him a bit more alien and a little less of, well, a desaturated human. Nonetheless, Bale’s Gorr is top tier and a major highlight.
Thor: Love and Thunder overall works quite well, and Waititi largely lands its delicate action-comedy balance. Gorr’s menace translates well to the screen, with Bale crafting one of Marvel’s scariest, most memorable, and emotionally complex villains yet. The emotional weight of Portman’s portrayal and her interactions with Hemsworth are also written well enough in their own right as individual scenes, but the film’s mile-a-minute pace does water down their power somewhat. It’s one of Marvel’s most entertaining outings yet, and a sure-fire audience pleaser.
Thor: Love and Thunder drops in theaters June 8th.