Murphy’s Team-Up Volume 22: Reviewing ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

Opening weekend has come and gone for Thor: Love and Thunder. The MM team checks in with their thoughts on the fourth installment in the franchise.

João Pinto

At the end of the day, while featuring a few outstanding elements well worthy of praise, Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t quite deliver. Going beyond all the talk about wonky CGI and overuse of StageCraft technology (that honestly isn’t an issue at all), the main problems seem to have to do with both the plot and script, in terms of pacing and tone-specific verisimilitude. While understanding that this is a movie about space gods, space goats, and space dolphins you still want it to be engrossing and to make sense, even if only within its own specific set of rules. Also, the fact that the movie shied away from truly exploring what should have been at its core (Gorr and Godhood) in a more in-depth way comes off as a disservice to the comic story arc it loosely adapted.

There seems to be a lot of praise when referring to Thor: Love and Thunder as being very comic-booky mostly in the sense that it doesn’t take itself that seriously. That, in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it certainly doesn’t feel like the right approach when addressing the God Butcher storyline. Much like we got to see a different side of Thor following Ragnarok in Avengers: Infinity War (due to the more somber nature of the storyline) by choosing to make Gorr a central piece of Love and Thunder I’m not entirely convinced that the tone made sense. Jason Aaron‘s original Thor run eventually evolves into a more light-hearted tone (in my opinion the shift from Esad Ribic‘s art to Russell Dauterman‘s sort of exemplifies that) but a feature film adaptation of its beginning, the first arcs featuring Gorr, certainly deserved a more ominous approach in order to sell what made it one of the truly remarkable Thor storylines.

Not only does the tone feel a bit off but by doubling down on gags that already worked and had their time in Thor: Ragnarok comes off as lazy and downright dull at times, with the new Asgardian Theater scene being a prime example of that. Some other running jokes felt flat (looking at you sulking Stormbreaker) and remarkably little of that traditional Waititi sense of humor, clever wording, and comic timing felt fresh. While Ragnarok was mostly set on Asgard and Sakaar making Waititi‘s bonkers take have an otherworldly setting that meshed well together, the Love and Thunder action taking place in a more earthly New Asgard felt a bit cosplay-y, maybe explaining why the Omnipotent City sequence (a location that deserved a bigger spotlight and further exploration) worked a bit better with the established tone of the movie.

The fast pace that allows us to get straight into the action is, again, something that while not being a bad thing should really be used according to the specific situation. In other projects that seemed like the right approach. Again going back to Infinity War, everything started moving hastily since the main players’ motivations had been set up in previous features and there wasn’t really a need for a large amount of setup. But in Thor: Love and Thunder, regarding Gorr but especially regarding Jane Foster’s transformation into the Mighty Thor, everything felt rushed in a way that took some of the emotional punch out of the journey both characters went on. Jane Foster deserved to have her initial Mighty Thor transformation on screen, even if the comics themselves do not show it. But while the comics thrived on the mystery behind the character, as who was holding the hammer wasn’t revealed until later, Thor: Love and Thunder made that pretty clear from the moment the movie was announced, making a similar delayed reveal pointless and honestly a bit anti-climatic.

But not all was lost to the “bigger and louder and more bombastic” version or Ragnarok Waititi sold us on, as there are some hilarious gems spread out through the script (“Maybe your arm is in Valhalla!”) as well as being introduced to, in my opinion, the most obnoxious but also the more hilarious running joke on any Marvel Studios movie: Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder.

All in all, it’s hard not to wish that such compelling story arcs featuring Gorr and The Mighty Thor could have been given a bit more room to truly live up to their potential. What could have been an amazing Thor sequel, given the cast and characters, and especially following the tremendous success of the previous installment that reinvigorated the franchise, instead takes us back to pre-Ragnarok levels of interest in what the future might have in store for the character. Thor: Love and Thunder while aiming at being a Thor: Ragnarok 2.0 but doesn’t manage to go beyond a meager 0.5.

Or perhaps a 0.6. Because of the goats.

Mary Maerz

I liked it a lot more the second time I watched it. I’m a big fan of Taika Waititi’s vibe and the movie’s general goofy tone. Not every joke landed for me, but I will survive. I also love everything colorful and visually interesting so it was a good time for that. I’m not the VFX police, and I don’t think a movie that has Bao the god of dumplings in it needs those people in its life, but the tone of Love and Thunder is bold and wacky, so it really doesn’t need to look like an Avatar sequel. It was fun, and it had unexpected heart in the ending. It was the first MCU film I haven’t spoiled for myself in many years, and I am glad I didn’t.

That being said, and please don’t murder me, I think it was…too short. Gorr was a letdown for me on the first viewing. Once I accepted that into my heart, I could enjoy the second round more. But he felt underdeveloped, both in terms of character and actual villainy. The guy didn’t butcher gods. But his underlying motivation, conviction, and the critical thinking that comes along with it could have used some extra time. He felt like a hypothetical threat the whole movie rather than a real one. Bale is great though; without his performance, Gorr would have been one of the most forgettable villains in the MCU for me. I also wish Jane’s story got some more time. Her journey was abrupt and abbreviated. It makes sense in terms of her role in the Thor franchise, but the story itself deserved its own solo project so it felt disproportionate.

Charles Murphy

In 2017, Taika Waititi made a Marvel Studios movie. Thor: Ragnarok breathed new life into the character by undoing everything that had been done with him before. In 2022, Marvel Studios made a Taika Waititi movie. Thor: Love and Thunder, for better or for worse, was Waititi fully unleashed. And, unfortunately, it seems that Waititi took all the wrong lessons from the success of Ragnarok and spent too much time in Love and Thunder giving fans more of the same from Ragnarok while not spending enough time on the things that could have made this movie truly great. Love and Thunder isn’t a bad movie, but unlike its immediate predecessor in the Thor franchise, it’s far too forgettable and a bit disappointing.

The uneven nature of the film is summed up pretty well by what the audience gets (and doesn’t get) in the first 25 minutes or so of the film. The cold open introduces the film’s villain, Gorr, before he becomes the God Butcher, played wonderfully by Christian Bale. A tragic scene unfolds as Gorr’s daughter dies in his arms as Gorr’s god ignores his pleas. Summoned by the Necrosword, Gorr stumbles into an Eden-esque garden where the shiny gold god killed the dull black god that used to have the Necrosword, and then Gorr kills the shiny god with the evil weapon. Fairly quickly after that, one of the most balls-to-the-wall, insane action pieces in the history of Marvel Studios unfolds as Thor dispatches the evil bird people while also laying waste to the nice blue peoples’ planet.

As amazing as Thor’s action scene is, I have to wonder why we weren’t treated to an equally amazing action scene in the cold open. Rather than have Gorr stumble into the aftermath of the battle between the gods, why didn’t we see it? And that question, “why didn’t we see it?”, is the core of the film’s issues. Allegedly based on Jason Aaron’s legendary run, this film did little to honor it. Instead of seeing Gorr butcher gods in the opening act, his acts are relegated to stills that pop up on a low-quality monitor. In fact, the audience is told about Gorr more than they get to see him be terrifying. Instead of seeing Jane Foster’s first transformation in New Asgard (a scene we KNOW they shot, by the way), we have to listen to Jane tell Thor about it. And the frustration only mounts because I can’t reasonably understand why the time wasn’t taken to allow the audience to see things that would have enriched the story. Was it so we could get the shitty breakup flashbacks?

Magically, however, the mess coalesces into one of Marvel Studios’ ballsiest and best third acts. While the whole magic wish to kill gods isn’t really in line with the Gorr from the comics (he would never have cheated himself out of the pleasure of torturing and killing the gods personally), there are clear and high stakes as the final act begins. The final battle with Thor and Mighty Thor vs. Gorr is going to hold up well over time and the crazy idea to empower the kids worked better than it had any right to. And most importantly, Eternity looked GREAT. Thor has now lost pretty much everything he ever held dear to him and looks set to head in a totally different direction with Love at his side. And coming from the guy who hates post-credit scenes, the first one is an example of how they can still be done right.

Ultimately, Thor: Love and Thunder will go down as a missed opportunity. Not a bad movie, but a cautionary tale for Marvel Studios. It’s hard to judge a movie on what it could or should have been, but this one had all the opportunity in the world to be great and ended up good.

Anthony Canton III

Thor: Love And Thunder is a movie if I were looking for a sports comparison I’d say it were Shaquille O’Neal. A dominant player; one of the best we’ve ever seen. A unique force that changed the game. Yet, we always wished he gave a little bit more. Let’s break it down. Portions of Jason Aaron’s God Of Thunder and The Mighty Thor were adapted to this movie. Was that done well? I’d say it wasn’t really done at all.

When we hear about Gorr The God Butcher, we think of him torturing gods before he kills them. He kills one god. Not enough butchering. Christian Bale is excellent in the role with not enough screen time. Natalie Portman came back inspired as Jane here with a better energy. The action worked in ways that the story did not. I thoroughly enjoyed Russell Crowe’s comedic performance as Zeus. We did not get enough of Valkyrie. Hemsworth was solid. But again I needed more.

Is this a Taika fatigue issue? Perhaps. Ragnarok is one of the greatest MCU films of all time. This one? Solid, but there wasn’t enough meat on the bone to really get to the levels it needed to. Thor: Love and Thunder, meet Shaquille O’Neal. 7 out of 10. Extra half point for the goats.

Mister Anderson

I loved the latest chapter of Thor for several reasons. The character development was great for several of the characters, but I’m most impressed with the newfound depth they gave Thor. His evolution from aloof and aimless to a purpose-driven empathetic hero made this story completely worthwhile. Jane’s turn as The Mighty Thor also brought a lot of emotion and strength to the narrative as well, making Thor challenge a lot of his past decisions and helping him learn, like Xavier teaches Doctor Strange, “Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.” We’re reminded through the movie of Thor’s previous stumbles, but this story really seems to set the hero back on a path with purpose and meaning.

Dalbin Osorio

I’ll get this out of the way right out the gate: I liked it a lot. Chris Hemsworth is Thor, and he owns every role. Natalie Portman was dope, and I wish she would’ve taken his place. That takes me to my one gripe with the film: I wish the God Butcher would’ve butchered a few more Gods onscreen. Namely, I wish he would’ve killed Hemsworth’s Thor. This Phase has been about the passing of mantles, so to speak, and having Gorr kill Thor (and Zeus, which would then set Hercules on a path to revenge for who he thinks is responsible), and then having Mighty Thor be the one to convince him to bring his daughter back would’ve made for a much better movie.  Instead, we didn’t get much god killing, which kind of lessened Gorr’s appearance and a great performance by Christian Bale. It didn’t rise to Hela levels, but definitely another very good villain by Marvel. The two scenes at the end were both great, though, again, if you killed Thor, then I think the last scene hits different for people (in a good way). I give it a 7/10. Better than Black Widow and Eternals, for sure, but not as good as the cream of the crop in Phase 4 that was No Way Home, Shang-Chi, and Multiverse of Madness.

Torbjorn Frazier

For me, Thor: Love and Thunder has become ever-challenging to form a definitive opinion on. I certainly consider the film to be a net positive and an enjoyable watching experience, but also find a number of the dissenting opinions on Marvel Studios’ latest film to be at least understandable. A prime example of this notion is the comedy style of Taika Waititi: I greatly enjoyed a majority of the absurdist running gags, but understand those that felt it took away from further developing the fast-paced plot. Though my most overt qualm with the film comes from Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher, who only butchers one god for the entire movie in his limited screen time (even one other god killing scene or montage could’ve rectified this).

My issues with Gorr tie into what is my biggest issue with this film: a lack of definition on the severity of stakes our protagonists are dealing with. I for one have zero issue with the idea of smaller scale stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I’m a defender of Ant-Man and The Wasp for this reason), but the more personal mission of saving the Asgardian children could’ve been better served as a separate project away from the high-stakes, esoteric mission of stopping Gorr from reaching Eternity and killing all the gods. Especially with the rapid-fire pacing (which for the record, I’m a fan of), I struggled to connect with the overall story of Love and Thunder more than I did with Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Though I don’t want to just lay out my grievances without acknowledging the truly strong and interesting elements of this film. My personal MVP of the film is Natalie Portman, who gives a killer performance as the Mighty Thor and a Jane Foster who wants to be in the film she’s in. As well, Love and Thunder certainly leaves the Thor/Asgardian franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large with some compelling stories and status quo changes in its future. And even with my qualms, I remain appreciative of Marvel Studios being willing to take the larger creative swings in their recent projects as a means to tell different stories than before. I’d much rather view a film taking these types of swings than attempting to “play it safe” and lose a distinct creative vision.

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