Combustible Celluloid Review - Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, Taika Waititi, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Carly Rees, Stephen Curry, Bobby Holland Hanton, Daley Pearson, Kieron L. Dyer, Matt Damon, Sam Neill, Luke Hemsworth, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Simon Russell Beale, Akosia Sabet, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, India Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Brett Goldstein
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Carly Rees, Stephen Curry, Bobby Holland Hanton, Daley Pearson, Kieron L. Dyer, Matt Damon, Sam Neill, Luke Hemsworth, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Simon Russell Beale, Akosia Sabet, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, India Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Brett Goldstein
Written by: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Directed by: Taika Waititi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, some suggestive material and partial nudity
Running Time: 119
Date: 07/08/2022
IMDB

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kidding Around

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It seems as if the entire cinematic run of Thor has been a juggling act. Given that the original comics character was so noble and not much fun, should this Thor be funnier? And if so, just how funny? How far can we go without upsetting the balance?

Kenneth Branagh's original Thor (2011) was a fine attempt, keeping true to the character's core while allowing a teensy bit of humor in. The casting of Chris Hemsworth proved to be spot-on. He looked like a god, but also had a warm smile, and a sly, hidden sense of humor.

Then, the Thunder God was allowed to have some fun, teasing and bickering with his fellow superheroes in The Avengers (2012). But Thor: The Dark World (2013) was a step back, a disappointment that is considered among the weakest of all the Marvel movies.

Somehow, the series was handed to New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, whose resume consisted mainly of comedies and charming coming-of-age movies. Miraculously, his Thor: Ragnarok (2017) achieved the much-sought-after balance of humor, humanity, excitement, and dizzying visuals. It is considered one of the best of the Marvel series. Additionally, Waititi cast himself as the voice of a walking pile of rocks called Korg, a soft-spoken sidekick who refers to the Thunder God as "bro," and that character continued into Avengers: Endgame, hanging out and enjoying pizza and beers with "fat Thor."

All of that leads up to Waititi's second Marvel film in the director's chair, and the eighth appearance of Thor. It's an enjoyable effort, not at all hard to like, but it... misses. After a prologue introducing the villain (Christian Bale), it begins with jokes, lots of them, and more than we might expect. Thor is still hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but, while the earlier humor stemmed from cocky Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) butting heads with the Mighty Thor and clearly losing, now Thor appears as a clueless blank. Peter is merely annoyed by him, and the friction is gone. The same goes for Korg; their banter just flatlines.

Which is not to say that Thor: Love and Thunder isn't funny. It is. There are lots of laughs, but they're one-offs. For example, Thor joins a battle that the Guardians are losing, and he effortlessly and joyously dispatches an army of aliens in two minutes, and then thanks everyone for their teamwork. He adds, "another great Thor adventure!" as only Hemsworth can say it. The well-placed selection of Guns N' Roses's greatest hits also makes for a bunch of gleeful grins.

In any case, Bale's character is an alien called "Gorr" who worships a certain god, and loses his daughter while trekking across a desert. He confronts the god, who laughs. He then gets ahold of the powerful Necrosword, slays his former lord, and vows to kill all gods. (He thus becomes "Gorr the God Butcher," which is, honestly, not a bad villain name.) Sadly, Bale, although an Oscar-winner, and almost unrecognizable under his makeup, doesn't do anything interesting with the role, other than the typical "mad, power-hungry baddie" stuff.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is battling cancer, and losing. She feels the call of Mjolnir and travels to New Asgard (now a kitschy tourist destination) to find it, becoming a new female Thor with muscular arms and long, blonde locks.

So Gorr kidnaps a group of children and takes them to the Shadow Realm, and Thor must rescue them. Together with Jane, Korg, and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor attempts to assemble a team by traveling to the gorgeous Omnipotent City — where many gods gather, including "Bao, the God of Dumplings" — and speaking to Zeus (Russell Crowe). This goes wrong in many ways, although he still gets ahold of Zeus's lightning bolt.

While this leads up to some very cool fight sequences, we begin to notice three things. The first is that, as I mentioned before, Gorr just isn't a very interesting villain. Secondly, as many have mentioned before — and despite their cosmic good looks — Thor and Jane just don't have much chemistry together. Thirdly, the laughs have slowed down, considerably.

As the movie was getting underway, I had the idea that maybe Waititi was going for a weird, superhero-romantic-comedy vibe, with Thor and Jane nervously attempting to navigate their feelings around each other, and complicated by the fact that Thor misses his old Mjolnir, making his current weapon, Stormbreaker, jealous. But as the humor slides away, and the cancer subplot moves in, it becomes more of a Notebook-like tearjerker, but without the deep emotional involvement.

So, what are we left with? When I reviewed Thor: The Dark World, I recommended it, with reservations, and I'll do the same here. Running through Thor: Love and Thunder in my head, I'm left with mostly good feelings. It's hard not to love this heroic Thor, with his goofy nature and his sheer joy. While it may be a cheap trick using children to get a reaction, seeing him try to buck up the spirits of the kidnapped kids is a real treat. But even more of a treat is a closing sequence that Hemsworth performs with his real-life daughter, India. It almost made me wish that the movie had gone on a bit longer, and that I could have joined them for "panflaps."

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