Released: 8 July 2022
Director: Taika Waititi
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Budget: $250 million
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, and Russell Crowe
After helping to restore half the universe’s population to life, Thor Odinson (Hemsworth) travels the galaxy looking for inner peace. However, when the embittered Gorr (Bale) makes it his life’s mission to slaughter all Gods, Thor must return to the fight alongside his old Asgardian allies…and his former flame, Doctor Jane Foster (Portman), who has now taken up the mantle of the Mighty Thor!
Even before the blockbuster success of Avengers Assemble/The Avengers (Whedon, 2012), Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige planned for Thor would have another adventure following his first solo adventure, Thor (Branagh, 2011), which was widely praised, incredibly successful, and catapulted stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston to superstardom. Although Thor: The Dark World (Taylor, 2013) was more profitable, many criticised the film’s weaker elements and star Natalie Portman was angered that Marvel let director Patty Jenkins slip through their fingers and refusing to return for the much-lauded third film. Following the megahit that was Avengers: Endgame (Russo and Russo, however, Portman made a dramatic return to the franchise to rejoin co-star Hemsworth for an adaptation of the character’s recent run as a female iteration of the Thunder God. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman had Jane Foster take on the Thor mantle in 2014; sadly, while that story arc was quite well-received, the announcement of a female Thor annoyingly caused the bigots to rear their ugly heads once more. Regardless, Portman was excited at the opportunity, largely because of writer/director Taika Waititi’s madcap ideas to explore even more bizarre aspects of Thor’s cosmic scope thanks to the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thor: Love and Thunder finally released and went on to gross $760 million at the box office making it the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2022 at the time. Critically, the received a mixed to positive response; reviews praised the performances, especially those of Bale and Portman, and the mixture of action and emotion, though some were put off by the film’s conflicting tone and wackier moments.
Considering that Thor’s first two live-action films are often under-rated and unfairly overlooked in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I find it incredibly gratifying that the God of Thunder is the first (and, currently, only) member of the original Avengers line-up to get a fourth film to his name. While I can’t say I fully agree with many of the thematic, narrative, and atmospheric decisions of the last solo Thor movie, I absolutely love that director Taika Waititi transformed Thor from a somewhat naïve, grandstanding, Shakespearian warrior and gave him a whitewash of glam metal, 1980s science-fiction, and Masters of the Universe as it really helps the action and these outlandishly cosmic concepts to stand out from other MCU efforts. As much as I enjoy Thor, however, I’m not the most well-read when it comes to him; as a result, I haven’t actually read any of Jane’s time with Mjölnir. I think her Thor turned up in a few crossovers I’ve read, like Generations (Various, 2017), but I haven’t properly experienced what she got up to in the pages of The Mighty Thor, though I found the idea of an unworthy Thor Odinson and a female Thor to be intriguing. Similarly, I haven’t read any of the stories or comics featuring Gorr the God Butcher; I’ve been on the fringe of his path of destruction by following the Knull stuff in the pages of Venom, but have yet to actually read his primary story arc, so I went into Thor: Love and Thunder without any expectations except for another outlandish, sci-fi/fantasy jaunt with one of my favourite MCU characters.
When we catch up with Thor at the start of the film, he’s back to his blusterous, buff self and still running around with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Having gotten himself back into shape, Thor has thrown himself into galivanting across the cosmos on all sorts of cosmic adventures with Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the other Guardians and alongside his loyal, if incredible foolish, Kronan friend, Korg (Waititi). Though revered and regarded as a benevolent and courageous hero, Thor continues to feel an emptiness inside himself; having left behind the throne of Asgard and in search of his true destiny beyond that which he was raised to assume, Thor longs for both a purpose and a love that can match the one he had with Jane. Thor’s yearning for battle and glory remain as powerful as ever, though, and are only matched by his rage when he and the Guardians pick up a number of distress calls from Gods all over the universe; splitting away from his cosmic allies (much to Star-Lord’s relief), Thor and Korg rush to the aid of Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and learns of Gorr’s desire to slaughter every God to avenge his losses. Without hesitation, Thor transports himself and Korg to New Asgard to fend off Gorr’s attack and is stunned to find his beloved Mjölnir repaired and in the hands of his old flame, now transformed into a Thor of her own. The sight of Jane garbed in Asgardian armour and wielding his hammer with such proficiency is quite the blow for Thor, who struggles to reconcile his conflicting emotions of elation, jealousy, and admiration for Jane’s worthiness in battle. Indeed, a running joke throughout the film is that Thor struggles to remain loyal to his new weapon, the mighty Stormbreaker, after seeing his dear Mjölnir back in one piece and with expressing his feelings of love for Jane. Thankfully, Gorr’s threat gives him (and both of them) a pressing objective to focus on; when Gorr kidnaps the Asgardian children and spirits them away to the Shadow Realm (a place of pure and literal darkness), Thor rallies his people and his ragtag team (comprised of himself, Jane-Thor, Korg, and King Valkyrie (Thompson)) into recruiting other Gods for aid in recovering the kids and destroying Gorr before he can slaughter them all.
It’s wonderful to see Natalie Portman back as Jane; I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for her and she’s definitely put in the physical work to transform herself into a warrior worthy of the mantle of Thor. However, Jane’s physique and competency in battle are as much a by-product of Mjölnir’s magic as they are a façade for the pain she is in. Between movies, Jane was suddenly afflicted with terminal cancer and, at the start of the film, is coming face to face with her impending mortality despite the best efforts of herself and the scientific community. Although it appears as though she randomly travels to New Asgard in a last-ditch effort to cure herself with Mjölnir, she later states that the hammer “called to [her]”, however, despite being rejuvenated and granted Thor’s incredible powers, Mjölnir is actually stunting Jane’s ability to fight her cancer and accelerating her condition. Although she has very little time left, Jane is determined to go out in a blaze of glory and revel in the power of Thor, and to that end she willingly joins Thor’s quest to defeat Gorr and recover the Asgardian children. As long as she wields Mjölnir, she remains superhumanly strong and she can even direct the hammer to shatter into fragments to defeat multiple enemies at once, to say nothing of channelling the same lightning powers as Thor. Along the way, we get a deeper insight into Thor and Jane’s relationship; we see how loved up they were, how work and obligations drove a wedge between them until they finally parted ways, and how both still harbour those same feelings for the other. Their reconciliation fills a void in both their hearts but is sadly doomed to tragedy due to Jane’s illness; as far as swan songs go though, it’s tough to get any better than cruising through the cosmos on a Rainbow Bridge and visiting the land of the Gods!
Gorr is probably one of the most tragic and complex villains we’ve seen in the MCU so far; played with haunting, often maniacal glee by the always-excellent Christian Bale (I still can’t believe Marvel Studios were able to get him for this role), Gorr is a broken, embittered man who has watched his entire race and beloved daughter, Love (India Hemsworth), suffer and die from starvation and dehydration after all their prayers and beliefs in their God, Rapu (Jonathan Brugh), go unanswered. At the brink of death, Gorr encounters Rapu and finds him to be an arrogant, nonchalant, and dismissive blowhard who couldn’t care less about his people or his pain, but he also conveniently finds the Necrosword, a feared weapon from the dawn of time that gives its wielder the power to kill Gods. Corrupted by the sword’s influence, Gorr becomes a driven, sadistic butcher; using the blade, he can teleport through shadows, is granted incredible, God-like strength and endurance, and can even bring shadows to life to conjure various Lovecraftian beasts to do his bidding. Though he wages war against all Gods, we only see a handful of his victims and most of his kills are glossed over on the Guardians’ distress monitor, but his threat is so great that Thor goes to Zeus (Crowe) and the other Gods at Omnipotence City for aid. Compared to some of Thor’s other villains, Gorr gets a bit more screen time; he has a few clashes with Thor throughout the film, proving a ferocious and underhanded fighter, and his body and mind are corrupted into that of a twisted, malicious murderer who not only kidnaps children but delights in tormenting them. His ultimate goal is to lure Thor to the Shadow Realm in order to claim Stormbreaker, which is the key to him gaining an audience with Eternity and wiping out all Gods with a single wish. This is only fuelled by the Necrosword, which not only distorts his mind and body and encourages his anger and heartbreak but is also the source of his power. Like Jane, Gorr is living on borrowed time, both empowered by and slowly being killed by the very weapon he carries but chooses to use what little time he has left to avenge himself on all Gods after being slighted by his own. Just like Jane’s struggle against cancer, Gorr’s pain and rage are only too relatable; the desire to curse some All-Mighty power is strong in today’s increasingly bleak world and seeing Gorr, this emaciated, scarred, black bile-spewing zombie-like being loom over the MCU’s deities like an oppressive shadow makes him a fitting embodiment of the cold inevitability of death.
When Thor travels to Omnipotence City, he talks of how he admired and modelled himself after Zeus, the greatest and most powerful of the Gods. Unfortunately, Thor’s hero turns out to be another callous and disinterested God, one who would prefer to hide away in their impenetrable realm and revel rather than tackle Gorr’s threat head-on. Luckily, Thor is not without more reliable allies; Korg loyally follows him on his adventures, offering much of the film’s explicit humour in his mannerisms and soft-spoken observations, and it was quite a blow when it seemed as though Zeus had killed the good-natured Kronan. I almost wish Korg had died, however (but by Gorr’s hand as it would have helped add an extra layer of animosity to their relationship and raise the stakes of the film), but he survives and continues on as a literal talking head. Valkyrie also returns, gladly signing up for the venture after finding the bureaucracy and boredom of the throne unfulfilling; since Avengers: Endgame, New Asgard has become a popular tourist attraction and the Asgardians are starting to make a real life for themselves on Earth, but Valkyrie craves battle almost as much as she longs for passion in her life once more. Interestingly, the film spends a great deal of time establishing Thor, Jane-Thor, Korg, and Valkyrie as the team that will spearhead the fight against Gorr but Korg ends up shattered and just a head and Valkyrie is taken out of the fight after Gorr skewers her with Zeus’s thunderbolt, meaning Thor initially heads into the final battle alone until Jane powers up for one last bout. Another aspect I found interesting, but which quickly grew a little grating, was the introduction of Thor’s screaming goats and the expansion on the idea that Mjölnir and Stormbreaker are sentient. This is amusing at some points, such as when Thor talks to or tries to call Mjölnir only to be surprised when Stormbreaker comes floating by, but got a little bit more focus than I was expecting. It took up more screen time than Sif, for example, who appeared in basically a glorified cameo and ended up missing an arm thanks to Gorr. Similarly, Doctor Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Doctor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) are only brief inclusions, and the film kind of rushed through Thor’s time with the Guardians of the Galaxy, which was odd as I honestly expected him to feature in the team’s third film but it looks like that won’t be happening now.
Like Thor: Ragnarok (Waititi, 2017), Thor: Love and Thunder is, essentially, a throwback to the sci-fi/fantasy epics of the 1980s and has a soundtrack fitting for this genre. This really benefitted the last film but, as much as I came to love Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, it was a little disappointing that this track was somewhat overused in the trailers and within the film. Thor: Love and Thunder opts to reignite your love for Guns N’ Roses; of course, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is the main track of the film, but I loved that Waititi chose to have the awesome guitar solo from “November Rain” play during Thor’s final battle against Gorr alongside a couple of my other favourites from the band, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City”. I mentioned up top that Waititi’s take on Thor owes a lot to the Master of the Universe franchise and that’s certainly true of Love and Thunder, which visually reminds me a lot of the under-rated live-action film while also heavily borrowing from the art style of the legendary Jack Kirby. This means we (briefly) get to see the classic Thor costume, characters are garbed in all manner of outrageous and garish outfits and armours, and the sheer heights of the cosmic bizarreness at work in the film really show just how far the MCU has come. When Thor was first introduced, Marvel Studios took great pains to explain him and his race as more like long-lived, super powerful aliens rather than literal Gods; now, that’s all out the window and we have actual Greek, Roman, and other Gods freely existing, Celestials, and mind-bending concepts like the embodiment of eternity being out there in the universe without apology. While this does raise some questions (if Eternity can grant any wish, why did the Avengers need to go on that time heist? If Thor could share his power with others, why didn’t he do this in previous films? Is there a one, true God above all other Gods?), I choose not to dwell on these too much as the MCU, for all its planning, has always been about escalation and introducing new elements, just like the source material.
Nowhere is this escalation more evident than in the introduction of Omnipotence City; with the golden realm of Asgard having been obliterated, Omnipotence City shines all the brighter as this floating realm of magnificence, a place for Gods of all worlds, creeds, shapes, and sizes to gather and revel in their glory. Sadly, we didn’t get a cameo from Khonshu (Karim El-Hakim/F. Murray Abraham) even though this would’ve been the perfect place for that, but Crowe absolutely stole this somewhat lengthy sequence as the unruly Zeus. A far cry from the implacable Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins), Zeus is unbelievably self-absorbed and arrogant with a dodgy Italian accent; he prefers to mock Thor and refuse his request for aid, forcing the Thunder God to seemingly kill his hero and take his thunderbolt for himself. Valkyrie briefly takes possession of this, effectively giving us three wielders of thunder and lightning for a short time, and thus the film’s fight sequences are heavy on the lightning and bombastic action. Gorr is able to conjure numerous, disposable shadow monsters for Thor and the others to wade through, blasting them with their enchanted weapons, frying them with lightning, and splitting them with blades. When Thor and Gorr clash, it’s a much more visceral and brutal affair; Gorr wields the Necrosword with a vicious, deliberate stance, easily fending off Stormbreaker and even Mjölnir with the blade’s dark magic. Visually, Thor: Love and Thunder certainly delivers; playing up due to jealousy over Mjölnir and Thor’s blundering ways, Stormbreaker’s ability to summon the Bifrost is channelled through Valkyrie’s ship, allowing them to sail through the cosmos and delivering some awesome sights. The beauty and eye-popping colour palette of the universe is fittingly contrasting with the Shadow Realm, a place where all light and colour are non-existent, giving the film a grainy, black and white hue that is only broken when the Thors utilise their magic weapons. Furthermore, Thor’s movies continue to outdo themselves with their costumes and armours; Thor rocks a number of different looks, from a space-faring Ravagers outfit that is similar to his short-lived successor, Eric Masterson/Thunderstrike, to a very Kriby-esque gold and blue variant of his usual armour, and finally rocking an outrageous helmet once more. Jane looks fantastic in her Thor outfit; she favours a helmet far more often and manages to look both sexy and powerful in her Asgardian armour, while Gorr cuts a menacing figure in his simple, tattered robes and bare feet, almost as if he has no regard for his personal safety thanks to submitting himself completely to the Necrosword’s power.
When Gorr kidnaps the Asgardian children, Thor, Jane-Thor, Valkyrie, and Korg immediately vow to track him down and rescue them, and to make him pay for the Godly lives he has stolen in his vendetta. When Zeus refuses to aid them, they steal his thunderbolt and journey to the Shadow Realm, only to learn that Gorr’s true goal was to lure them into a trap so he could steal Stormbreaker since the only way for him to gain an audience with Eternity is by using the Bifrost. With Valkyrie too injured to carry on and Jane’s health at risk, Thor opts to travel to Eternity’s altar to stop Gorr alone. Armed with Zeus’s thunderbolt, Thor is able to share his awesome powers of thunder and lightning with the Asgardian children, empowering them to help fend off Gorr’s shadow monsters while he tackles the twisted God Butcher personally. Gorr’s drive and skill with the God-killing Necrosword prove to be equal to Thor’s power, but luckily Jane comes riding in on Valkyrie’s horse, choosing to go out in a blaze of glory as the Mighty Thor. However, while Thor is able to free Stormbreaker from Gorr’s influence, the God Butcher succeeds in entering Eternity’s dream-like realm, a vast, serene ocean where the humanoid embodiment of the cosmos sits in silence. With Jane succumbing to her failing health, Thor chooses not to oppose Gorr’s ambition any longer; rather than fighting, he decides to be with his true love in their last moments and, realising the extent of the evils he has done, a repentant Gorr decides to wish his daughter back to life rather than destroy all the Gods. After professing their love for each other, Jane dies peacefully, ascending to Valhalla and urging Thor not to close off his heart and, indeed, the God of Thunder gives the dying Gorr his vow to watch over, protect, and raise Love like his own. Thus, in a turn of events I sure as hell didn’t expect to see, Thor ends the film with a new reason for living; now a surrogate father, he gifts Love Stormbreaker, takes up Mjölnir once more, and begins teaching her the ways of an Asgardian warrior! I had a feeling that one of the Thors would die; I was surprised that Natalie Portman even agreed to come back but legitimately thought it would be a coin toss between which of them would survive given how the MCU is shaking things up in its fourth phase, but the twist of having Thor become a father was very unexpected, even in the narrative of the film, and I’ll be interested to see where that leads. Of course, it wouldn’t be an MCU film without a post-credits sequence; in this case, we get two, one that reveals Zeus survived his encounter and has charged his son, the Mighty Hercules (Brett Goldstein), with killing Thor for his blasphemous actions, and another which shows Jane being welcomed into Valhalla by Heimdall (Idris Elba), presumably giving her a peaceful ending but I wouldn’t be surprised if they find some way to bring her back later down the road.
I’ve really enjoyed Thor’s time in the MCU; right from his first movie, I’ve been a massive fan of the character, his attitude, and the way he’s been portrayed. His character arc from egotistical warrior to a humbled protector, to being plagued with doubt and being a bit more carefree and aloof has been fascinating and really helped to open up new avenues into the cosmic side of the MCU. As mentioned, these days it seems like nothing is off the table and Marvel Studios are far more confident adapting even their most outlandish concepts since we just accept that this universe is full of wonderous things, and that’s very evident in Thor: Love and Thunder through its many Gods and Gorr’s quest to reach Eternity. It’s humbling seeing Thor struggle to balance his warrior instincts with his emotions; seeing him be bashful and tripping over himself around Jane (and Mjölnir) continues to show him as a flawed character, one who is hiding behind bravado and his heroic reputation but just wants to be loved and happy. It was a blast seeing him upended by Jane’s time as Thor; she acquitted herself well in the role, easily proving herself his equal, but also brought a tragic vulnerability through her terminal battle with cancer. I was especially impressed with how her arc paralleled that of Gorr, a similarly tragic character who has every right to rally against the Gods and chooses to be a bitter and twisted killer in his grief and anguish. While I could’ve done with seeing more of him and his wrath in the film, Bale impressed every time he appeared, and even Waititi’s focus on jokes and light-hearted action was far more tolerably than in the last film, where the tonal shift really downplayed the significance of Ragnarok. While there were some awkward moments and sections that were either rushed through (like Thor’s time with the Guardians) or dragged out (like their time in Omnipotence City), Thor: Love and Thunder delivered a visually stunning and action-paced spectacle; some aspects might not hold up under close scrutiny but it was a fun and poignant entry that ended with Thor in a place I never expected him to be and I’m interested to see how that will impact the MCU going forward.
Did you enjoy Thor: Love and Thunder? What did you think to Gorr, his motivation and his portrayal in the film and his vendetta against the Gods? Did you enjoy Thor’s character progression and the reconciliation between him and Jane? Are you a fan of Jane as Thor? What did you think to her being afflicted with cancer and her God-like power accelerating her illness? Where do you see Thor going as the MCU continues on? Whatever your thoughts about Thor: Love and Thunder, sign up and leave a comment below or drop a line on my social media, and be sure to check out my other Thor content.