Review | ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ — a comedy without laughter

By Jacob Mraz, Staff Writer

The followup to “Thor: Ragnarok” struggles to capture the magic of its predecessor. 

Despite Christian Bale’s stellar performance as Gorr the God Killer, who manages to steal the show in nearly every scene he’s in, “Thor: Love and Thunder” suffers from a rushed plot that is nearly bursting at the seams with low-brow and often unnecessary humor. 

Taika Waititi, director of the wildly successful “Thor: Ragnarok” and the critically acclaimed show “What We Do In The Shadows” returns to introduce a Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who has lost his way. Following the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” where Thor saw the loss of many of his friends, Thor is now adrift. 

Longing to rediscover who he is, Thor retires from the world of superherodom to find his inner peace. But a robed man known as Gorr the God Slayer has risen and seeks the extinction of the gods, effectively ending this hiatus. 

Gorr is introduced within the film’s opening minutes as a father desperate to give his daughter a fighting chance at life in a desolate desert, only to discover the gods have forsaken him and everyone he’s ever known. For this, he vows revenge and is gifted with a magical but cursed blade, the Necrosword, with which to slay them. The motivation is there, the actor is stellar and everything seems lined up to work — and then it doesn’t. 

Christian Bale, no stranger to playing the villain, does an excellent job of breathing life and dread into Gorr, but is criminally underutilized throughout most of the run. Instead, despite having just introduced the first villain with stakes since Thanos to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film sidelines Gorr for Thor’s mind-numbing romp around the universe.

While at times humorous, these sequences rely far more often on visuals and gag jokes than advancing the plot and they oftentimes feel unnecessary. The secondary focus of the plot, a rescue that never feels all that pressing, is likewise sidelined and shrugged off for exposition. 

Several times the movie interrupts its flow for the sake of infodumping and flashback storytelling. This is in part due to the return of Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who last saw MCU screentime in the 2013 release “Thor: The Dark World.” She returns now as the most unlikely person — Mighty Thor. 

Yes, there are now two Thors. 

One would imagine the introduction of two Thors would be earth shattering, but it never feels that interesting. Portman’s performance is bad to awful, and while Jane’s Mighty Thor’s origin has the potential to bear significant emotional weight towards the film’s conclusion, it never pays off. The stakes are never fully realized and it never quite feels like anyone is ever in any danger, and the climax rings hollow. 

Maybe it’s the incessant need for the film to remind you that it’s funny — or rather that it wants to be. Maybe it’s the mid-monologue jokes that break up the flow of an otherwise excellent interaction between Thor and Gorr. Or it’s the repetitive and uninspired soundtrack which does little to nothing to help any scene it’s in. 

While certain characters like Zeus (Russell Crowe), and even Thor, have their moments, they are often over before they begin and replaced with a screaming goat gag or an awkward and unnecessary reminder of a side character’s love life. 

Despite the film’s shorter runtime, viewers will likely be checking their watches for the credits due to its meandering plot which feels more as if it was written to fill space than to create an entertaining experience. Taika Waititi seems to have fallen far if this was the best he could muster after his beloved “Ragnarok.” 

But the ultimate sin of “Thor: Love and Thunder” is what it does for the MCU as a whole — that being nothing. For a series and franchise that once prided itself on expanding and growing with each new entry, this installment feels distinctly like an outlier. Where once viewers had the likes of Thanos to contend with in the greater scheme, Marvel now must acknowledge that these newest entries do little but entertain — if even that.

When the final curtain falls and viewers are promised a return of Thor, it leaves one to wonder just what they should be excited for. Another two-hour jaunt through space with a muscled-up thunderbolt who cracks jokes like he cracks skulls sounds like a recipe for success, but if this iteration of Thor is any indication of the future of the MCU, then fans have a lot to worry about. If this is the best a multi-billion dollar studio can produce, then there’s little to look forward to.